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The Best Comic Book Adaptation Of 2022 - Looper Staff Picks

What a year it's been for comic book adaptations on the big and small screen. 2022 delivered some of the best (and worst) comic book stories that we'll be talking about for quite some time. Thankfully, we're not here to harp on those terrible adaptations to give Dwyane Johnson's ego a break but instead will highlight the best of the year.

Nine Looper writers came together to discuss the best comic book adaptations of 2022. They are sharing their uncensored thoughts on which reigns supreme, selecting projects that made it into theaters and those that were exclusive to streaming services. You'll find a mix of movies, television series, and special presentations on the list, which may or may not contain some dark horses that'll have you yelling at your screens. Somebody (cough, Nina Starner) might have chosen one of the worst comic book adaptations we've ever seen, but hey, to each their own.

Caitlin Albers - The Batman

"The Batman" was the best superhero thing we got in 2022 — period. Not only did Robert Pattinson knock it out of the part, but the supporting stars were so stellar in their roles that they often stole the show. The great thing about this film was how it honored the source material because we really haven't seen a Batman movie where Bruce Wayne really taps into the detective side of himself that's so often depicted in the comics. Is it maybe 20 minutes too long? Yeah, probably, but those extra 20 minutes don't really drag; you just think the movie's over, and then you realize it isn't.

We needed this movie so badly in 2022. In a time when the DCEU was crumbling, and the fandom was more divided than ever, "The Batman" brought us back to life. Yes, it's not a part of the DCEU, but DC fans needed a stellar adaptation on the big screen to boost their serotonin. Matt Reeves rarely misses, and his commitment and passion for Batman really came through, and doing it in a dark way was the right choice. Enough with the comedy in these effing superhero movies.

When it comes to superhero films in 2022 that were widely released, "The Batman" was the best of the bunch, and there's no comparison. And before you come at me and start shouting about "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," that movie was C-level at best and doesn't hold a candle to what Pattinson, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, and Zoe Kravitz gave us.

Nina Starner - She-Hulk

It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me — I'm the lady writer out here on Al Gore's internet picking "She-Hulk" as my favorite comic book adaptation of 2022. Please allow me to explain, and also understand that we all had to pick different stuff for these lists.

I am acutely aware that "She-Hulk" got a lot of hate; I usually like to watch video essays about shows once I finish them, and the amount of negative titles regarding "She-Hulk" was... overwhelming. In fact, spotting those before I even sat down to watch the show didn't exactly prepare me to like it, but like it I sure did. Tatiana Maslany proved, in "Orphan Black," that she could act alongside the best of them, but I wasn't completely prepared for how funny she'd turn out to be in this superhero origin story turned workplace drama turned commentary on The Internet, Kind Of. Sure, there were problems — perhaps the biggest and dumbest one being that a guy would be interested in a big green lady but not famously beautiful human Tatiana Maslany — but with that said, I'm a simple woman. Give me a Megan Thee Stallion cameo, some time with Charlie Cox's Daredevil, and a fourth-wall break, and I'm happy.

You know what? Let's talk about that fourth-wall break, which was definitely controversial but also marked the moment where I went, "yeah, I like this show a lot." I loved that the show tricked me into thinking my famously touchy TV had finally just given up; I loved Jennifer pointing out that the climactic fight was totally irrelevant; I loved the K.E.V.I.N. machine. I loved it! Sue me! I'll just ask Jennifer Walters to represent me in court!

Kieran Fisher - Werewolf by Night

Disney+ and Marvel Studios released "Werewolf by Night" as a special presentation, meaning that it exists within the wider MCU but isn't beholden to it. This was a good move on the studio's part, as it allows the special to be its own entity without having to worry about progressing any other storylines.

"Werewolf by Night" also proves that Marvel is using Disney+ to experiment with some pretty wild ideas. It does for horror what "WandaVision" did for sitcoms, and like that show, it pays respect to the genre's decades-old history. "Werewolf by Night" echoes monster movies from the '30s, '40s, and '50s — especially the flicks that are synonymous with Universal Pictures. Boasting a black-and-white visual style, dramatic cutaways, and old-school practical effects, it's a refreshing change of pace from the colorful, CGI, pixelated adventures that are most modern comic book adaptations.

Inspired by the comic books featuring the titular howling mad monster, "Werewolf by Night" takes place on a dark and somber night and follows a group of hunters as they pursue Man-Thing on the grounds of a posh manor. What they don't know, however, is that there's another monster lurking among them, and it doesn't take long until things get hairy. In this world, though, humans are arguably more monstrous than the lycanthropes and humanoid swamp creatures that are forced to dwell in the shadows.

At 53 minutes long, "Werewolf by Night" is a breeze that doesn't outstay its welcome — but by the time the end credits roll, you might find yourself wanting to see a lot more of these characters in the MCU. Is it too much to ask for a "Legion of Monsters" movie next?

