The top 20 ongoing sci-fi, fantasy and horror comics of 2015

Ongoing titles have to contend with readers with short attention spans, sales attrition, readers waiting for collected editions and the dozens of titles to choose from each week. It is tough to keep a good thing going, so when a comic book can continue to thrill us for a year, two or many more, we must recognize its ability to entertain for the long run.

We couldn’t include every great ongoing title, but we wanted to share a sampling of 20 of our favorites, sticking close to Blastr’s coverage of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, that have maintained that excellence and endurance over the past year. These are in no particular order. Let us know you favorite ongoing comics of the year in the comments.

20. Batgirl (DC Comics) by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr

Sometimes, you don’t want a comic book to be a heavy read. You want the book to be fun and the artwork to transport you, and that’s exactly what Batgirl does on a consistent basis. Taking Batgirl to Burnside and building a new supporting cast made her more accessible and put some new energy into the title that comes through with each page flip. Some of the longtime readers may still feel burned, but the new direction works in portraying Batgirl’s daily problems in trying to juggle crime fighting, having a social life, and living within the Batman grid, and there’s a touch of romance every once in a while. Sometimes, there’s a little too much going on, but Tarr’s artwork easily navigates so much of it, especially in the panels where it’s just her art telling the story. She’s a rising superstar in this industry and Batgirl is tailor made for her creativity. – Ernie Estrella

19. All-New Ultimates (Marvel Comics) by Michael Fiffe, Giannis Milonoglannis and Amilca Pinna

This book was pretty much the swan song of the Ultimate Universe, but what an ending. What was once one of the most lucrative worlds in Marvel history faded into obscurity the past few years, as the mainstream Marvel universe co-opted much of the modern edginess that made it so popular in the first place. With the Ultimate universe taking its last gasp, Marvel launched this series featuring a team of young heroes led by headliner Miles Morales. It was a blast, and as (pretty much) the only Ultimate ‘book left on the stands, got to tell both big and small stories during its all-too-brief run. It was a fitting end to what was once a cornerstone of the Marvel continuity, and we’ll definitely miss the Ultimate gang. Oh well, at least Miles is getting a new lease on life. – Trent Moore

18. Outcast by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta, and Elizabeth Breitweiser

Don’t read Outcast because you want to know everything before the television show comes out. Read Outcast because you want to be scared out of your skull. Kyle Barnes is the protagonist of this slow-burning horror series by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and has been possessed by a demonic force all of his life. Protecting those around him, he isolates himself and tries to find answers through exorcisms but instead opens up much bigger and scarier doors about himself and the demons that inhabit him. This year’s been teasing readers and crawling to a peak with the 12th and 13th issue where Kyle squares off with his sister that’s being used as a host. It all hits the fan in that issue and now Kyle is exploring his extraordinary abilities. Kirkman is often applauded for his efforts but Walking Dead has lost some steam, and Invincible got a much needed reboot, but Outcast has multiple levels working and Azaceta’s mood-ridden art elevates the story and takes it to these ambitious and horrifying places conjured by its creators. – Ernie Estrella

17. Fables (DC Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

Fables has held a special place in comic fans’ hearts for 13 years, when you add to that its 14 Eisner awards, it’s hard to argue the series as anything but one of the best fantasy comics of all time. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and so Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha’s legendary run on Fables concluded this year in appropriately spectacular fashion, with a 150th issue so huge it also acted as its 22nd paperback volume. The main storyline of a war brewing between Snow White and her sister Rose Red wrapped up with trademark Fables magic, and every character—no matter how forgettable a fairy tale or massive a myth—was given a proper and satisfying send-off. If you’ve ever believed in the power of stories, you owe it to yourself to read Fables. – Matthew Funk

