TIM-21 puts his head against a robot

13 Best Sci-Fi Comics Of All-Time (Ranked)

With their tales of fantastical characters and otherworldly settings, the science fiction genre thrives in the comic book medium and has for decades. Here are the best sci-fi comics of all-time to light any reader’s imagination on fire.

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13 Best Sci-Fi Comics of All-Time Ranked

13. Tokyo Ghost

A motorcycle races through a cyberpunk overpass in Tokyo Ghost

Much of comic book creator Rick Remender’s work has been firmly rooted in the sci-fi genre, whether writing for Marvel or devising his own worlds through creator-owned comics. Remender teamed with fan-favorite creator Sean Murphy for the 2015 Image Comics series Tokyo Ghost. Set in a near future where much of humanity has been uncontrollably addicted to technology, two peacekeepers are dispatched to the last tech-free country on Earth: the lush city-state of Tokyo.

Compared to sprawling epics that overstay their welcome and become a chore to read, Tokyo Ghost is Remender and Murphy at their most narratively focused. Running for ten issues, the story runs lean and mean as it lays out its cyberpunk setting and star-crossed characters at the heart of it. Hauntingly melancholy, Tokyo Ghost is a solid read among the best sci-fi comics that stays with readers for a long while after they put it down.

12. Sex Criminals

Suzie sings with backup dancers in sex criminals

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky prove to be a comedic match made in heaven as the creators of the Image Comics series Sex Criminals. The comic follows a young couple, Suzie and Jon, who share the ability to freeze time when they orgasm, and they decide to use this special sexual skill to rob a bank. However, Suzie and Jon are not the only ones in this world with strange sexual powers, which they quickly learn when they incur the wrath of the Sex Police.

Fraction and Zdarsky craft a genuinely hilarious comic book, with every issue loaded with frenetic wordplay and plenty of sight gags, all heavily and unapologetically laced with innuendo. Sex Criminals was a cult classic upon its debut in 2013 as readers strapped in for the heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of Suzie and Jon’s antics together. Obviously not all-age friendly, Sex Criminals remains a quirky and funny read that stands among its prolific creative team’s best.

11. Invisible Kingdom

A wanderer stares into a swirling cosmos in invisible kingdom

Award-winning comic creators G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward teamed up for the widely acclaimed Berger Books series Invisible Kingdom. The story has a fledgling couple uncover a conspiracy between the galaxy’s biggest and most fervent religion with a formidable megacorporation. Holding information that could plunge the world into utter chaos, this couple finds themselves hunted as they contemplate how far they should go to expose what they know.

If there is one artist currently working in the comic industry who consistently stuns with every project they do, especially within the sci-fi genre, it’s Christian Ward. In Wilson, he finds a creative simpatico as they create an awe-inspiring world, bringing it to vibrantly visual life. Wilson, primarily known for superhero fare, takes advantage of this creative canvas, creating a thrilling chase across the stars with plenty of conspiracy thriller vibes and freewheeling romance.

10. Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka

Atom stands in rubble in pluto: urasawa x tezuka

Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy is one of the first major manga/anime properties to reach a wide audience in the United States, with its heartwarming tale of a robotic boy serving as the world’s greatest hero. Decades later, Naoki Urasawa worked with co-writer Takashi Nagasaki and the Tezuka estate, specifically Osamu’s son Macoto Tezka, to create a dark reimagining of the classic story. Titled Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka for its North American release, this version of the story dives into cyberpunk noir as a robotic detective investigates a growing number of human and robotic murders bearing the same clues.

At first glance, Pluto feels more similar to Blade Runner than Astro Boy but Urasawa and his collaborators craft an excellent and engrossing murder mystery. More than just a grimdark variation of Astro Boy, Pluto goes heavy on the existentialism and emotional search for what it takes and means to be human. Adapted into a near-equally laudable anime series, Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka is a masterfully staged cyberpunk noir and murder mystery thriller all at once, comfortably sitting amongst the best sci-fi comics of all time.

