Brad Hawley

BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies: A noir coming-of-age story

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies: A Criminal Novella by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Jacob Phillips (colorist).

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies: A Criminal Novella is another Ed Brubaker-Sean Phillips work of perfection. It’s another tale of danger and the criminal world.  The story and the art are each five-star outings, the storytelling melding well with the visuals. Simply put, this noir story has matching noir-ish artwork, but if you’re familiar with Phillips’s work in previous Criminal titles, you’ll be surprised by the light pinks and purples and light blues used this time, creating a different tint than the usual (colors are by Jacob Phillips, Sean Phillips’s son). Any noir novel fans, including fans of the covers, will appreciate both aspects of the book — content and look. The father and son artists give a sense of some of these covers with a contemporary, more r... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 13): End of Days: The ultimate battle with the Black Flame

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 13): End of Days by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters).

With Johann in the vril-powered suit of armor, the B.P.R.D. now has on hand a great resource for taking on monsters. Johann commands almost as much power as Liz. Liz has taken the time to get back to gardening back at the B.P.R.D. headquarters now that Johann used the armor to stop the monsters that were getting close in Colorado. But events are escalating around the world. Fenix, who goes into a trance with Panya as her guide, has an epileptic fit witnessing even more tragedy to come, and she slips into a coma. Also at headquarters, the mad professor starts babbling about the seven that are one, the ogdru jahad on earth, and other prophetic concerns. There’s a lot going on in this volume, and the art is fantastic, particularly the scenes with the large monsters and the scenes in w... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 12): Metamorphosis: Two stories featuring B.P.R.D. member Johann Krauss

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 12): Metamorphosis by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Peter Snejbjerg (art), Julian Totino Tedesco (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters). 

This volume consists of two stories. In the first, “Nowhere, Nothing, Never,” Johann has a crisis of sorts, and his team at the B.P.R.D. is turning on him, finding him responsible for mistakes that they feel should not have been made. He talks with Liz to figure out how she lives with the fact that she has killed a lot of people, but the conversation doesn’t go as well as it could. Thus, Johann makes an important decision and acts alone, releasing himself into the night air, giving himself a chance for death as far as we know at the end of issue number one in this story arc. But there’s more to the story than we first get. Kate forces a member of Johann’s team to give a report on what happened on the mission, and Joha... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 11): Flesh and Stone: Monsters and a magic sword

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 11): Flesh and Stone by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

There are multiple stories going on in this volume: Johann and Howards are on a clean-up mission for the air force, Iosif has a new suit made for him as his health is stabilized, and we get some background on Howards’s sword in the distant past, including one hunting scene with the ancient warrior who once had the sword. Back at headquarters, Liz is starting a garden with a little advice from Fenix. Zinco continues with its inhumane testing back in New York with the new Black Flame as ruler.

With Winter comes harsher conditions, and the battles against the monsters continue. Iosif and his associates work together to take down large monsters with massive explosives. Meanwhile, Enos, Howards, and his team go deep in the snow to seek out one particular monster that proves... Read More

Shelterbelts: An in-depth look into a Mennonite community

Shelterbelts by Jonathan Dyck

With Shelterbelts, Jonathan Dyck joins the ranks of other great Canadian comic book creators such as Seth and Jeff Lemire, who both write and draw their own works. Shelterbelts is a sensitive book about a Mennonite town undergoing changes. We get glimpses of different parts of the community through a series of interrelated stories in which the same people show up in different contexts. For example, we meet the queer daughter of a Mennonite preacher in several stories, and we get to know the father who is wrestling with his church members over being more inclusive. Several of the members of the congregation leave to go to other churches.

One of the best stories is about a forty-year-old man who is a faithful Mennonite, yet he wrestles with his sexuality and attraction to men. We see him with his aging parents as they encourage him to find a woman. We ... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 10): The Devil’s Wings: Three apocalyptic stories

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 10): The Devil’s Wings by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Joe Querio (art), Tyler Crook (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters).

This volume includes several stories, the first of which is “The Devil’s Wings.” In this story, taking place at the B.P.R.D. Headquarters, the power goes out, and in the darkness, the mad professor in the compound studies by candlelight the report on Captain Breccan, a man around whom strange occurrences took place, with the death and madness of two men associated with him and his disappearance from a military jail. While the professor studies, Kate runs into her own problems in the main control room as contact with Johann in Japan is cut off and Panya, right next to her, seemingly vanishes.

