The Top Spec-Fic Comics of 2017

It’s that time of year when everyone writes up lists of the best of the best and the worst of the worst. And Pull List is no exception. We’ve had a pretty great year for new comics, especially in the indie realm. DC’s Rebirth is still chugging along while Marvel continues to shoot itself in the foot then blame everyone else but themselves. As always, there’s lots of meh stuff cluttering up the market, but finding good quality series is pretty easy as of late.

Don’t think of this roundup as a “best of” but rather a list of “really cool titles you should be reading.” The only eligibility requirement was that it had to be released for the first time in 2017, including the release of the first issue, first time being published in print, or first time being published in English. No trades of series that premiered ...

The Top Young Adult SFF of 2017

Another year, another huge pile of books stacked up around my bookcases (I ran out of shelving room years ago). This has been a pretty stellar year for young adult fiction, particularly in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. So great, in fact, that it took me three days to whittle this down to the ones you see here. My first pass had nearly three dozen entries! As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t get it down to my top ten, so instead here’s a list of fantastic YA SFF released this year broken down into various categories.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pillage my local library to make my To Read stack even taller.

 

Science Fiction

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, um, stars Noemi, a teenage soldier from the planet Genesis. She finds Abel, an AI mech, aboard an abandoned spaceship from ...

Once Upon a December: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, with Vasya Petrovna on the run with her magic stallion Solovey. Disguised as boy—respectable girls cannot travel safely alone in 14th century Russia—she is determined to see the sea and explore the world. Along the way she collides with a gang of well-equipped bandits burning villages to the ground and kidnapping young girls.

At the same time, Vasya’s brother Aleksander, now a highly respected monk in Moscow, and Grand Prince Dmitrii set off to investigate the raids at the behest of a strange new boyar calling himself Kasyan. The men’s path soon intertwines with Vasya’s, making her gender-bending ruse all the more risky.

Further complicating matters is her growing bond with Morozko the frost demon. Neither of them quite know where their relationship is headed, but whatever the destination, the journey there ...

Black Excellence: Honoring Kwanzaa through Science Fiction and Fantasy

It may be the holiday season, but for many people that goes beyond just Christmas or Hannukah. In my case, it means honoring my ancestors and culture through Kwanzaa. I’ve celebrated Kwanzaa alongside Christmas for nearly two decades now. While I no longer go through the whole ritual of lighting the mishumaa saba (seven candles) in the kinara (candleholder) or setting out the mazao (crops) and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) on the mkeka (mat), I still try to honor the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) on which Kwanzaa was founded. One of the ways I do that is by spending the week of Kwanzaa focusing on work created by African Americans, from television to movies to comics to books to businesses and beyond.

Traditionally, zawadi (Kwanzaa gifts) are given only to kids and always include a book and a heritage symbol. Now, most of you aren’t children, but this year ...

Pull List: The Witch Boy, M.F.K., and the Magic of Middle Grade Fantasy

It’s not often I dedicate an edition of Pull List to graphic novels or middle grade SFF, but lucky you I get to do both this month. Molly Ostertag’s The Witch Boy is a delightful, charming story of a kid accepting himself for who he really is, while Nilah Magruder’s M.F.K. is a quirky adventure tale of two kids exploring a dangerous world. While these graphic novels are perfect for tweens, there’s a lot for adults to love in them as well. And we all need a little joy in our lives, don’t you think?

 

The Witch Boy

Thirteen-year-old Aster grows up in a magical family where women are witches and men become animal shapeshifters. In his world, gender-based roles are clearly defined, and anyone who crosses the line is cast out. Unlucky for Aster, then, that he’s much more drawn to witchcraft than shifting. The women ...

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

Every Heart a Doorway

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), McGuire has built a vast multiverse, one I tried to organize here.

What follows is an account of every single portal world ...

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later: Lila Bowen’s Shadow Series

If ever there was a fictional character in need of a vacation getaway, it’s Rhett Walker from Lila Bowen’s Shadow series. The poor boy is knee deep in his destiny of killing what needs killing and saving what needs saving, but instead of circumstances improving they only just keep getting worse. The joys of pregnancy, blossoming romances, and honest heart-to-hearts are soured by heartbreak, loss, and terrible deaths. Good thing, then, that Bowen is so talented that she can turn tragedy and turmoil into a damn good tale.

As Wake of Vultures opens, Nettie Lonesome, a half-Black, half-Indigenous slave girl, escapes her abusive white foster parents and runs smack dab into her destiny. She joins up with the Rangers—a sort of wild west police force that kills monsters—and there Nettie sheds his old identity and becomes the man he always knew he was. As Rhett takes on the baby-eating Cannibal ...

