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The 11 best ongoing genre comics of 2017

Contributed by
Dec 20, 2017

The enduring grind of an ongoing comic is a rewarding experience for creators and readers alike. If there's one artist, one can see that talent evolve over many years of work, developing a visual template that is also the signature of that series. For the writer comes the challenge of surprising the reader with stories and actions that are true to the characters they create, to earn those big moments, and to be in harmony with the artist. There are so many distractions about, so the comics that can hold our attention at a high level, month after month, and in some instances year after year, deserve recognition.

Our criteria for Best Ongoing Genre Comics are as follows: It has to be a regularly published comic that started no later than late 2016. It also had to fall within the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and superhero. We also have a different list for Best New Genre Comics, so keep a lookout for that. Now, here are our 11 Best Ongoing Genre Comics of 2017, listed in no particular order.

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X-O Manowar (Valiant)

Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, and Tomas Giorello
Colors by Diego Rodriguez

Whenever you see a long established character get reimagined, you hold your breath for what might come down the pipe. X-O Manowar was always a solid Valiant title, in many ways was like Iron Man with the added element of a man out of his time. The focus here: a Visigoth fighting the Roman Empire, then enslaved by aliens, bonded with a sentient armor Shanhara, and returned to Earth 1,600 years later. Had it been a straight minor updating with slick art, this title wouldn't have prompted a second look; it would've been easy to rush this final Valiant title back to print, as it was the last classic title that hadn't been resuscitated.

Instead, Kindt went big, choosing to go drastically far from any previous run, freeing him to do something original. He pulled Aric of Dacia far away from Earth, and turned him into a savior of a war that he wanted no part of. Readers old and new witnessed Aric rise up the ranks, as a soldier soaked from the bloodied battlefield trenches, to general, to eventually becoming an emperor of an entire world.

Aric's ascension took most of the year to tell but it feels like Kindt is just beginning his deeper exploration of the profound effects the years of war have done to the main character, how his actions impact others, and that winning a war doesn't compare to maintaining order and the necessary rebuilding. All of it depicted in dreamy art that realizes the other-world fantasy so vividly that it takes this 41-year-old reader back in time, when reality couldn't steal limitless imagination so easily. Valiant truly saved the best remodeling project for last, as X-O Manowar deserves to be recognized not only for its high quality, but it's consistency. -- Ernie Estrella

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Kill or Be Killed (Image)

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

What started as a story of a demon’s control of a vigilante transitioned into a tale about mental illness and murder in this incredible series by Phillips and Brubaker. Kill or Be Killed offers up a manipulative narrator with realistic artwork that dives straight into the darkness of the main character. There’s something exciting about being led through a story by an untrustworthy narrator, and Brubaker and Phillips play with his audience just enough to tease what is coming next, while not taking advantage of the technique.

Kill or Be Killed has taken the premise — of a man who must kill for a demon — to another dimension in its second and third arc, as questions about the validity of the demon arise and the consequences of Dylan’s action, specifically with the Russian Mob, come barreling back to haunt him. This is a comic that constantly changes, offers new surprises with each issue, and, with what seems like a simple concept, gets beautifully tangled as it progresses. -- Matt Dorville

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Faith (Valiant)

Written by Jody Houser
Art by Joe Eisma, Kate Niemczyk, and Marguerite Sauvage

Faith has had quite the year. Not only did she have to fight a super-villain group called the Faithless, but she had to go through a time stream to defend the entire Valiant universe. Jody Houser continually has brought often hilarious and perpetually charming aspects to the story, while reminding us that Faith is a character that the comic book world cannot do without. In her recent role as leader of the Future Force — which includes Bloodshot, Ninjax, and Divinity — she tries to save the world against impending doom that is fun as it repeats. Faith has flown from her supporting role of the Renegades to not only one of the best Valiant titles, but one of the best comics on the shelves. -- Matt Dorville

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Infamous Iron Man (Marvel)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev

The character of Doctor Doom could've gone a million different directions in the wake of Secret Wars, and even after considering them all, most fans would've been hard pressed to guess he'd turn to the side of good and take up the mantle of Iron Man. But that's exactly what writer Brian Michael Bendis did in Infamous Iron Man, and it made for one of the most compelling redemption arcs of the year. This series turned the spotlight on Doom as he tries to find new purpose after his downfall in Secret Wars, but quickly comes to realize that just because he wants to do good, that doesn't mean anyone will actually believe him. It peeled back the layers of what makes Doom tick, and featured some stunning tech-magic mash-up art via Alex Maleev. Whatever is next for Doom, this run has played a key role in redefining the character for a new generation. -- Trent Moore

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Black Hammer (Dark Horse)

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston
Colors by Dave Stewart

Lemire and Ormston's Black Hammer had a VERY good year, surging forward with its saga of the Golden Age superheroes of Spiral City exiled for the past 10 years to an inter-dimensional farm, after a climactic battle with Anti-God. Oh, and did we mention that it also won an Eisner Award for Best New Series?

