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Alex Brown

Falling in Love with the Enemy: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

When she was little, Lady Branwen’s life was blown apart when her parents were murdered by Kernyv raiders. The king and queen took her in and raised her as one of their own. Now at nineteen, she a lady-in-waiting to her cousin Princess Eseult. Essy is fiesty yet fragile, a girl determined to live a life she chooses even if it means disregarding all her responsibilities. Branny, on the other hand, is content to be in her cousin’s shadow, but beneath her wallflower attitude is a fire waiting to be lit. The boy with the match is Tristan, a Kernyvman who washes up on Iveriu’s shore. After Branwen saves his life, the truth of his past comes out and threatens the passion welling up between them.

For years, longer than anyone can remember, Kernyv and Iveriu have been enemies, but Tristan’s arrival and the message he brings from his king offer a chance at peace. Yet when Essy insists on marrying for love rather than for political control, as is her duty as princess, the fate of two nations is put at risk. All the while, ancient magic calls to Branny, pushing her to discover the depth and breadth of her gods-given abilities. The gods have a vested interest in her and her true love, but it may not be for the reason she thinks. As a healer and liaison between humans and the Land, Branwen is destined to heal anything and everything from people to the monarchy to her own damaged heart. If Branwen can’t get Essy to play her part—and keep Tristan alive long enough to make it back to Kernyv—all hope is lost.

[“Not you without me, not me without you.”]

“Death Cannot Tear Us Apart”: Brooklyn Brujas Series by Zoraida Córdova

Do you love engaging characters, heart-pounding plots, intriguing worldbuilding, and compelling narratives? Are you eager for supernatural suspense with a Latinx twist? Then I’m pleased to introduce you to Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born, Zoraida Córdova’s firecracker of a young adult fantasy series. Brooklyn Brujas features the three magically-inclined Mortiz sisters, cataclysmic supernatural happenings, and a whole lotta enticing Latinx influence.

[“Destroy the heart and make the sacrifice.”]

The Queer Webcomics Revolution

Webcomics are full of untamed creativity, experimental stories, and wholly unique casts, not to mention creators ready and willing to tackle subjects generally avoided by the mainstream. A few webcomics have made the transition to print (the big one in recent years is, of course, Nimona), but most stay online. The freedom a creator has online to do whatever they want doesn’t even come close to Image’s creator-friendly environment. Which is why I love webcomics so much.

I’ve been dying to do a webcomics edition of Pull List for ages, and the combination of Pride Month and needing a break from Big Two comics finally gave me a good excuse. Trouble is, there are so many great webcomics out there that it was impossible to choose just one or two to talk about. After winnowing my very long webcomics library down by series that have recently updated (as in not sporadically or on hiatus) and are not being published in print by major or small/indie presses (excluding self-pub), I offer you a list of some of my current favorite queer SFF webcomics While a few are managed by working comics creators or artists, most are from newbies or non-professionals. Some series are fairly new, others have longer running arcs, but all offer something mainstream comics don’t: a broad range of queer and racially/ethnically diverse characters written and illustrated by creators just as varied.

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Extraordinary ExtraOrdinaries: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

As college students, Victor Vale and Eliot Cardale were close friends with a competitive streak and an undercurrent of disapproval and frustration. They were friends more because the complemented each other in ways no one else could rather than any real affection. For their culminating project, they focus their research on EOs, ExtraOrdinary people with superhuman abilities. Most people are skeptical of the existence of EOs, and so are they until the science starts to make sense. Soon enough, they unlock the secret to becoming an EO, and everything goes south. By the time they are both powered up, a bunch of people are dead, Eli has disappeared, and Victor is locked away in prison.

