The best new sci-fi, fantasy and horror comics of 2015

2015 could be seen as the year in which readers were finally burned out from line-wide crossovers or event stories. But if you didn't want to participate in what the big two were slinging out, there were a handful of new titles coming out from Image every week. Dark Horse saw a boost in their creator-owned titles, and Valiant proved that they are worth the read if you didn't mind another universe to juggle. Vertigo came back with a vengance, launching 12 new titles in the last quarter of the year. Boom!, IDW and Black Mask had impressive catalogs, so the hardest thing to say in 2015 was, "no." 

One thing we noticed are bigger, badder and bolder stories featuring women, and there's also a diversification in the type of horror stories we're seeing. Old school readers may have viewed this as forced political correctness while others found it a welcome opening to new points of view, new voices and new avenues to invite the untapped readers. Also, science-fiction comics are no longer in short supply, and with genre mashing, it's ever present in many of today's most thought-provoking series.

We couldn’t include every great new title, but we wanted to share a sampling of our favorites, sticking close to Blastr’s coverage of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, that impressed us for their fresh take on their respected genre and for surprising us over the last year.

These are in no particular order. Let us know you favorite new comics of the year in the comments.

Weirdworld (Marvel Comics) by Jason Aaron and Michael Del Mundo

A Secret Wars tie-in series written by Jason Aaron turned All-New All-Different ongoing by Sam Humphries, Weirdworld has been the most boldly insane experiment from Marvel this year. Set in an ever-shifting realm of magic and madness made up of the “lost things” and conceptual detritus of Marvel lore, Weirdworld is lusciously rendered by artist Mike Del Mundo. Del Mundo brings to life lava monsters, crystal people, Man-Thing forests and dragon-hunting underwater apes in stunning detail, but just as effectively breathes emotion and pathos into series protagonists Arkon and Becca Rodriguez. You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic that packs more imagination and beauty into its pages than this one. – Matthew Funk

Paper Girls (Image Comics) by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson

As someone who grew up in the '80’s, I am digging all of these stories that are mining the decade to make a period piece. Then again, that means I’m getting old. Any time you can take a trip back to a pre-Internet era, there are all of these things that are conjured and romanticized. In Vaughan and Chiang’s Paper Girls, it’s Spielberg movies, kid gangs, riding a bike and having a paper route in this strange trip that incorporates alien technology, flying dinosaurs, a slow unfolding mystery and a group of girls who could be the last line of defense. A lot of the appeal is weighted on '80s nostalgia and how close your heart is tied to that stuff, but the less that is known about the story headed in is probably for the better. You’ll just have to trust me on this. – Ernie Estrella

Klaus (Boom! Studios) by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora

Thirsting for a virile, yuletime retelling of the Santa Claus legend?  Put down that eggnog and march quickly to your comic shop and demand the first two issues of Grant Morrison's Klaus from Boom! Studios.  It's a bold, bloodthirsty saga combining Nordic folklore with dynamic storytelling by the masterful Morrison.  It's got two-fisted Game of Thrones-esque heroics paired with vivid art and detailed panels by Dan Mora (Hexed). Klaus is a refreshing, beautiful yarn steeped in the myth and magic of Viking culture and Siberian mysticism, perfectly described as Santa Claus: Year One, with pages alive with vivid greens and robust reds set against the stark white winter of the Scandinavian village of Grimsvig.  The new issue comes out on January 6 so make sure you leap on board this incredible new title from Boom! – Jeff Spry

Drifter (Image Comics) by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein

Do you love genre mash-ups? I do, too, which is why Drifter is the little comic that could and should be in your hands if you like westerns and science-fiction that requires the reader to get involved with the story. From the creators of Viking, this new tale starts with a space ship crash landing and opens to a wide and complex world that’s not unlike Dune. This is a world where mankind has colonized other planets and stripped them of their natural resources, but our story starts with one man is trying to survive and begins down a much longer journey of humanity. What I love most about Drifter is that it feels like one of those independent films that is low budget but is incredibly ambitious. The energy (and oh my, the art!!) is electric. You don’t know where it’s headed, you know no one in the production and just have the story to hook you in and decipher. Drifter is that in a comic.  - Ernie Estrella

Lando (Marvel Comics) by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev

The adventures of Mr. Smooth and his sidekick Lo was easily the best Star Wars comic of 2015. Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Charles Soule's contribution to the canon really made the most of the Cloud City smuggler solo adventures, with all the action of Jason Aaron's Star Wars series combined with the style of Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader. While the series only had five issues, Soule definitely showed how fun the character could be and opened up possibilities for, hopefully, a new story arc in 2016. – Matt Dorville

Kaijumax (Oni Press) by Zander Cannon

I discovered this series at Emerald City Comic Con earlier this year, where Oni Press was promoting the first issue, and was immediately hooked. Kaijumax is a wonderfully weird series about an island that acts as a maximum security prison for giant monsters. Lovingly crafted by writer/artist Zander Cannon, the book is colorful, zany and filled with references to pop culture’s most iconic monsters and robots, all while providing commentary on the broken prison system. Any fan of giant monsters or good comics should not miss this book. – Matthew Funk