While last year's arc established Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Talky-Walky and their individual origins as they lived a Green Acres-like routine in the sleepy rural burg, 2017 pushed the story into revealing new territory. Following an excellent annual in January with Randall Weird popping in and out of the Para-Zone, the creative crew finally revealed the fate of their fallen comrade, Black Hammer, AKA Joe Weber. His journalist daughter Lucy arrives at Black Hammer Farm via a portal to investigate the death of her crime-busting father, and to try and help the dysfunctional superhero family escape this placid purgatory.

Lemire and Ormston, with superb coloring by Dave Stewart, continue to deliver the goods, as the mystery of the bizarre town of Rockwood begins to unravel. The acclaimed series is now in hiatus after September's Issue #13, while the spin-off title, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, rolls out. Make it a point of catching up, so you'll be primed when this absorbing comic returns in April of 2018 as Black Hammer: Age of Doom. Jeff Spry

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Eclipse (Image)

Written by Zack Kaplan
Art by Giovanni Timpano

As winter arrives with its annual blanket of ice and snow, there's no better way to keep toasty than catching up with Top Cow's near-future sci-fi comic, Eclipse. Written by Zack Kaplan (Port of Earth) and adorned with shining art by Giovanni Timpano, Eclipse has radiated nothing but good will since its initial 4-issue story arc.

This ambitiously original thriller imagines a world where the sun will burn you alive if you're caught unprotected outside. A serial killer in New York City weaponizes the sun's lethal rays, after a devastating solar event irrevocably altered the planet 10 years earlier. NYPD's Solar Crimes Officer David "Bax" Baxter and Cielo Brandt, the hunted daughter of mega-corp Solarity, Inc.'s CEO, explore the post-apocalyptic wastelands and underground city to unravel a mystery behind a new breed of human who can survive the sun's lethal beams. While being courted by major Hollywood producers to develop into a television series, Kaplan's brilliant world-building expands and deepens in this continuing saga which should return in 2018. -- Jeff Spry

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Silver Surfer (Marvel)

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Mike Allred
Colors by Laura Allred

Dan Slott's run on Silver Surfer came to an end in 2017, capping one of the best stories ever told in the galactic corners of the Marvel Universe. It was sweeping, funny, whip-smart, and positively gorgeous thanks to the artwork by Mike Allred. The series basically reinvented who the character was at a fundamental level, setting Norrin and his soulmate Dawn on an adventure across time and space with both galactic and deeply personal stakes.

The final run of issues was the perfect capper to the series, providing a thrilling, heartbreaking and beautiful end to the saga. In a line-up of event series and massive crossovers, Silver Surfer told its own story in the same way Matt Fraction's seminal tenure on Hawkeye avoided all the noise a few years ago. And Silver Surfer is arguably just as good in its own right. -- Trent Moore

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Goldie Vance (Boom! Box - Boom! Studios)

Written by Hope Larson and Jackie Ball
Art by Brittney Williams and Noah Hayes
Colors by Sarah Stern

Fanboys and fangirls can have Batman and Jessica Jones, but we also need room for books like Goldie Vance, which crafts mysteries and crimes in an engaging way for an all-ages, inclusive audience, then solves them just as cleverly. It's light, it's fun, it's fast, and brings back the days when girls dreamed to become problem solvers through the stories of Nancy Drew. What's different though is the aesthetic of Williams' art in the first two arcs, and Hayes' in issues 9 and on, which makes Goldie Vance more noticeable among the racks and racks of over-rendered superhero books; it helps draw in those sought after readers the industry has turned away so often.

The feat of pushing Batgirl to new spaces is not overlooked, but Larson's creator-owned youth sleuth is the kind of book we should all be reading and encouraging others to read, because of its headstrong lead, its three-dimensional supporting characters, the stories' unpredictability, and the attractive art. -- Ernie Estrella

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The Mighty Thor (Marvel)

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman, Valerio Schiti, James Harren, and more
Colors by Matt Wilson, Dave Stewart, Daniel Acuña

The Mighty Thor kicked off 2017 with the Shi’ar Imperial Guard invading Asgard, and it only got louder from there. Jane Foster, the current Goddess of Thunder, has been fighting a war on three fronts: the War of the Realms orchestrated by Malekith the Accursed that continues to escalate out of control, a separate war with the deities of the alien Shi’ar Empire, and then her own very human war with cancer. Jane showed what kind of god she was by defeating the tyrannical gods of the Shi’ar, and showing them what it means to be worthy of being called a god. Even while fighting overwhelming power and unwinnable odds, Thor faces her destiny with bravery, grace, and ferocity.