Where to Start with the Haunting Work of Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the kind of author whose works burrow under your skin. Months after finishing one of his books, certain scenes will pop up in your memories at unexpected moments. Characters will haunt you, their travails or deaths stalking you during work meetings, Twitter scrolling, even through other books. Hill writes horror fiction with a style as eviscerating as it is visceral. His works critique and peel apart our sociocultural ideals by pushing his characters to the extreme, and he does it all with geeky Easter eggs and literary eloquence.

There was a time not long ago when I could bring up author Joe Hill and no one would have any idea who I was talking about. Nowadays nearly every reader I encounter has heard of him, but many haven’t yet read any of his works. The son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King, Hill has written numerous novels, ...

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Pull List: The Unholy Horror of Sabrina and Redlands

It’s almost Halloween which means right now my pop culture diet consists almost entirely of horror movies and spooky stories. And lucky you, that means we get to talk about two of the best horror comics out there: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Redlands. Witches and demons and corpses, oh my!

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Fresh off the success of Afterlife with Archie, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa strikes gold once more with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Like its predecessor, the story is wholly outside the standard Archie canon—it even references Afterlife as a vision or premonition—which gives Aguirre-Sacasa the freedom to run roughshod over everything Sabrina fans hold dear. I know what you’re thinking. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch? A horror comic? Really? Come on, Alex, be serious.” Well you can take your snooty sarcasm and stuff it because it’s not just good, it’s frakking great.

Sabrina is the result ...

The Best and Worst of the ’90s Teen Horror Movie Craze

Hot take: Final Destination is a better film than just about any 21st century horror movie to date. Argue all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that late-1990s and early-2000s era horror movies are awesome. I’ll take Disturbing Behavior over The Human Centipede any day.

The late-1990s and early-2000s were a transitional period in horror movies and for a brief, shining moment, B-horror movies reigned. During this period the villain shifts from a deranged outsider (the height of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s) to one of the cast on the poster secretly hellbent on revenge. Even thrillers got in on the action, with Dead Man’s Curve, Gossip, and The Skulls. Then as J-horror influenced ghost stories rose in popularity and with torture porn on the horizon, the teen slasher fell by the wayside. The post-9/11 horror movie world wasn’t interested in watching a bunch of ...

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Midnight, Texas Is Magical Trash

Midnight, Texas, is a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a safe haven for people (or “people”) who can’t live anywhere else or don’t want to. It also may be sitting on top of a hellmouth, if that ominous glowing red light coming up through Manfred Bernardo’s (François Arnaud) floorboards is any indication. Speaking of the possibly-fake-but-probably-real psychic, Manfred flees Dallas for Midnight at the behest of his dead grandmother Xylda (Joanne Camp) to escape her determined creditors. He couldn’t have come at a worse time. Within a few hours of Manfred’s arrival he encounters the corpse of Bobo Winthrop’s (Dylan Bruce) missing fiance, hits on Creek (Sarah Ramos) the daughter of a very overprotective father, has his life force sucked out by vampire Lemuel (Peter Mensah), steals holy water from a creepy reverend (Yul Vazquez), witnesses Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley) go all The Craft on a couple of ...

Pull List: The Body-Swapping, Fantasyland, Awesomeness of Crosswind and Moonstruck

Oh Image, how I’ve missed you! It’s been ages since the biggest name in indie publishing has released something new that really excited me. Sure, a lot of their ongoings are permanent staples on my shelves, but I was more ready for something brand spanking new than I realized. That drought is at long last over. This summer, Image Comics has delivered two fantastic new ongoing series, Crosswind and Moonstruck. Within moments of hearing about these two series, I had an order into my local independent comic book shop. Now that I have them in my grabby little hands, I can assure you my untameable eagerness was well worth it. Both take new tacks on old tropes, both are gorgeous to look at and wickedly fun to read, and both will leave you begging for the next issue.  

Crosswind

With just enough preamble to ground the plot, Crosswind takes ...

Five Murders: Adam Christopher’s Killing Is My Business

Ray Electromatic, the robot hitman, is back in the latest entry in Adam Christopher’s pulpy murder mystery series, Killing Is My Business. It’s been a while now since Ada, his former secretary now boss who also happens to be a room-sized super computer, reprogrammed Ray from a run-of-the-mill metallic detective to a murderer for hire. Business is booming and the cash is piling up. Ray is eerily good at what he does. Ada sends Ray on a cryptic stakeout, which leads to an even more cryptic hit and a series of increasingly convoluted and seemingly counterproductive cons, schemes, and shenanigans. The less Ada reveals, the more Ray suspects something’s up, and the deeper he’s pulled into the tangled web of the Italian mafia, Hollywood high rollers, and conspiracy coverups. Killing Is My Business is the second full-length novel, and fourth entry in the series (there’s a short story prequel—available ...