Bitch Planet (Image Comics) by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro

One thing I didn’t expect to stumble on this year was a raw and unfiltered lady prison in space drama that is both empowering and deflating to read, but also reads like a passion project full of “Oh $#*t” moments. Women have been locked up for things that most men skate by innocently. When Marian Collins speaks up about her innocence, readers think, “bad lawyer,” but when her story is confirmed, the thrill ride begins. It’s a campy vehicle that’s both bloody violent and well executed. Women of all shapes and colors are depicted, and that’s just an added byproduct of telling a story that’s bigger than the outside dressings. This isn’t your typical exploitative tale of prison uprising. What it is, is the type of work that can be used in feminist studies classes and be the book of the month read for recovering grindhouse-aholics. We don’t often get this voice in comics and what better person to deliver this tale than DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel), who has the forked tongue and sharp mind to convince you this planet is one you actually want to inhabit and be a part of the revolution. – Ernie Estrella

The Twilight Children (DC Vertigo) by Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart

The Vertigo imprint shoved a lot of new books to the comic racks in the last quarter of the year. One that I hope is finding its way into as many hands as possible is The Twilight Children, an eerie science-fiction mystery that is also a small-town drama. Mysterious orbs show up at the shores of a coastal town and strange things happen to the townsfolk, attracting some not so friendly suits to wash ashore. The story is full of twists and turns and there’s plenty to keep the reader busy, whether it’s the otherworldly affair bringing doom, or witnessing the citizens play and manipulate each other. The Twilight Children showcases powerful and seemingly effortless storytelling by its creators, Gilbert Hernandez who has made a career in telling, down-to-Earth slices of life, and Darwyn Cooke, who manages to tell the largest of tales in the most efficient of ways. Normally, both creators work alone, but it’s books like this that makes you wish they collaborated more often. – Ernie Estrella

We Can Never Go Home (Black Mask Studios) by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Josh Hood

One of the year's best comic series came from the excellent but underappreciated Black Mask Studios. We Can Never Go Home is like a comic book version of True Romance, in which the main characters are on the run and have to trust and rely on each other as the walls slowly move in on them. It's probably the most realistic story of what would happen if teenagers had super powers, with compelling character relationships and an impending sense of dread that follows the characters as they try to find themselves as well as their powers in a world that doesn't accept them while examining the notions of good and evil. It's an incredibly smart comic that flew under the radar but is definitely one of 2015's best. – Matt Dorville

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and Robert Hack

Afterlife with Archie was a revelation - a blissful, mature departure from its roots that maintained the spirit of those funky kids from Greendale. But this year, Archie Comics took their horror reboots to another level, giving Sabrina the Teenage Witch a 1960s facelift and pumping a copious amount of macabre and dark humor through its veins. The result is a masterpiece in the art of reinvention. The first issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets the table for who our players are and how they came to be, but it doesn’t prepare you for the hair-raising tales Roberto Aguirre Sacasa has in store. Rather than a caricature, Sabrina is a full bodied character with relatable problems. She carries a full range of emotional conflicts and the responsibility of being a powerful witch in a small coven, and then must deal with the consequences of her actions. Sacasa also built a compelling supporting cast to share a roof with her and contrast Sabrina’s travails. As for Robert Hack’s art, it’s like a thin veil of a classic Vincent Price movie had been laid on top of Greendale; his style just gushes with the genre, specifically, from the '60s and '70s era. This splendid reboot is a must-read for horror fans and old-time fans of the character and was one of the most memorable surprises of the year. – Ernie Estrella

Vision (Marvel Comics) by Tim King

It only launched in November, but Marvel’s new ‘book following The Vision is probably the most ambitiously weird title the publisher has put out in ages. It’s creepy, it’s weird — and it’s utterly engrossing. The story basically follows Vision when he’s not pal-ing around with the Avengers, and during that downtime, he decides to build himself a real-life family and attempts to live a normal life in the suburbs. It goes about as well as you’d expect. But, writer Tim King doesn’t play the premise for laughs. Instead, he digs into that innate yearning to be human, and takes a voyeuristic view of the quiet moments that show the Visions are just like us all. Except, you know, they have the power to potentially kill us all. - Trent Moore

Lady Killer (Dark Horse) by Joëlle Jones, Jamie S. Rich and Laura Allred

I’m not sure what stands out more, the concept of Lady Killer or Jones’ eye-popping artwork, but the entire package is the exact kind of storytelling I’m looking for in any comic,  especially one featuring the increasingly popular strong female protagonist (it’s about time, too). It’s 1962, and Josie lives the life of housewife straight out of Mad Men, but is also a career woman at night time as an undercover assassin. If you’ve seen Jones’ work in her Oni Press Viking action piece, Helheim, then you know how she can throw around the ink splatter. She doesn’t hold back here, either, except when she needs to to portray the clean and tidy day life of Josie, the only side her husband Gene and twin daughters get to see. Outside of Josie, supporting cast members like comic relief man Peck, and big boss Stenholm gets under the skin. The next installment, due out later in 2016 will be Jones all on her own. For Jones, it’s a labor of love, but there’s a lot of love (and blood spilled) in Lady Killer. – Ernie Estrella

