content by

Alex Brown

Pull List: Captain Marvel and Miles Morales: Spider-Man Get Back to Basics

Given the fervent adoration (rightly) bestowed on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the tail end of 2018 and the growing anticipation for the MCU’s latest entry, Captain Marvel, it seems fitting to start my first Pull List of the year covering their newest comics. Miles Morales and Carol Danvers both got well-earned recent relaunches, but are they worth reading? I think you already know the answer to that…

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“This must be what vengeance felt like”: Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves

In the weeks before the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, six teens are pulled into a dangerous heist. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is the disowned half-French half-Algerian illegitimate son of the dead Patriarch of House Vanth. The Order, the organization that unites the Houses and formalizes the rules of Forging (aka magic), exiled Séverin years ago. He’s spent his time since “acquiring” Forged artifacts from the Order and slowly gathering his former House’s collections. Helping him are Zofia, an arson-inclined autistic Polish Jew with a flair for Forging and engineering; Enrique, a bisexual half-Spanish half Filipino historian; Tristan, Séverin’s younger brother with a plant-based Forging talent and an obsession with his pet tarantula; and Laila, an Indian girl harboring a dark secret.

When he’s approached by his former childhood companion Hypnos, a queer half-French half-Haitian Patriarch, with an offer he can’t refuse, Séverin and his crew are pulled into a vast conspiracy. To win back his status as the Patriarch of House Vanth, he and his crew must steal Forged artifacts, solve tricky riddles and complicated puzzles, and battle sinister forces all while keeping the Order off their trail. The dead will rise and the living will fall and by the end the world will never be the same.

[“I’ve come to collect my dues.”]

A Travel Guide to the Worlds of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series (Updated!)

In Every Heart a Doorway, the first novella in the stellar Wayward Children series, author Seanan McGuire explores what happens when children who disappeared into magical worlds returned to the real world. Its prequel story Down Among the Sticks and Bones explores one of these worlds in detail, telling the story of how Jacqueline and Jillian became Jack and Jill. The consequences of leaving your home world for the real one come to roost in the third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky, a theme explored from a different angle in the fourth novella, In An Absent Dream.

Maguire’s portal worlds are connected to our own through magic doors. Not just any child can cross the threshold; something innate in their being or in the other world draws them in. What follows is an account of every single portal world mentioned, even in passing. Most of the worlds we have only scattershot information, but they’re listed here anyway alongside those we know a substantial amount about. I’ve kept spoilers out as much as possible.

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The Witch and the Winter King: Katherine Arden’s The Winter of the Witch

After having accidentally burned down part of Moscow, Vasya now finds herself at the center of a literal witch trial. The people blame her for the destruction and death, but their hatred is fanned by the sadistic Father Konstantine and his snake-in-the-Garden-of-Eden tongue. If he can’t have her, no one will. She escapes by the skin of her teeth into the realm of Midnight, a magical patchwork land made of every midnight past, present, and future. There she could stay and hide away from the violence of the real world, but doing so would surely be a death sentence for her family. Medved, Morozko’s twin brother, is loose in Moscow and wreaking havoc on the weary city and an army of Tartars threatening Rus’ borders grows bigger by the day.

[To save her family Vasya must save Moscow.]

Best Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2018

2018 was a pretty remarkable year for diverse young adult fiction, particularly for YA by authors of color. Now, that’s not to say the publishing industry has finally balanced out on race—far from it, in fact—but what did manage to squeak through was by and large fan-frakking-tastic. This was such a quality year that it deciding on “best” was way more difficult than usual. But here it is, the full list of the best and brightest YA SFF of 2018.

What books made your list?

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Pull List: Best Comics of 2018

This was a pretty decent year new comics, especially for indies and miniseries. Marvel’s constant behind-the-scenes chaos isn’t making it any easier to keep its readers in the face of DC’s post-Rebirth creative revitalization. Image is as good as always, but is facing stiff competition from smaller publishers.