In this story, we get a few flashbacks with Hellboy as a young child and Bruttenholm, and any B.P.R.D. featuring Hellboy is a wel... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 9): The Reign of the Black Flame: The return of the Fire Starter

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 9): The Reign of the Black Flame by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters). 

At the end of last issue, Liz regains her powers and returns to the B.P.R.D., and Fenix, too, returns to the base. Both of them are in time to join the teams going into New York, so this issue starts with them on the ground, on a fact-finding mission. Kate Corrigan gave them orders to assess the threats in New York and, if possible, reduce those threats. Theirs is not a rescue mission, though that doesn’t seem a possibility anyway, since they don’t seem to be able to find anybody left in New York as they make their way in on foot.

There’s a secondary team coming in through New Jersey, and they are working with the Russians, so Iosif is leading that mission. Without Fenix, they are unable to avoid dangerous situations, and th... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Free Comic Book Day 2022 (Giveaway!)

Free Comic Book Day — FCBD — is always the first Saturday of May. To get your free comics on May 7, you’ll need to locate a local comic bookstore and, if in doubt, give them a call to see if they are participating. Chances are, if it’s an independent comic book store, they are offering free comics, because FCBD is designed to celebrate comics, to introduce comic books to new readers, to celebrate the unique independent comic book stores that sell them, and to support comic book stores by bringing in new customers in addition to the regular patrons.



If you are new to comics, FCBD is for you just as much as it is for those of us who can’t make it through a single day without reading comics. For me and others like me, it’s a day of celebration. But we also want to reach out to new readers.

So, if you have never been into a comic book store before, please ... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 8): Lake of Fire: The humans fight back against the monsters

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 8): Lake of Fire by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Tyler Crook (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

The B.P.R.D. is running missions to try to save people from the apocalyptic events happening around the world. They’ve lost to the monsters in England and in multiple large cities in the U.S., so at the moment they are focusing on trying to get into New York and launch some rescue missions. We follow some of the B.P.R.D. agents who are going into New York, including Howards with his mystical, mythical sword with which he is deadly. But in this volume, we don’t yet get to see this mission launched. We see only the preparations. We also see that the B.P.R.D., with the help of the Russians, is starting to investigate Zinco, which is based in New York.

Liz is in a hospital and trying to recover from injury from a collapsed building. She’s been bedridden for two months. She... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 7): A Cold Day In Hell: The apocalypse is here

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (volume 7): A Cold Day in Hell by by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Peter Snejbjerg (art), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

In this seventh volume, Kraus leads a B.P.R.D. crew to Chicago. Unfortunately, on the way there, their air transport is taken down when they are attacked by a giant monster. Once they are grounded, they are attacked by smaller monsters that we’ve seen in previous volumes. These monsters are smaller than the giant monster that attacked them in the helicopter, but these are still large, several sizes larger than an elephant even. They defend themselves, killing a few creatures, but then they have to head out on foot the rest of the way to Chicago. Not far into their journey, they find horses and continue on horseback. Kraus narrates the journey for us, but they don’t reach their destination until the third issue in the collection.
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B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 6): The Return of the Master: Apocalypse now

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 6): The Return of the Master by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Tyler Crook (art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

In Colorado, Fenix, the young girl who shot Abe Sapien, confesses to Kate at the B.P.R.D., and she also offers her services since she can tell when certain events are going to happen, though she doesn’t have a lot of control over her power. So far, she’s been able to lead a group of young people safely during the apocalyptic evens of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth. But now she has made her way to the B.P.R.D. and will join forces with them. Devon takes Fenix to Panya, who will help her hone her mystical skills. But that training is hard on Fenix, and she’s not sure she wants to continue with it. Fenix’s journey in this book will take her beyond the B.P.R.D.

Kate sends an agent to Scotland to investigate new supernatural threats, and w... Read More

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites: Animal horror adventure stories

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin (writer) and Jill Thompson (artist)

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites is about a group of dogs that seek out the supernatural. In the first story, they call on a wise dog who helps them free the spirit of a dog haunting a doghouse. In the second story, they deal with a black cat who is acting as a familiar for humans about to enact a sacred ritual of black magic. First they capture the black cat, and then they go to see and disrupt the ritual (with dire consequences for the humans). On each adventure, they drag one of the neighborhood cats, “Orphan,” into their plans.