Ten years later, Victor breaks free with the help of his supremely unlucky cellmate Mitch. While Victor spent the last decade honing his painful powers, Eli used his to kill other EOs. With the help of Serena, a mind-controlling EO, Eli uses the police to hunt down rogue EOs, including Serena’s twelve-year-old sister Sydney. After a botched murder attempt, Sydney escapes into the night and unexpectedly runs straight into Victor’s arms. Victor wants revenge on Eli, and when he encounters Sydney, a plan percolates. As the nemeses consolidate power and prepare for the final strike, everyone else is swept up in their wake.

[“ExtraOrdinary. The word that started – ruined, changed – everything.”]

Pull List, Spooky Edition: Ghostbusters and Archival Quality

Spring has sprung! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, the sun is shining… and the ghosts are ghouling. Yeah, I know people don’t generally put ghosts and spring in the same sentence. Unless you’re me, that is, and have two awesome spirit-centered comics you can’t stop squeeing about. So gather ‘round, comics fanatics, as I rant and rave about my new faves Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Archival Quality.

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What’s Going On with Legion Season 2’s Strange, Circuitous Journey?

Every episode of Legion has the same basic arc in terms of my viewing experience. Step 1: “Wait, what happened in the last episode? How did we get here? What’s going on?” *annoyed grumbling*. Step 2: Fascination with the magic of cinematography. Eager to see how this mini-mystery will be explored. Step 3: Growing irritation at pile-up of information with no context and the lack of even the smallest bit of resolution. Step 4: Boredom *scrolls aimlessly through twitter or tumblr*. Step 5: Someone finally does something cool to re-hook my interest. Step 6: “Wait, what just happened? Is it really over? I don’t know what’s going on.”

You can take that path as a positive (it is, in a weird way), or a negative—either way, I have thoughts about the last few episodes of Legion that cannot be contained. And hopefully if Legion confuses you as much as me, we can find some answers together.

[“Maybe we’re all villains.”]

Ghosts of the Past: Makiia Lucier’s Isle of Blood and Stone

Eighteen years ago, the two young princes of the island kingdom of St. John del Mar, the royal cartographer Lord Antoni, and lady-in-waiting Lady Esma, vanished without a trace when their picnic caravan was attacked. In retaliation, the king destroyed the neighboring island the murderous assailants came from. Years later, teenage Ulises is now king. Assisting him is his best friend Elias, the son of Antoni and a talented mapmaker in his own right, and his cousin Mercedes, a top-notch spy with a fiery personality. When apprentice mapmaker Reyna discovers two new maps that appear to have been drafted by Lord Antoni, Ulises enlists Elias and Mercedes to uncover the truth about the day his brothers were supposedly kidnapped and murdered. Their quest puts them face to face with fantastical monsters, angry spirits, and dark secrets better left unspoken.

[“I don’t need a champion…I can fight my own wars.”]

Pull List: Bow Down Before Raven the Pirate Princess and The Prince and the Dressmaker

I don’t know about you, but 2018 hasn’t exactly been a great year as far as I’m concerned. Is it better than the trashfire that was 2017? Only time will tell. But it’s only April and I’m already about done with everything. When I start to get all stressed out like this, the best way to calm me down is with a good book, or, in the case of this column, a good comic. So here are two tales about spunky royals and the unusual yet exciting circumstances they find themselves in. I give you the lovely, engaging, smile-inducing Princeless: Raven: The Pirate Princess and The Prince and the Dressmaker.

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John Scalzi’s Head On Stands Tall

FBI Agent Chris Shane is back in John Scalzi’s Head On, a quirky, complex sequel to 2014’s Lock In. First, a little background. Chris has Haden’s Syndrome, a disease where the infected is “locked in” their body. When the epidemic spread when Chris was a child, Hadens switched to living in a newly developed virtual space called the Agora. To interact with the physical world they use threeps, basically robots they can wifi into. Over the years, Hilketa was developed, wherein Hadens try to rip the heads of each other’s threep’s off in a violent sport that’s sort of a cross between soccer, rugby, and Robot Wars.