After pillaging my local comic shop and scouring the interwebs, I’ve pulled together the official Pull List Best of 2018. There’s some popular comics and some deep cuts, but all are doing something unique and powerful with the medium. The only eligibility requirement was that it had to be released for the first time in 2018, including the release of the first issue, first time being published in print, or first time being published in English.

What would you put in your top comics of 2018?

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10 Great Parents from Young Adult SFF

Every so often someone laments the lack of good parents in young adult fantasy and science fiction. This is usually followed up with the claim that good parents make for poor YA fiction because good parents don’t let their kids go off on dangerous adventures to save the world. To which I usually reply that they clearly don’t read enough YA SFF. Parents—yes, even the good ones—have a long history of involvement in young adult science fiction and fantasy, a trend that has actually been increasing in recent years.

In that vein, here are ten YA SFF novels where the parents are very much alive, are good people, and in some cases who even join the teen protagonist on their quest. There are, of course, a zillion more, so please add your recs in the comments!

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Mapping All the Known Portal Worlds in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series

In Every Heart a Doorway, the first novella in the stellar Wayward Children series, author Seanan McGuire explores what happens when children who disappeared into magical worlds returned to the real world. Her portal worlds are connected to our own through magic doors. Not just any child can cross the threshold; something innate in their being or in the other world draws them in.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a prequel showing how Jacqueline and Jillian became Jack and Jill during their time in one of those other worlds. The consequences of leaving your home world for the real one come to roost in the forthcoming third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky. Although the Wayward Children series is only three novellas (so far—book four, In An Absent Dream, publishes January 8th), McGuire has built a vast multiverse, one I tried to organize here.

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Home for the Holidays: The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman

The occult adventures of Lady Helen Wrexhall come to a thrilling conclusion in The Dark Days Deceit, the third and final book in Alison Goodman’s delightful Lady Helen series. It’s been an intense year. In the spring Helen learned she was a Reclaimer like her late mother, a being with the power to kill Deceivers, basically otherworldly demons. That summer she and Lord Carlston learned of a plot to destroy the world and were united as the Grand Reclaimer. Now it’s nearly Christmas and the end is nigh. By day Helen practices controlling her strange powers, and by night the Dark Days Club trolls the streets looking for the enemy.

All Helen and Carlston have to do is stop the Grand Deceiver. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. The only problem is her increasingly uncontrollable and destructive powers. And her upcoming marriage to the Duke of Selburn. And learning how to run a massive estate. And keeping her nosy relatives out of her Reclaiming business. Oh, and protecting the entire city of Bath from a pair of bloodthirsty Deceivers. Not to mention her simmering attraction to Lord Carlston. But other than that…

[“Amore mio.”]

Pull List: Blackbird and Jook Joint Remind You To Never Underestimate Women

October may be done and dusted, but horror comics are a year round affair as far as I’m concerned. Alright, so technically Blackbird isn’t a horror comic—it has a similar feel as Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—but Jook Joint most definitely is. Either way, if these two creeptastic Image series aren’t already in your subscription box, you need to rectify that, like, right now.

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Rebellion or Revenge? Destiny Soria’s Beneath the Citadel

Cassa, Alys, Newt, and Evander had a plan. It wasn’t a great one, but it would do. And then Vesper, the fifth member of their rebellious little group, betrayed them all. After a daring escape from the dungeons and death sentences, the quartet descend into the bowels of the Citadel. There in the darkest, deepest pit, they meet a man with a story that’s too good to be true. The kids have a choice to make: free the angry prisoner and he’ll destroy the Citadel or save the city by keeping the man locked up and the Council in power. But do they even have a choice at all?

The city of Eldra was once led by seers and their infallible prophecies. Without a new prophecy, the Council has no claim to power, and there hasn’t been one in ages. A century-old revolution was recently quashed and what little hope there was for change was snuffed out with the deaths of Cassa’s rebel leader parents. Each teen wants revenge on the Council for their own personal reasons, but soon they find themselves pawns in a much larger game. Every choice they make pulls them further into prophecies with ominous endings. No matter how much they try to forge their own paths, destiny—or something masquerading as destiny—keeps yanking them back. The only way to save the future is to defy their fates.

[“If they own your future, then they own you.”]

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