16. Grayson (DC Comics) by Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Mikel Janin

Taking Dick Grayson, who has been Robin or Nightwing for about as long as anyone can remember, and spinning him off into a spy-fi book was obviously a fairly risky move. But, it’s worked out in spades. The series follows Dick as he attempts to infiltrate the spy organization Spyral, and it features some nice twists and excellent character moments as Grayson has to find a way to translate his old super skills into the spy trade. The writing is spot-on, and features a good bit of wit and humor against all the acrobatic action and sneakiness. Much like Batgirl has made an old character new again, Grayson has also become a breath of fresh air in DC’s line-up. – Trent Moore

15. Star Wars: Darth Vader (Marvel Comics) by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado

You can have no better and no worse best friend than the scheming Sith Lord Darth Vader, and the crisp, sophisticated writing of Kieron Gillen lends depth and nuances never imagined to this flagship relaunch title from Marvel that just completed its first year in December. Of all the Star Wars titles carefully unveiled in 2015, this atmospheric book, which concerns the period following the greatest military disaster of all time, the rebels' destruction of the first Death Star, is studded with wit and dry gallows humor that feels exactly as it should. Shamed by Emperor Palpatine over the embarrassing defeat, the sulking Sith assembles his own personal team of assassins to hunt down and discover the identity of the Force-strong pilot who fired the fatal shot. It's a pivotal part of the Star Wars saga unexplored between the periods of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett, rogue archaeologist Doctor Aphra, sarcastic protocol droid Triple Zero and his companion blastomech prototype, BT-1, rounding out the fearsome force. There's a simmering menace and lightning intelligence infused into Gillen's Vader and the breathtaking art and evocative color scheme by Larroca and Delgado combine to make this stellar series well worth the effort. – Jeff Spry

14. East of West (Image Comics) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta 

Twenty-two issues in, and Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West continues to surprise. It is a beautifully realized future-western about one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse going rogue in an alternate America where the Civil War never ended. The series deals with giant ideas in a way that’s accessible, dynamic and entertaining. While the series dwells on a democracy that has failed–topics all too relevant for American readers–it also leaves room for artistic experimentation, such as the action-packed, most recent issue, which was almost entirely silent. Whether you’re looking for incredible action, engaging worlds, mind-blowing concepts or pointed allegory in your science-fiction, East of West had you covered in 2015. – Matthew Funk

13. Spread (Image Comics) by Justin Jordan, Kyle Strahm, and Felipe Sobreiro

A post-apocalyptic world with a baby named Hope, a hero called No, and a badass lady named Molly inhabit Justin Jordan's incredibly suspenseful horror series Spread, whose title describes a viral monstrous infection that ravages the landscape. Spread is the type of horror series that uses elements from your favorite series and movies like Saga and Mad Max, and creates something entirely original in its characters utterly awesome scope of story. The story moves so incredibly fast, introducing new characters and expanding each universe while still taking time to flesh out characters' evolution with backstories. It's extremely ambitious, and my favorite horror series of 2015. – Matt Dorville

12. Letter 44 (Oni Press) by Charles Soule, Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque and Guy Major

This indie sci-fi comic is telling one heck of an ambitious story, and has spent the past two years tracking a covert mission to send a space ship held together by bubble gum and good intentions to investigate a mysterious alien installation in our Solar System. But, it’s so much more than that. The story weaves between the team in space (and yeah, we do get to meet some aliens), and how the big reveal of the alien visitors affects life on Earth. Not surprisingly, it does not go well, and the most recent issues have been chronicling a full-on World War that might rip the planet apart before the aliens have a chance to do, well, anything. – Trent Moore

11. Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics) by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

It's incredible how quickly Kamala Khan has both entered into the Avengers and won the hearts of the comic book audience with her enthusiasm for being a superhero and her loving family ties that, really, keep the series together. This year Wilson focused on Kamala's familial relationships (especially with her mother and brother) and her relationship with Bruno, exhibiting the difficultly in creating a conflicting duality between the superhero and the life of a teenage girl. It's a beautiful comic that is incredibly brave and ambitious in its story arcs and continues to remind us why Kamala Khan still deserves to be one of Marvel's greatest heroes. – Matt Dorville