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel Comics) by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

The breakout comic of 2015 was fun, empowering, and, well, Unbeatable. Doreen Green (AKA Squirrel Girl) has to balance her college computer science classes with her new role as a member of the Avengers in Ryan North and Erica Henderson's lovable story of a hip girl with the power of Squirrel (she can summon squirrels and she has a big tail and strong teeth). Already, she has defeated Kraven, Galactus, and Whiplash, after learning insights from Deadpool's Guide to Super Villains cards. The comic excels at being silly in the most entertaining way possible and without a doubt shows Squirrel Girl as one of Marvel's best heroes of 2015. – Matt Dorville

Tokyo Ghost (Image Comics) by Rick Remender and Sean Gordon Murphy

Tokyo Ghost #1 was one of my favorite single issues of the year, providing a tragic and adrenaline-fuelled cautionary tale about Debbie Decay and her hulking tech-addict boyfriend, constable Led Dent, in the Isles of Los Angeles in 2089. Rick Remender and Sean Gordon Murphy turned out a compelling and complete story in that first issue, but luckily it didn’t end there, and the pair’s journey to Tokyo and their fight to escape their circumstances has been just as good. Murphy’s linework is sharp, gritty and crackling with energy and detail, giving this potential future the feeling that there is another story hidden around every corner. Immensely relevant, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Tokyo Ghost is yet another sci-fi homerun from Image. – Matthew Funk

Nimona (HarperCollins) by Noelle Stevenson

Though not technically new material, Nimona is Stevenson’s first jump into comics before she worked her way up Boom! Studios from intern to creator and launched her hugely popular title, Lumberjanes. Nimona was published on the web throughout Stevenson’s college years and was collected for the first time in print this year. It is a fantasy story about shapeshifter who enlists herself to Ballister Blackheart’s side. Soon, Blackhearts discovers Nimona’s trickery but continues to take her with him and before too long has created a monster within Nimona that he cannot control. As the story shifts from Nimona’s rise to Blackheart’s mess, the perspectives and stakes change. We not only see this story start out from a harmless place delve into a complex place full of turmoil and conflict, we also see the development of an cartoonist, working out her storytelling skills and art style over the years. That, in and of itself, is worth the price of the book. – Ernie Estrella

Sandman: Overture (Vertigo Comics) by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III

Certainly the series boasting the most painful waits between issues this year, Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III has been a triumphant return to the world of the Endless. Gaiman writes the rare kind of prequel that makes the series better, managing to provide new depth to the character arc that Morpheus goes through in the original series. Morpheus has never looked better than in the hands of Williams, whose art shifts effortlessly between styles, mediums and planes of existence in a masterful and utterly beautiful deconstruction of the comic book form. Sandman: Overture is heart-wrenching, mind-expanding, and leaves you wanting to experience the whole series all over again. – Matthew Funk

Descender

Descender (Image Comics) by Jeff Lemire and Dustyn Nguyen

Image has quickly become the premier publisher for sci-fi comics in the industry, with titles like Saga, East of West, and Prophet, and this year they strengthened their claim with Descender. Written by Jeff Lemire with artwork by Dustin Nguyen, Descender tells the tale of Tim-21, a rare model of companion robot for children, who wakes up after a long deactivation to discover the system of worlds he calls home has either killed or outlawed most of his robot brethren. Nguyen constructs a distinctive sci-fi aesthetic that takes the best parts of classic anime like Akira and Astro Boy and gives them a coat of the optimistic grime of Star Wars. Lemire’s fast paced and ambitious, yet surprisingly intimate, opening salvo of Descender has been a triumph that feels like it has a lot still in store for readers, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us next. – Matthew Funk

Harrow County (Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook

With zombies and vampires dominating most of the horror-monster fiction, it was refreshing to see Bunn use his childhood haint and ghost stories and create one of the perfect titles of the year telling the story of Emmy, a young witch that’s becoming aware of her abilities and who she used to be in a prior life. There’s a delicate side to Harrow County, that contrasts with these skin-crawling stories that just stick with you long after you put the comics away. With the foundation of the rural South, Bunn’s vividly descriptive narrative, and Crook’s enchanting and lavish art, Harrow County is a book that stands out on the comic racks and races to the top of your to-read list the day it comes out. In the coming year, the story will eventually grow outward from Emmy and that will continue to take the story in new spaces and places. It is my personal favorite horror title of the year and that’s saying a lot considering the company it’s in. – Ernie Estrella