Ducks & Putin’s Russia are named two of the best graphic novels of the year by Thrillist!

The Best Comic Books & Graphic Novels of 2022 (So Far)

Thrillist    |    Dustin Nelson    |    July 11, 2022

Heroes with severed arms, real-life dictators, sentient fart people, a man posing as an assassin. It’s early in 2022, but these characters are already staking a claim to be among the best in comics and graphic novels this year. Of course, any best of the year list has subjectivity baked into the gutters, and the expansive nature of comics means that subjectivity is inevitable. There are webcomics, Substack comics, floppies, mini-series, trades, graphic novels, YA novels, one-shots, Kickstarter-funded indies, and a whole lot more out there. Nonetheless, whether you like stories about groups of kids navigating an apocalypse, people with super-strength, voyeuristic looks into a blood-soaked underground world, memoirs, or graphic essays, there is a lot of new work out there for you to enjoy. Here are a few of the great works published in 2022.

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
By Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s autobiographical story about leaving home and working in the Alberta oil sands is on its face the story of a difficult journey. Katie, from Cape Breton on Canada's east coast, moves west to get work in the oil sands, where she can pay off her student loans in a hurry. But what makes this the kind of book that you can’t stop thinking about is the empathy with which Beaton sees the world. It's easy to view the oil sands as an environmental disaster, a symbol of the climate crisis. But she also sees the humans there, the indigenous cultures surrounding the area, the economic forces that drive individuals from across the country to the camps surrounding the oil sands. The result is a story about the butterfly effect of capitalism, the way it exerts pressures that steer individuals through the world. The way work—the thing many of us do more than anything else—makes us who we are, for better or worse, whether we like it or not, whether we’re better for it or not.

Putin's Russia: The Rise of a Dictator
By Darryl Cunningham

I read this before Russia invaded Ukraine and was struck by how enlightening this book seemed then. It has only become a more pressing read since. Putin’s Russia is a graphic depiction of Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, starting from his childhood. As a graphic novel, space dictates that it will never be quite as deep of a dive as you’ll get from something like Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face, but this thrives ihn its desire to communicate our gaps in knowledge about the Russian leader and where his motivations might lie. Putin’s Russia follows the style of similar books from Cunningham, like Billionaires. The art is sparse, bringing you swiftly from place to place. At its best, it connects the country’s history and its leader’s motivations to what we see in the news. It uses touchstone images—Boris Yeltsin standing on a tank or dancing, the Berlin Wall coming down, Putin on a jet ski, a shirtless Putin riding a horse, Pussy Riot in balaclavas—to connect the dots from Putin’s time in the KGB to the leader who ordered an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, interferes in foreign elections, and has refused to let go of his stranglehold on power in Russia.

Check out what else made the list here!

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