9. Shangri-La

An astronaut enters a looming spaceship in shangri-la

The term “epic” tends to get thrown around quite casually when it comes to modern storytelling, but it accurately applies to the graphic novel Shangri-La by Mathieu Bablet. Set in a future where humanity has abandoned Earth from space stations run by a megacorporation, the species decides to colonize the moon of Titan for a fresh start. However, even with these noble intentions in mind, humanity’s baser instincts threaten to derail this chance to restart civilization before it can even begin.

With Shangri-La, Bablet really knows when to step back and let the visuals do all the talking for the reader rather than overload them with an exposition dump. These include breathtaking shots of the vessels as they drift in outer space and detailed interiors within the space stations. With this gorgeous backdrop, Bablet explores the existential questions surrounding humanity and its inherent moral qualities as the sci-fi genre does so well.

8. The Incal

The cast of The Incal seated together against a yellow backdrop

The greatest sci-fi comic book to come from a European publisher is The Incal, created by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Girard, the latter of whom is better known under his nom-de-plume Mœbius. Running from 1980 to 2014, with Mœbius replaced by different artists over time, The Incal tells the story of a man, Difool, who comes across the titular crystalline relic capable of completely reshaping the galaxy. When news of his acquisition becomes public, Difool finds himself pursued by a number of different factions who want the Incal for their own purposes.

The Incal is a seamlessly beautiful blend of tech noir and sci-fi spirituality that stands among the best storytelling in the medium, regardless of genre. Before Blade Runner or Akira, The Incal set the template for cyberpunk visuals and themes that continue to define the subgenre decades after its debut. The Incal has since expanded into its own small, self-contained franchise, but those original books by Jodorowsky and Mœbius are still the standard against which all subsequent stories should be judged.

7. Ronin

The ronin slays two swordsmen in ronin

Legendary comic book creator Frank Miller’s first creator-owned title was the 1983 DC miniseries Ronin, which he wrote and illustrated. After a rōnin, a masterless samurai in feudal Japan, slays the demon who killed his master, they are both bound to the blade for over eight centuries. In a dystopian, cyberpunk vision of New York City, both the samurai and demon are released, renewing their feud amidst this futuristic setting.

Enjoying more creative freedom at DC than he previously had at Marvel, Miller makes Ronin the first book to really showcase his signature, raw art style that would come to define his later work like Sin City. A longtime manga fan, Miller blends Japanese influences with neo-noir sci-fi to great effect, with Ronin later serving as a major inspiration behind Samurai Jack. Miller would return to the world of Ronin with a direct sequel under his own publishing company, Frank Miller Presents, but the original Ronin remains a fantastic standalone tale and landmark work in his career even without it.

6. Snowpiercer

The Snowpiercer forges through ice and snow in snowpiercer

Before it was a movie directed by Bong Joon-ho or a multi-season television series on TNT, the post-apocalyptic story Snowpiercer was a French graphic novel series. Created by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer takes place in a world where the Earth has completely frozen over in the face of a new ice age. All that remains of humanity survives on a high-speed train constantly in motion to avoid freezing, with the passengers divided into strict social classes across the train cars.

Much of the social commentary that exists in both the Snowpiercer movie and television series is present in the comic book, albeit framed differently than its adaptations. Rochette would team with writer Alexis Nolent to show the origins of the apocalypse and humanity sheltering on high-speed trains in a prequel that now serves as the first volume to the translated editions published by Titan Comics. Searing and gritty, Snowpiercer has thrilled readers for over 40 years worldwide and the comic holds up among the genre’s best.

5. We3

The animals of We3 look at the horizon

Superstar comic book creators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s most heartbreaking collaboration to date is the Vertigo Comics miniseries We3. Published in 2004, the series follows a group of animals who are experimented on by the government and fitted with cybernetics to become weapons. When the government plans to euthanize them to replace them with newer, more powerful animal weapons, the trio of furry friends escape and try to elude their lethal pursuers.

Morrison and Quitely derive an enormous amount of narrative pathos from their three cybernetic fugitives as they are forced to resort to violence for a chance at freedom and a life without wanton killing and cruelty. We3 is a cut above the rest of Morrison and Quitely’s other creator-owned work, deeply emotionally affecting and a visual masterpiece with Quitely at the helm. Filmmaker James Gunn would later draw heavy inspiration from We3 when crafting Rocket Raccoon’s origin in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and, with a story this touching, it’s easy to see why.