Pauli Poisuo - The Sandman

Like most years since "Iron Man" or so, 2022 will be remembered as a fairly good vintage for comic book adaptations. However, this particular spin around the sun has featured the rare distinction of someone successfully tackling a legendarily unfilmable comic book, and that's a competition-winning power move by default. (Sorry, "Peacemaker." In any other year, it would have been you.)

For years, "The Sandman" has been one of those development hell projects that seemed destined to never make it — which may have been for the better, if you've been paying attention to the comments Neil Gaiman has made regarding some of the planned adaptations. However, don't mistake him for the kind of writer who watches over his work like a hawk, ready to swoop in and go for the eyes whenever executives and screenwriters even dream of trying to adapt. He merely wanted to see a good adaptation, so after successfully working on Amazon Studios' adaptation of "Good Omens," Gaiman personally took a significant behind-the-scenes role in bringing Netflix's "The Sandman" to reality.

The bold move was absolutely worth it, and the end result features precisely zero writer-turned-live action guru pitfalls of the "Maximum Overdrive" variety. "The Sandman" is a wild, weird triumph of a show. It's as faithful to the original work as it should be, yet unafraid to adapt for modern times whenever necessary. Things like casting Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death caused initial backlash from the kind of people you'd expect, but the fact that Gaiman himself has been so involved in the project has given it a certain air of invulnerability. His casual, almost gentle putdowns of Twitter trolls have also added an extra entertaining element to the project.

From stellar casting to largely comics-accurate visuals, "The Sandman" makes adapting the source material look so easy that it makes you wonder what took so long. And just when viewers thought they'd binged the whole season, Netflix casually dropped two extra episodes based on the short stories "Dream of a Thousand Cats" and "Calliope." This is comic book adaptation gone right.

Aahil Dayani - Peacemaker

James Gunn's brief ousting from Marvel Studios may have just been a blessing in disguise, considering he was immediately scooped up by Warner Bros. to helm a "Suicide Squad" sequel. The eclectic director created a concoction which featured all his major staples: crass attitudes, outcast and irreverent heroes, a pop soundtrack filled with head-bopping hits, and a dash of heart. And while I was indifferent about "The Suicide Squad" — it oozed with "edgelord" humor and felt like a reskin of "Guardians of the Galaxy" with an R-rated coat of paint — it gave us the chaotic and idealistic Peacemaker, one of DC's most intriguing characters ever put on screen.

Played expertly by John Cena, Peacemaker is an absolute unhinged buffoon and a true reflection of a stuck-in-the-mud radicalized "patriot" who seems to be fighting for an America that never really existed. A goldmine of a character to tap from, Gunn and HBO Max did us all a favor by releasing a solo Peacemaker series just a few months after "The Suicide Squad."

Set directly after the events of the DC flick, "Peacemaker" sees Gunn operating on a smaller scale, putting the focus on the character's insecurities and ideals. Perhaps Gunn's most self-aware work to date, "Peacemaker" succeeded because it had no qualms calling its lead character out on his nonsense, frequently challenging his skewed worldview with intense moments of self-reflection.

It also helped that it was just good anarchic fun. Seeing Cena tap into the stupidity but traumatized nuances of the B-grade "villain" is an absolute delight. Filled with a lovable roster of characters, a (somewhat) grounded end-of-the-world plot, and a pet eagle, "Peacemaker" was the perfect crass antidote to our monthly comic book projects which feel as if they're cut from the same cloth.

Tom Meisfjord -- Harley Quinn Season 3

In the arid wastes of HBO Max, where the rivers and streams are now long dry and the sand was turned to glass by the Great Content Explosion of The Last Couple of Months Or So, "Harley Quinn" keeps trucking glorious down the Fury Road. The firmly adult animated adaptation debuted its absolute Cinderella story of a third season this year, digging its heels into its reputation as fans' go-to source for irreverent, deconstructed takes on the DC universe.

I've been in the nerd game for a while now – long enough that I remember back when Warner Bros. just kept one live-action Batman in the house at a time instead of buying as many as they could like pop culture doomsday preppers and then panicking and serving all of them at once when they realized that their expiration date was coming up ("Flash" looks fun, by the way.) I was there back when comic book adaptations were so thin on the ground that it felt insulting when studios took liberties with the characters. Now I am old, and I have lived to see every white actor between the ages of 17 and 50 play Spider-Man, and there's something indescribably refreshing about seeing Swamp Thing show up with a man bun made of vines and refuse to shut up about being an empath.

Kaley Cuoco's take on Harley is played beautifully, this year focusing on the character's past as a mental health professional in ways that make even lifer neckbeards like me go "huh, maybe Batman really does need someone to talk to." Lake Bell's inspired interpretation of Poison Ivy skews more Daria than Uma Thurman. Alan Tudyk's scenery-consuming take on the Joker aside, his theater kid Clayface is uniformly brilliant. Quick, go watch "Harley Quinn" before Warner Bros. realizes that they renewed it for a fourth season and burns the studio down to save face.