Jason Aaron continues his incredible run as the chronicler of Asgard, and the last year of stories have felt like they’ve been building to a crescendo in a big way. The book tackled huge questions about whether people are better off without gods, about the horror and futility of war, and about who you are in the face of certain death. These powerful ideas and cosmic adventures are given life by the beautifully fluid, cinematic lines of series artist Russell Dauterman, whose every panel is bursting with mythic import, but also with a joyful humanity. Eisner-winning colorist Matt Wilson is the icing on the Asgardian cake that makes sure every hammer swing sings and thunderbolt crackles with vibrant, ethereal colors. The Mighty Thor delivers action, pathos, stakes, and some of the best visuals in comics, month after month, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. -- Matthew Funk

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Batman (DC Comics)

Written by Tom King
Art by David Finch, Mitch Gerads, Jason Fabok, Clay Mann, Mikel Janín, Lee Weeks, Joëlle Jones, Jordie Bellaire, June Chung, and more.

Batman’s life is rarely surprising. His commitment to not changing is part of what makes him so effective. But this last year of Batman has dared to ask: Can Batman be who he is, and also be happy?

Writer Tom King and a small army of some of the best artists in the business have been putting Bruce Wayne through the gauntlet as he battled Bane, was forced to watch his father die in front of him again, proposed to Catwoman, and reflected on his greatest failures as Batman—and that’s just scratching the surface. Whether it was the crushingly sad Swamp Thing story “Brave and the Mold,” the epically romantic and charming annual, the criminally funny “Ballad of Kite Man” interlude to the compellingly operatic “War of Jokes and Riddles,” or even the inexplicable masterpiece that was the Elmer Fudd crossover story, King and his artistic collaborators have not missed a single step. Every single issue is smart, exciting, satisfying, and gorgeously drawn—and there were a lot of issues.

But for all the mastery of form and precision of craft, the thing that sets this Batman book apart is the love. Batman’s biggest achievement has been giving readers a Bruce Wayne that realizes the value of love, and is actively fighting for his own happiness. That’s an exciting new Batman I haven’t seen before, and I cannot wait to get more. -- Matthew Funk

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Shade the Changing Girl (DC Comics)

Written by Cecil Castellucci
Art by Marley Zarcone and Audrey Mok
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick

From its power-packed creative team to its ability to breathe new life into dusty material. Shade, The Changing Girl stunned me, first with Zarcone's artistic range that can help filter those high-concept Castellucci yarns into clear storytelling one moment, and into surrealistic, psychedelic spreads for those holy s*** instances, the next. Fitzpatrick’s colors assist in eliciting that kind of response, but that’s been the main objective from the beginning. Imagine that they took a flighty, bird-alien named Loma and inserted her essence into the comatose body of hateful teenage Earth girl, then proceeded to explore what makes the human condition both beautiful and repulsive, amazing and horrifying. Sadly for our protagonist, ugly is universal, no matter what galaxy you’re from.

Rather than being content, Loma instead chooses to change up the formula, and make use of her host body. Like a rock band evolving its sound from album to album, so too did Shade through its arcs, breaking the prison of its “Freaks and Geeks” origins and moving the story on the road to paths unknown once Loma learns to shed her shell body and use the Madness Vest more. A climactic reunion between friends closes the first full year, but presents more challenges in both the internal and external dilemmas facing Loma. Luckily, Castellucci is driving this boat and navigates those turbulent waters. It’s only right that the title returns from hiatus in 2018, evolving once more to Shade, The Changing Woman. Until then, make sure you’re caught up on this essential comic that taps into all of the genres we love. -- Ernie Estrella

Honorable Mention

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Boom! Studios) by Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya

Paper Girls (Image) by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Saga (Image) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Green Arrow (DC Comics) by Benjamin Percy and Juan E. Ferreyra

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

Deadly Class (Image) by Rick Remender and Wes Craig

Flintstones (DC Comics) by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer's Supreme (Marvel) by Robbie Thompson, Javier Rodriguez and Nathan Stockman

So that's our list of Best Ongoing Genre Comics of 2017, what are your favorites? Share with us your lists in the comments section below.