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2022 Year in Review: Best Licensed Comic

By | December 14th, 2022
Posted in Columns | % Comments

Welcome to the Multiversity Year in Review for 2022! We’ve got over 25 categories to get through, so make sure you’re checking out all of the articles by using our 2022 Year in Review tag.

To be clear, lots of great comics are licensed. There’s not a year that goes by where truly wonderful superhero comics don’t earn a spot among our favorites. This isn’t the space for that. This is about the other kind of licensed comic- stories that tie in to non-comics media franchises. Whether it’s a story continuing a book series, a TV show, a popular film, a video game, or even more esoteric media, there is a special craft that goes into adapting a comic from something else. So we made it a whole category. These are our picks for 2022’s best licensed comics.

3. Batman ’89

So we’re clear, it was the last two issues of Sam Hamm, Joe Quinones, and Leonardo Ito’s Burtonverse revival that were released this year, coming respectively four and three months after their predecessors. What a spectacular final two acts they were though: depicting the rise of the Billy Dee Williams version of Two-Face, the fall of Pat Hingle’s Gordon, and the reckoning between Harvey Dent, Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne (stripped of his physical prowess), and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, all capping off a thoroughly enjoyable return to the world of the Dark Knight Hamm created with Burton.

The series, as a whole, did a wonderful job of bringing in Two-Face, Barbara Gordon, and Robin (Drake Winston) into this universe, with Hamm imagining how a true sequel to Batman Returns might’ve looked, while providing enough in his scripts for a whole comic. Quinones rendered perfect likenesses of the cast in every panel, without losing sight of this being a comic and not a film, with enough cartoonish expression and inventiveness in the framing of every scene to keep it lively, preventing it from becoming a hollow substitute for a movie. Ito’s coloring is perhaps smoother and more saturated than what you might expect from a comic based on a film from the ‘90s, but it’s still true to the heightened nature of Burton’s work.

This will sound strange out of context, but the comic was also impressive for remembering Williams’s Harvey Dent is a Black man: it portrays his torn loyalties to his community and his colleagues with an awareness you might expect from a recent superhero film, instead of one made thirty years ago. Coupled with the decision to make Keaton’s Robin Black, it would’ve been far too bold for the toyetic era of the Schumacher films, so it’s just as well it took until now for a canonical Burtonverse Two-Face and Robin. It’s for this reason “Batman ‘89” is not only a worthy follow-up to its source material, but transcends it too.

Roll on Vol. 2. – Christopher Chiu-Tabet

2. Blade Runner 2029

The third iteration of the comic book tie-in to the beloved sci-fi films, “Blade Runner 2029” continues the story of Blade Runner Ash as she unravels multiple mysteries involving her own police force, the ever-growing Replicant problem, the underground resistance, and so much more. There isn’t much that can be said about the plot without getting into spoiler territory, so the best way to discuss the series is through the writing, art, and revery one of the most influential films of all time, and its surprisingly excellent sequel that prior to its release most felt, myself included, never should have been made. It’s a movie that has truly die hard fans that never went looking for a franchise, but what we have been given, or gifted in the last five years is nothing short of impressive and “B.R. 2029” is a major part of this expanded canon’s success.

Written by Mike Johnson (“Star Trek”) and Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green, the story within this run of comics helps expand the world while also give us a greater understanding of how things begin to shift to drastically and powerfully between the two films. Artist Andres Guinaldo (“Gotham City Sirens”) has been the only artist to work on this series with these two authors, allowing for a streamlined style and canon to stay intact. We are getting great work from three major fans of the films, one of which has now worked on one, ensuring that the best possible spin-off is being created. The series is now completed with the final arc “B.R. 2039” on the way. So, while there is a decent number of comics out now, this was always meant to be a limited entity, knowing that an indefinite run of comics would eventually lead to lesser works, lapses in continuity, and ideas spread thin.

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Because Alcon Entertainment takes the integrity of this franchise so seriously, they make sure the right people are put in place to create any of the expanded canon. In a world where I.P. is king and franchises are expanded quickly, usually with great dips in quality, “Blade Runner” is one that fans should feel is mostly in good hands. So, if you are one of those fans, as I was, who is scared to look into anything beyond the film(s), you should know that “Blade Runner 2029” is another rare gift when it comes to this world (and don’t forget about the 2019 story arcs preceding it). – Christopher Egan

1. Star Wars: Darth Vader

The most consistent Marvel series hasn’t been about superheroes. It hasn’t even been about heroes. Villain books are tricky, but “Star Wars: Darth Vader” has continued to shine like a bleeding kyber crystal. It’s remained the prize of the line since it started in 2015. First we got a run from Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca that teased out how the Empire operates. Then we got Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s tremendous run, which was all about the Jedi, the Sith, and the prophecy. Excellent as they both were, neither run has had as much to say about the character as Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco. The latest “Vader” run continues the years-long run of being the can’t-miss “Star Wars” book.

This series has been most concerned with Anakin, the troubled dude beneath the mask. It’s been about bridging the prequel era, and making it stand up next to the original trilogy era. Considering the hate that first thing has against the love for the second, that’s not necessarily going to be a positive comparison, but Pak finds all the dark gravitas that George Lucas and Hayden Christensen struggled with. Vader is very much still a pouty drip, he just has the advantage of the galaxy’s coolest mask to help sell his brand. Even when the series was hijacked by the ‘Crimson Reign’ crossover event, we still got top level character work that never lost sight of who the main character of this series is. Not Darth Vader, the myth sold to the terrified denizens of the Star Wars galaxy but Anakin, a whiny kid given way to much magic power and influence. Throughout 2022 and into 2023, it remains the most vital part of modern Star Wars storytelling. – Jaina Hill

//TAGS | 2022 Year in Review

Multiversity Staff

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