10. Silver Surfer (Marvel Comics) by Dan Slott, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred

Silver Surfer may not be making as many waves on the sales charts as Dan Slott’s other Marvel series, Amazing Spider-Man, but it should be. Along with legendary artist duo Michael and Laura Allred, Slott has injected new humanity into Norrin Radd, giving him real character development while exploring the Marvel Universe in some of the most mind-bending cosmic stories on the stands. Here are just a few things that Silver Surfer has done this year: surfed a moon, broke free of a comic shaped like a Möbius Strip, had an ice cream party on Plorpopolis 5, survived the end of the universe, and handmade a new one. Consistently one of Marvel’s most fun, inventive, colorful and inspiring series, Silver Surfer is a must-read. – Matthew Funk

9. Wytches (Image Comics) by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth

Few horror comics have ever satisfied me quite as much as Wytches, and it continues to impress more than a year after its first issue arrived. When I think about what really works for me in this story, I always trace it back to the simplicity of its core monster concept. So often when we think of witches, we think of the endless reams of mythology composed about them, from broomsticks to cauldrons to Hogwarts-style magic wands, but in this story Snyder strips that all away and gives us straight-up monsters. The Wytches of this tale are, from their very first appearance, vicious, relentless things that aren't to be reasoned with or tricked by some kind of spell. They're a primal creation, and the combination of Snyder's storytelling and Jock's beautiful horrific art means that we're sucked into their dark world and the people who are tied to it from the very first page. –Matthew Jackson

8. Saga (Image Comics by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The No. 2 best-selling comic series from Image continues to amaze, as this year brought interesting story arcs involving the kidnapping of the royal heir, a rather interesting cure for The Will, and emergence of the Will's sister, The Brand. Brian K. Vaughan's space opera has the best characters and a plot that has no problem with killing off a few of your favorite characters to keep the reader on their toes. From medicine coming from dragon semen to the uneasy alliance of Marko and Prince Robot IV, Saga is the comic book you give to show people how incredible comic books are. This book is a perfect portal book for those that should get addicted to the medium and continues to be the best of the genre. – Matt Dorville

7. Rai (Valiant Comics) by Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain

Diving headfirst into the Valiant Universe was definitely the best comics-related decision I made this year, and Rai is a big part of  why. Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain have crafted 41st Century New Japan into a unique and compelling sci-fi setting, and seeing Rai’s rebellion against it has been fascinating. Kindt spins a tale of a coldly calculated techno-dystopia reminiscent of Blade Runner, while Crain’s sublime painted art, captures the intricacies of New Japan’s network of ecosystems and technological wonders in a whirlwind of chrome, oil and glass. Now is the perfect time to jump on board this incredible title, as it builds toward Valiant’s recently announced 2016 event, 4001 A.D. which will feature Rai exploring Earth for the first time, where he will be recruiting other heroes to his cause. Action-packed, thought-provoking, and a perfect entry point into the world of Valiant. – Matthew Funk

6. BATMAN '66 (DC Comics) by Jeff Parker and Various Artists

Avid comic book readers are a meticulous and peculiar lot sometimes and especially us rabid collectors, who all have our idiosyncratic rituals when cataloging or bagging our precious books in deluxe mylars and archival boards.  So there's no higher compliment I can give to this candy-colored retro confection that brought the campy Batman TV series to life on the page when I tell you that I've only read the first six or seven issues and am waiting for the perfect storm of mental clarity and atmospheric inspiration to dive deep into the series. I may never return!  For the moment, they're all comfortably clad in shiny mylar covers awaiting the day when I can no longer delay a prolonged immersion into their world.  Sadly, the series just wrapped up this month after a sensational 30-issue run with a revolving roster of amazing artists and issues emblazoned with crazy titles like In Foggy Old Gotham, Introducing The Batrobot!, The Sandman Awakens! and Caught in the Widow's Web!  Jeff Parker kept this cool, frolicking salute going for 2 1/2 years and those who've not become addicted to its vintage spell should seek out the TPBs when they come out in 2016! – Jeff Spry