4. East of West

A collage of all the main characters in East of West

As far as world-building epics in science fiction comics go, it’s really hard to top Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West. Published by Image Comics from 2013 to 2019, East of West is the ultimate sci-fi western, set in an alternate near-future vision of the United States where the American Civil War never ended. As the conflict escalated, widening to encompass six warring factions, a ceasefire signed in 1908 resulted in the division of the country into seven different territories in the uneasy peace that followed.

Hickman and Dragotta have created an immersive setting with plenty of backstabbing intrigue and shifting allegiances as this world is disrupted by the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For a writer as prolific and daring as Hickman, East of West ranks as the most ambitious work he has done to date, and he finds a close collaborator in Dragotta to bring this world to life. A complex and rewarding read, East of West is world-building and a blend of genres that knows no limits.

3. Akira

Kaneda holds a gun while on his bike in akira

The definitive cyberpunk comic book series and one of the most iconic manga to come out of Japan, Akira was created by Katsuhiro Otomo in 1982. Set in the sprawling metropolis of Neo-Tokyo, decades after the city endured a cataclysmic explosion, a biker gang tries to stop a powerful telekinetic from destroying what’s left of the city and awakening a psychic entity. Adapted into a groundbreaking anime film, the Akira manga series provides a significantly fuller story that ran for six volumes and expanded the world and characters.

Interestingly, the first English-language translation of Akira available in the United States was done by Marvel Comics and was the first mass-market comic to be digitally colored. The current North American editions of Akira, published by Kodansha Comics, run closer to the original manga by Otomo. For those looking for a less streamlined and no less impressive version of Otomo’s classic story, Akira is a masterclass of the manga medium and absolutely one of the best sci-fi comics around.

2. Descender

TIM-21 looks up in front of a full moon in descender

Many of the acclaimed comic creator Jeff Lemire’s work comes with a distinct tinge of melancholy, and that is readily apparent in his and Dustin Nguyen’s Image Comics series Descender. Published from 2015 to 2018, the series takes place in a world that has completely outlawed advanced robotics and artificial intelligence after organic life barely survived an attack from planet-sized robots. Ten years after this attack, a robotic boy named TIM-21 comes online in an abandoned mining colony only to find himself relentlessly hunted by bounty hunters because of the ban.

Lemire’s writing and Nguyen’s gorgeous watercolor-style artwork make Descender into a sci-fi fairytale complete with its own twist on Pinocchio through TIM-21. Along the way, the creative team guides readers on a completely cosmic odyssey through TIM’s eyes as he traverses the galaxy and tries to stay alive. Lemire and Nguyen would reunite for a direct sequel, Ascender, in 2019, though the original series remains their strongest collaboration yet.

1. Saga

Alana, Marko, and Hazel hug in saga

After delivering one of Vertigo Comics’ best sci-fi stories, Y: The Last Man, award-winning comic book creator Brian K. Vaughan teamed up with Fiona Staples for a very different kind of sci-fi comic story, Saga. When a pair of soldiers from opposing sides of an interplanetary war fall in love and have a child together, they find themselves pursued by both factions to prevent news of this liaison from becoming public. This leads to plenty of twists and turns as old vendettas and both friendly and unfriendly familiar faces surface to hunt this star-crossed couple.

True to its title, Saga is a sprawling adventure that has spanned scores of issues as Vaughan and Staples build their distinct cosmic world. The creative team has mastered the art of the issue ending, with just enough of a cliffhanger to keep readers coming back to see what will happen to their beloved characters next. Through it all, Vaughan and Staples ensure that the heart of the story always sticks with its memorable main characters as they guide them through the fantastical twists and turns that come with raising a kid on the run from galactic bounty hunters.

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Sam Stone
Sam Stone is a longtime entertainment news journalist and columnist, covering everything from movies and television to video games and comic books. Sam also has bylines at CBR, Popverse, Den of Geek, GamesRadar+, and Marvel.com. He's been a freelance contributor with The Escapist since October 2023, during which time he's covered Mortal Kombat, Star Trek, and various other properties. Sam remembers what restful sleep was. But that was a long time ago.