When a Hilketa player dies suspiciously on the field, Chris and their partner Agent Leslie Vann take on the investigation. The bodies pile up as leads grow cold, and nothing seems to make any sense. Bribes, arson, affairs, schemes, destroyed threeps, shady financial dealings, and one particularly important cat abound. Chris and Vann need to find out who killed Duane Chapman, but they’ll end up with an answer that’s more than they bargained for.

[“It’s never a dull moment around you, Chris…”]

Brujas, Ships, and Zombies in This Season’s New Young Adult Fiction

Another season, another massive pile of awesome young adult science fiction and fantasy books to read. In terms of inclusive diversity—particularly in regards to authors, characters, and #ownvoices—this wasn’t a great quarter for quantity (especially with science fiction) but the quality is off the charts. With plenty of sequels and new series starters, you should find plenty to occupy your time.

Something not on my list but high on yours? Share with the class down in the comments.

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Legion Season Two Is More of the Same, For Better and For Worse

You’re going to read a lot of reviews about how astoundingly amazing the second season of Legion is. This isn’t going to be one of them. It’s not that I don’t like the show—I actually enjoy it quite a bit—I just wish it had more… something, anything beyond surface appeal. Let me put it this way: up through the Admiral Fukuyama interrogation I was cruising along not hooked but not turned off either; by the dance off I thought, “alright, this is pretty cool;” and then I fell asleep during the light conversation with future!Syd.

[“If you feel something, say something.”]

A Tale of Two Americas: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

In Justina Ireland’s fantastic new young adult novel, Dread Nation, the world is upended when the dead rise from their graves at Gettysburg. In order to salvage what’s left of the US, the Civil War ends in a compromise that frees the enslaved but forces them into combat schools that train them to slay the undead shamblers. Jane McKeene, a Black teen born to a white mother, is shipped off to the most prestigious of schools, Miss Preston’s, where she hones her skills. During the day she trains with other brown-skinned girls eager to be selected as an Attendant to a wealthy white family (thus sparing them from the hardship of fighting shamblers on the frontlines), and at night she haunts the countryside, taking out shamblers and saving the innocent.

When her sometimes beau, Red Jack, asks for her help in locating his missing sister, Jane and frenemy classmate Katherine run afoul of a corrupt mayor and his clan of Survivalists, a political party made up of mostly white people looking for new ways to inflict old oppressions and subjugations on African Americans. The trio are hauled off to a fledgling town in the middle of Kansas built on secrets, lies, and horrific exploitation. All Jane wants is to get back to Baltimore and find her mother, but first she’ll have to outlast flesh-eating shamblers and racist white people.

[“In which I taunt the devil”]

Pull List: Abbott and Destroyer Take On Black Lives Matter

This month we’re stepping away from Big Two superhero comics to spend some time with two of BOOM! Studios’ best new series, Destroyer and Abbott. Although the two titles couldn’t be more unrelated in setting story, but both have killer hooks (literally), fantastic creative teams, and a similar underlying theme. If these aren’t already on your shelves, you have some catching up to do.

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“My Mother Is a Bird”: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

On the same day Leigh Chen Sanders kissed the boy she’d pined over for years, her mother, Dory, committed suicide. She leaves no note, no reason or explanation, just a cavernous hole in the Sanders’ world. At first the grief is overwhelming. She feels trapped in her childhood home with her distant father and the bloodstain marking her mother’s demise haunting her thoughts. Then, the night before the funeral, Leigh is roused from her nightmares by a huge crimson bird calling her name. She knows immediately the bird is her mother, the whys and hows brushed aside in the face a daughter’s longing for her mom.

At the behest of the bird, Leigh and her father travel to Taiwan to meet her mother’s estranged family. Desperate to save her mother, to make contact, to be close once again, she digs through old family memories and unearths long-hidden secrets. With the guidance of the bird and a box of magical incense, Leigh is pulled between reality and fantasy until she can no longer tell the difference between them. What she learns on her journey won’t change the past, but may finally put it to rest.

[“I want you to remember”]