5. Southern Bastards (Image Comics) by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

I never know who is going to be featured in a new issue of Southern Bastards and that’s what makes it exhilarating. The first story arc led us to believe who the protagonist was, but for those who fought past a tragic ending had to find the courage to plow on and discover there were more bear traps on the foot and stabs to the gut ahead. Coach Boss and his henchmen Esaw and Materhead kept the reader fixed this past year just as Earl Tubb did in the opening act. Deacon Boone was also an unforgettable character and all of them exhibited the strength of Aaron’s character building. Latour's artwork brings the various landscape of the South to your fingertips. The reader can smell the dampness of the forests or feel the sweet, sticky molasses in the barbecue sauce. Aaron and Latour’s relentless and sadistic stories about the bad men and football does nothing to sell me on living in the South, but it does excite me every time I see a new cover, flushed with the color red on the stands because it means a new chapter of his dark and unforgiving tale is waiting for me. – Ernie Estrella

4. Deadly Class (Image Comics) by Rick Remender, Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge

With the focus on character development, Deadly Class is the type of action comic that has made its writer, Rick Remender, a superstar. The story is about Marcus, a kid growing up in Reagan-era San Francisco at a school that teaches the in's and out's of being an assassin. What really brings this comic series to life though are the cast of characters with which Remender surrounds his protagonist. Saya, Marcus's first mentor and love interest, and Maria, the day of the dead makeup wearing assassin who is Marcus's girlfriend, create a love triangle in the midst of a firestorm surrounding the characters lives in school. Combine that with copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that the characters fall flat into and you've got yourself one of the most exciting comics of the year. – Matt Dorville

3. The Wicked + The Divine (Image Comics) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

If you know Phonogram, the breakthrough series by Gillen and McKelvie, then you know that The Wicked + The Divine feels very much like a series only they could write. While Phonogram was an exploration of pop music as magic, Wicked + Divine is an exploration of pop stars as literal gods, right down to character designs based on the iconic looks of Prince and David Bowie. That central metaphor is interesting enough, and The Pantheon at the core of the series is full of fascinating, sexy, and downright impenetrable characters, but where this series really shines is when Gillen and McKelvie push the idea of pop music and godhood even further into the realm of fandom, and the idea that mingling with gods might actually allow you to become one. By the end of the first arc, you feel fully engulfed in a strange and intoxicating world, and every single Pantheon scheme completely hooks you. It's been a year-and-a-half, and this comic hasn't missed once. – Matthew Jackson

2. Private Eye (Panel Syndicate) by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

Sometimes we watch period pieces to see the various challenges people of different eras solved relatable problems. In Private Eye, the reader is taken to 60 years in the future after the Internet brought the world to its knees after the information cloud burst. Privacy is valued most and even though electronics still work, the world is no longer connected electronically. Many hide under disguises both elaborate and bizarre, and that makes being a private investigator even more challenging. Like all of Vaughan’s work, no matter how far removed the setting may be, our own real world and problems bleed through. But it’s not just the world and how it works that is engrossing, the characters that populate this world are even more interesting. This is intelligent science fiction and noir, yet it’s confronting too. Identity, trust, and the connections we make with others are all on the line here. When we ourselves have given much of that willingly for nothing, it makes Private Eye all the more relevant and cautionary. The comic came out non traditionally through the web where readers could pay what they sought fit, an interesting experiment to say the least and ironic given its content, but now the complete first volume of Private Eye is available in hardcover in book stores everywhere. – Ernie Estrella

1. Thor (Marvel Comics) by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Molina

Jason Aaron is one of the greatest comic book writers working today and his inventive take on Thor with Jane Foster taking up the hammer is brilliant as well as devastating. I don't remember ever reading a comic of a hero going through Leukemia in addition to her fight with super villains but Aaron makes it work in brilliant fashion as Thor is one of the most thought-provoking, engaging comics on the stands now. While there was a lot of media attention to such a major character being made into a female hero, Aaron doesn't simply phone it in and creates a compelling story that is one of Marvel's best for the year. – Matt Dorville

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