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'Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow,' by Alex Segura: An Excerpt

Alex Segura •
Apr 28th, 2023

Fresh off a win last week at the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, where he snagged top prize in the Mystery/Thriller category for his retro-comics crime noir Secret Identity, author Alex Segura is back in his true happy place: the Spider-Verse. His new YA novel Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow, out May 2, centers around Brooklyn teen Anya Corazon as she comes into her spider powers while juggling average teenager demands (school, friends) and not-so-average ones (working out how to get home from the year 2099, where she finds herself stranded and confronting powerful enemies).

This excerpt of the book has been reprinted with permission of the publisher Marvel Press.

"Move along, freak!” The words jolted Anya Corazon from her daze. Her usual zombielike morning walk from her papi’s car to her locker at Milton Summer High School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, wasn’t the kind of thing she had to think about. She just did it, weaving through couples making out in the hallways, pepclub kids putting up signs for the big fill-in-the-blank game, and freshmen wandering around like lost children.

But today was different. Today was loud.

Someone was screaming at her.

She spun around, arms coiled, as if bracing for an epic battle only Anya herself knew was coming. She could feel her friend Lynn stiffen behind her, surprised by Anya’s defensive reaction.

“Anya, what the—”

Before Lynn could finish her question, Anya pinpointed just where the guttural scream had come from: Derek Lopez, Milton Summer’s own USDA-approved football-playing bruiser. As usual, he was trying to barrel through anything or anyone that stood between him and the exit. As the team’s star tight end, Lopez not only got to score points on the field; he could do whatever the hell he wanted off it. Right now, he wanted to get past Anya.

It was fitting for the less-than-stellar week Anya’d been having. She’d totally flubbed a gymnastics move at gym on Monday; she’d basically slept through a chem test on Wednesday, incurring the wrath of Mr. Rodriguez; and she’d stormed out of the house after another argument with Papi on Thursday. It’d been the usual stuff—Anya had been out late; he was worried. She understood where he was coming from, but she couldn’t explain anything more. She hated it, yet she had no choice. And now, this.

Lopez reached over Anya and grabbed Lynn’s arm, tugging her friend out of his path. Anya heard Lynn let out a pained yelp as she tried to yank herself free. But another sound accompanied it—a bass-like “Huh?!” bursting from Lopez as he felt himself being pulled back. He let Lynn go just as he was tossed into a nearby set of lockers. The soft krnnch of his stocky body slamming into the metal was kind of satisfying, Anya thought.

She didn’t want to do this, but she would if she had to. If there was one thing Anya couldn’t tolerate, it was a bully, and Lopez was the textbook definition of “bully.”

Anya watched as Lopez rubbed his eyes, unable to believe that anyone could toss him around like that—much less Anya.

Anya felt Lynn behind her.

“Uh, girl—how did you do that?”

Anya watched as Lopez slid down to the ground, moaning slightly, his thick, steak-like hand resting on his forehead. She didn’t want to feel good about this. She didn’t like hurting people. But sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.

Before Lynn could press further, Anya spun around and motioned for her friend to follow her down the hall. They were late, and a small crowd was starting to form around the downed doofus. It was time to move.

Once they were out of earshot, Lynn didn’t let up.

“Anya, seriously—you’re maybe five feet tall and a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet,” Lynn said, matching Anya’s pace. “You just tossed our prime-time football hero into a wall. Like, how is that even—”

Before she could finish, the second bell clanged. They were officially late. “Lynn, gotta run, okay?” Anya said. “We can talk more later.”

Without another word, Anya pivoted down the school’s C wing, leaving her friend to stare at her back.

Anya picked up as much speed as she could as she ran down the now-empty hallway. She didn’t want to break into a full sprint—not for fear of getting caught or breaking a sweat, but because she was still figuring out how she worked. And what she could do.

She wove into room C223 and managed to slide into her seat with only a dirty look from Mr. Rodriguez, their dapper chemistry teacher, who definitely gave off some Lestat vibes. As she placed her backpack on her chair, Anya glanced at her cell. There was a text from her papi, Gilberto.

You need to be home right after school, Arañita. Don’t forget.

Anya rolled her eyes.

Why did everything have to be so complicated? Things had been so much simpler ... before. Secrets made normal life so fraught. Still, the alternative was much worse. If Anya didn’t safeguard her secrets, people could get hurt. Badly.

She let her heart rate slow down as she settled into her seat. She could still feel herself vibrating slightly from the encounter in the hallway. She needed to be better about things like that, needed to exert more control. Her head had been elsewhere, though.

She’d woken up that morning with a jolt, realizing she’d slept through her alarm. Her papi was already well into his own routine, too. He’d made a habit of reminding her that he was not responsible for her getting out of bed. She was old enough to set her own alarm. He was right. Anya was in high school—she had responsibilities, not just at school, but to her friends.

Anya managed to toss on some clothes and eat a waffle on the way to the bus, but she still hadn’t felt like herself when she walked into the school lobby, and getting into a skirmish with a thickheaded jock definitely didn’t help in that department. She unspooled her mental to-do list and shuddered. She needed to write up her story on last night’s girls’ softball game for the school paper, the Lancer, and she had to finish a paper for Ms. Dymond on Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Not anymore. Not since ... it happened.

Her thoughts were derailed by sharp whispers behind her.

“Yo, bro—did you hear about this Spider-Woman?”

Anya felt her ears perk up at the exchange between the two boys seated behind her, Jesse and Dave. She leaned back a bit, watching Mr. Rodriguez scribble their assignment on the whiteboard, but tuning into the hushed conversation happening behind her, straining to hear over the sounds of the classroom.

“Naw, naw, dude—she’s a girl, a kid,” Dave said. Anya could visualize the bespectacled boy shaking his head incredulously. “Well, no, maybe like us? Like our age? But no way she’s an adult.”

He almost spat out the last word, as if it were a profanity.

“So, what, she’s, like, Spider-Girl?” Jesse said. “Spider-Teen?”

A pause. Anya caught Mr. Rodriguez glancing toward her and the boys before turning his attention to his work. She let out a brief sigh. A few seconds Later, Dave hissed back at his friend.

“I think her name is Araña?” he said. “Or something like that?”

“Araña?” Jesse asked, his voice rising above a whisper for a moment. “The hell does that mean?”

Anya spun around, a sharp smirk on her face. If they were going to talk about her, she was going to make sure they talked about her correctly.

“It means ‘spider,’ boys,” she said. “Try cracking a book open sometime, yeah?”

She saw them roll their eyes as she wheeled back around. She could make out bits and pieces of their continued gossiping as she pulled out her pencil and started jotting down notes. She had to focus on class.

She had to figure out a way to sneak away during her lunch break to finish that work. Anya Corazon had a lot to do. And yet, she couldn’t fight back the smile that lingered on her face.

Sure, life was complicated. But it was also ... kind of fun?

Want to keep reading? Check out Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow by Alex Segura from Marvel Press, part of the Disney Publishing Group, out May 2, 2023.

Tertulia also recommends: Secret Identity by Alex Segura, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner in the Mystery/Thriller category. A clever, fast-paced ride through the comics world and '70s NYC, Secret Identity follows Carmen Valdez, a take-no-shit secretary at a comics publishing house, who, hoping to gain a foothold in the industry as a writer, secretly helps pen a hit superhero series with one of her colleagues. Unfortunately that colleague, the only person who knows about her role as the series author, ends up dead. Will she be next?

Can't get enough Segura? Check out this piece where he ranks his favorite novels by suspense queen Patricia Highsmith.

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