Russell Murray - The Boys Season 3

Though it may not prove as narratively tight or thematically coherent as its transcendent second season, Prime Video's "The Boys" remains undefeated in its third outing. While its peers anguish over continuity and universe building, Eric Kripke and co. defiantly root this superhero satire in the tried and true traditions of classic television. The fruit of this increasingly rare labor is a reliably satisfying week-to-week tale that builds on itself in challenging ways.

To its credit, Season 3 even manages to balance its snarkingly gross gore-fests with more straightforward caped fare. Sequences like Homelander and Soldier Boy's battle at Herogasm shows "The Boys" at its most operatic, while so perfectly encapsulating the series' tricky dichotomy. Why on earth would anyone set their emotionally weighty mythological showdown in a well-used orgy mansion? Yet, the gross and the godly rarely undermine each other, the show instead using these opposites to frame the beautifully fulfilled relationships driving the drama. As bodies (and their many fluids) lie about the opulent estate, its the rage and confused betrayal in Antony Starr's eyes that the camera amplifies.

"The Boys" is the sort of series that came at exactly the right time — it's bizarre that a comic book show would rely so heavily on the unprecedented boom in costumed media, a common acceptance of gore and sex on TV, and a growing sociopolitical consciousness among the public. In no other time could a mainstream series dedicate an entire episode to America's damning support of the Contras in Nicaragua during the same season it showcases a woman disemboweling several men with sex toys. It's a daring project the likes of which may never be replicated to the same sturdy, polished, and entertaining affect. Enjoy it while it lasts. (Runner up? Peacemaker.)

Kim Bell - Warrior Nun Season 2

Fellow heathens, let me assure you that "Warrior Nun" has nothing to do with whatever that CCD thing was that our friends went to on Tuesday nights. Yes, like its '90s manga source material and as its title suggests, it does revolve around ass-kicking clergy. But for all its Knights Templar-but-make-it-fashion aesthetic (you heard it here first: chainmail epaulets will be making a much-delayed comeback in 2023), the series is far more interested in the dangers and mechanics of blind acceptance — and the value and mechanics of truth, friendship, and questioning one's perspective — than in doctrine. As for its ass-kickers, think "John Wick," not John the Apostle.

That said, "Warrior Nun" never derides or judges anyone's faith. In fact, part of its brilliance is its willingness to ask and explore Big Questions without feeling compelled to spoon-feed us the answers (a willingness we're seeing less and less of in film and television). In Season 2 — which could have floundered without Toya Turner's compelling, hilarious, and unrepeatabley badass Shotgun Mary — the series turned its Socratic Method approach up to an 11.

But even without its refusal to see things as this or that — even without its stunning choreography, its pitch-perfect navigation of an inherently comedic premise (which Season 2 absolutely nails), and the subversion and playfulness with which it engages its Hero's Journey and its genre — "Warrior Nun" would still be a rare find, for one reason and one reason only: every single one of its Strong Female Characters (so, 95% of all its main characters) are layered, nuanced, fully-fleshed out, relatable, non-interchangeable, and real, particularly in Season 2. They make mistakes (actual mistakes, not "cool girl" mistakes), they defy tired portrayals of sexuality and gender, they feel fear; they fail; and they struggle with their pasts, desires, shortcomings, powers, responsibilities, and identities in ways SFCs rarely, if ever, get to.

There's a reason this series (ironically, given its thesis) had so many die-hard converts. It threads impossible needles, updates and enriches its source, and embraces the best of its genre without fretting over the baggage it rejects.

Nick Stan Staniforth - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Say what you will about those wild Raimi-angles and a cameo list that became a kill list in the space of a bathroom trip, but "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" was a wonderfully weird sideways step into the Marvel universe, opening the franchise into even more exciting directions. With the space element of this massive MCU continuing to thrive, "The Multiverse of Madness" came at the perfect time, and with it, a bold blend of wild elements worked. There was horror, there were nods to teased super teams (cue the "X-Men" music), and there was Mr. Fantastic looking weirdly like Jim Halpert before he got turned into string cheese. How many Marvel movies have dared attempt any of the above and delivered? Issues aside, this was an out-there effort from director Sam Raimi to return to the genre he helped define, and he didn't hold back.

With Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) already altering reality for her own gain in "WandaVision," seeing her return here as a terrifying new threat while turning things upside down in the process mixed the MCU up in the right way. Add into that a music battle like you've never seen and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) at one point being dead and loving it, and you can't knock "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" for its originality. Also, can a Marvel story really fail if there's some extra Wong (Benedict Wong) included? The answer is absolutely not.