In the third story, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” is about the return of the black cat who raises dead dogs from the grave using a spell from her previous masters. The cat wants to command the zombie dogs to attack the dogs that captured her, but it turns out zombie dogs don’t like cats any mo... Read More

Resident Alien (Vol. 3): The Sam Hain Mystery: The mystery of an old pulp fiction novelist

Resident Alien (Vol. 3): The Sam Hain Mystery By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery, Harry’s arrival in the town of Patience a few years ago is revealed as well as how he acquired the money needed to live for years without an income. We also find out why he came to earth in the first place. These flashbacks are accompanied with what the secret government agency is doing to track down Harry (code name Icarus). Given the mistake he made in the last volume, the agency has picked up his trail again: A random photographer accidentally got pictures of Harry and Asta in the background of a picture he was taking and has published pictures of Harry on the web. The link goes viral, and the government intensifies their search for Icarus.

In Patience, Harry is moving from the cabin outside of town that he’s lived in for the past two-and-a-half years. With the... Read More

Resident Alien (Vol. 2): The Suicide Blonde: Another murder mystery for an alien detective

Resident Alien (Vol. 2): The Suicide Blonde By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde, the story opens with Asta (the nurse) and her father spirit walking in a dream-state, looking in on our resident alien, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle. Asta’s father warns her not to let Harry know that she knows he is an alien. They do not want to alarm Harry and cause him to run. Asta’s father says that there are people looking for him, and that if he runs, it will call unnecessary attention to Harry.

We also get flashbacks to three years ago when Harry first landed, and we see the government agency go into action trying to track him down after finding his spaceship. They have one image of Harry looking like an alien, an image taken from an ATM at a local mall not far from where Harry crashed. We also get scenes of Harry trying to escape the area three years ago. We follow... Read More

Resident Alien (Vol. 1): Welcome to Earth!: A murder mystery with an alien investigator

Resident Alien (Vol. 1): Welcome to Earth! By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle is a ship-wrecked alien in a small town, acting as a general practitioner. He appears as a human to adults — only small children can see his alien appearance. So, he goes undetected. He’s a matter-of-fact, down-to-earth kind of guy, and this first volume (of six volumes so far) by Peter Hogan tells us the story of how he came to be a doctor in the first place.

When our story opens, he’s been living for two years in isolation in a cabin on the outskirts of town. He’s out on the lake in front of the cabin fishing one day when the police come to request his help, since they’ve heard he’s a doctor. When we first see him, we, as readers, can see him as an alien, but the police see only a man in a boat. The police chief, Mike, calls to the alien. When he gets to ... Read More

Abbott: Elder gods and tough reporters in 1970s Detroit

Reposting to include Brad's new review.

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivela

BOOM! Studios has released the trade edition of the first series of the period dark fantasy Abbott (2018), words by Saladin Ahmed and art by Sami Kivela. Set in 1972, the story follows Elena Abbott, a reporter for the Detroit Daily. Abbott may not be the paper’s only woman reporter, but she is probably its only Black reporter and definitely the only Black woman reporter. Currently, she is in trouble with the paper’s owners for her accurate expose of the police murder of a Black teenager. She is sent to cover the mutilation of a police horse. To further punish her for her stand against police lawlessness, the paper has taken away her photographer and given Abbott a camera. This is a status hit that her whit... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others: Three stories of regular B.R.P.D. agents facing the supernatural

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Scott Allie (writer), Jason Latour (art), Max Fiumara (art), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

This volume collects three stories: “The Pickens County Horror,” “The Transformation of J. H. O’Donnell,” and “The Abyss of Time.” Liz is still missing and Abe Sapien is near death, so there are more regular B.P.R.D. recruits being sent out alone to deal with reports of the unnatural. That’s when two agents get called to Pickens County, a place that seems to be inhabited by vampires and perhaps other creatures. One of the agents, Vaughan, tells his partner about the time he went out on a mission with Hellboy and nothing happened. They are beginning to think this is another case with nothing to show. As they explore the countryside they discuss the tragedies occurring throughout the world as hell on earth seems... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 4): The Devil’s Engine and The Long Death: Two stories about confronting monsters

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 4): The Devil’s Engine and The Long Death by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Tyler Crook (artist), James Harren (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer).