Destiny Schmestiny: Aditi Khorana’s The Library of Fates

Princess Amrita of Shalingar has it made. Her wealthy kingdom of Shalingar is ruled by her compassionate father, and she’s surrounded by kind people who love her more than anything. That is until Emperor Sikander from the distant empire of Macedon demands her hand in marriage in exchange for peacefully taking control of Shalingar. At first Amrita agrees to the scheme, but when all hell breaks loose she finds herself on the run from Sikander. But she’s not alone. Joining her is a teenage oracle, Thala, enslaved and drugged for most of her young life. Together, Thala and Amrita set off for the Library of All Things, a mythical place where they can both rewrite their destinies. The journey is long and arduous, but they must not fail. The fate of the world rests on their shoulders. The Library of Fates is epic in scope yet intimate in tone. It ...

Sin Versus Salvation: Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity

Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology is my new everything. The story hooks you from word one and never lets go, not that you’d want it to anyway. The characters are fire and ice; they bite and fight and delight all at once. The series is dark and tragic yet hopeful and honest. Schwab never pulls her punches, condescends, or sugarcoats. She knows what teenagers are capable of and what her teenage readers can handle, and she brings both right to the very edge of comfort. Not to mention the inclusive diversity. In the city of Verity, monsters lurk in the shadows. For years the metropolis has been severed in two: North City, a prosperous dictatorship whose denizens pay Callum Harker for the privilege of his protection, and South City, a struggling democracy overseen by Henry Flynn and his counsel of advisors. Tensions have always been high between the two ...

Practical Victorian Magic: Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York

Seventeen year old Beatrice Dunn has had it with her small town. She leaves her limited prospects in Stony Point for the wilds of New York City following a job notice in the newspaper for a “Respectable Lady” who is “well versed in sums, etiquette, tea making, and the language of flowers.” Beatrice is particularly keen on the last line of the advert: “Those averse to magic need not apply.” Tea and Sympathy is a magical tea shop catering to high society ladies run by a witch named Eleanor St. Clair and her fortune telling BFF Adelaide Thom. As Beatrice settles into her new digs, her magic flourishes beyond her wildest expectations and she learns to communicate with the dead. Each of the women encounter a man that will change their lives. When Eleanor’s secret relationship with an engaged woman ends upon her marriage, the new husband seeks ...

Practical Victorian Magic: Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York

Seventeen year old Beatrice Dunn has had it with her small town. She leaves her limited prospects in Stony Point for the wilds of New York City following a job notice in the newspaper for a “Respectable Lady” who is “well versed in sums, etiquette, tea making, and the language of flowers.” Beatrice is particularly keen on the last line of the advert: “Those averse to magic need not apply.” Tea and Sympathy is a magical tea shop catering to high society ladies run by a witch named Eleanor St. Clair and her fortune telling BFF Adelaide Thom. As Beatrice settles into her new digs, her magic flourishes beyond her wildest expectations and she learns to communicate with the dead. Each of the women encounter a man that will change their lives. When Eleanor’s secret relationship with an engaged woman ends upon her marriage, the new husband seeks ...

Pull List Goes Pride: 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 ...

The Odd Thomas Movie Is Better Than You Think (Because of Anton Yelchin)

I don’t usually cry at celebrity deaths, but I teared up when I learned of Anton Yelchin’s passing. He always seemed like a genuinely caring, decent person. And though he was only 27, he’d put out a remarkable amount of high-quality work. It breaks my heart to think of all the roles Anton Yelchin never got to play, all the lives he never got to touch, all the years he never got to live. On the night of his death last year, I went back and rewatched two of my favorite films of Yelchin’s, Fright Night and Odd Thomas. If this year is any indication, it’s going to be an annual tradition. Now, I’m not going to argue that these are his best films—that honor goes to Green Room and Only Lovers Left Alive—but they are the ones I keep going back to, like the cinematic equivalent of comfort ...

The End Is Only the Beginning: American Gods, “Come to Jesus”

First, let’s start off with the easy stuff. Shadow and Wednesday stop off at Anansi’s clothier—just as Vulcan showed his allegiance, false though it was, by crafting a sword, Anansi does it with bespoke suits. Anansi tells another story of Black pain in an unforgiving New World, but this one has a darker turn. Then, we’re off to Easter’s Easter party. Wednesday lays on the charm and smarm to hook in Easter; meanwhile, Shadow, a man who refuses to believe in what he sees, is confronted with a holy host of gods. The storm Wednesday seeded in the second episode with the dandelion fluff finally blows in and makes The Children a sacrifice to Easter. Shadow’s spiritual crisis comes to a head as Wednesday forces the belief right out of him. Mr. World and the new gods declare war. Wednesday set up Laura’s death as a sacrifice and to maneuver ...