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 4) gets off to a quick start. In The Devil’s Engine, we begin in New Mexico with Fenix the psychic boarding a train that, she says, makes her uncomfortable. This can be only a bad sign from a psychic. She’s accompanied by field agent Andrew Devon from the B.P.R.D. who is escorting Fenix back to the Colorado B.P.R.D. base. When Fenix’s predictions about the train start to come true at the start of the story, Devon’s and Fenix’s journey turns into a road trip from hell. They must face some of the monsters that are roaming the world and take them head-on. Also, Devon has a burning question that he’s been curious to ask Fenix about.
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A Gift for a Ghost: Four young women express themselves through art

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (writing and art)

A Gift for a Ghost is a comic book of two intertwined stories, one from 1856 and the other from 2016. In 1856, a young woman, Teresa, talks with a skeleton, asking him why he is crying. After a short conversation, they go look at the stars. This scene is typical of the visions that Teresa has throughout the book. In 2016, another young woman, Gloria, gets dressed in her room, which is covered in music posters. A butterfly connects the two stories, flying out of 1856 into 2016, landing in Gloria’s room on the lampshade.

Gloria meets up with her two friends, Cristina and Laura. The three of them want to start a high school punk band — The Black Holes. Only they have one problem: None of them can play any instruments, of which Cristina has plenty in her basement, which is set up as a rehearsal room (decorated with rock posters and littered with horro... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our eighth annual SPECULATIVE FICTION HAIKU CONTEST!  Anyone can do this!

As a reminder, here are the rules:

For haiku, the typical subject matter is nature, but if you decide to be traditional, you must give it a fantasy, science fiction, or horror twist. We expect to be told that the peaceful wind you describe is blowing across a landscape of an unfamiliar, distant planet. And if your poem is about a flower, we hope that elegant little touch of beauty is about to be trampled by an Orc. We welcome the sublime as well as the humorous, the pedestrian along with the momentous.

Though you may use the traditional three-line haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, feel free to break that pattern. Many poets who write English haiku adhere to other expectations:

Written in three lines, though sometimes in two or four... Read More

The Abaddon: Existential horror story

The Abaddon by Koren Shadmi (writing and art)

The Abaddon by Koren Shadmi is a horror story of existential dread: A man knocks on the door of an apartment, asking if this is the open house for a room to rent. He meets three out of the four housemates right away, as they are all relaxing in the living room. Unfortunately, when asked his name, he can’t quite remember it, and instead says to call him, “Ter.” Thus starts a surreal story in which questions without answers are the norm. Why are the windows covered up, for example? What happened to the guy who had the room before him? Why is the rent set at whatever he wants to pay? Why isn’t there a lease? And why does “Ter” have a bandage on his head?

Ter tries to sleep, but cannot turn out the light in his room, and he’s haunted by dreams of being on a military firing range. His sleep is soon disturbed by his peculiar roommates: a drunk Vic won... Read More

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr: Contemplative comic on death and memory

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V (writer) and Filipe Andrade (art)

I really like this comic book by Ram V and Filipe Andrade: It tells the story of a man who has to meet with the former Goddess of Death once every decade or so. When a baby, prophesized to one day create immortality, was born, Laila Starr lost her job as Goddess of Death. She is returned to earth in a mortal body of a woman who just died and seeks out the baby to kill it. But with the baby in her hands in the hospital nursery, she is unable to do the unspeakable. Pursued by police at the hospital, she makes her escape. At the end of issue one (of five), Laila dies for the first time.

The multiple lives of Laila and the baby—Darius—are intertwined in this story. We get the story of Darius as a twenty-year-old in issue three enjoying, first, being in love and then, suffering his first breakup. With issues four and five, we see him get older by many years, ... Read More

The Human Target: A thriller about a man with a thousand faces

The Human Target by Peter Milligan (writer), Edvin Biukovic (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Robert Solanovic (letterer)

Christopher Chance is the Human Target. He is able to impersonate anybody, and he takes the place of those whose lives are in danger, often when there is a hitman pursuing them. He digs deep in his method acting to really become the person he impersonates. He is a master of disguise, but sometimes a human target can be too good at imitation, perhaps even forgetting at times that he is not the person imitated. For example, in this story, the Human Target, a white man, takes the place of a black minister who is trying to clean up his neighborhood, get drugs and drug lords out of the community. The minister has a wife and young child, and the impersonation lasts for over a month. After that long, the Human Target starts to believe he is really married to the wife and a father to the child. He wil... Read More

Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things: Don’t miss this!

Courtney Crumrin (Volume 1): The Night Things by Ted Naifeh (writer and artist) and Warren Wucinich (colorist)

Courtney Crumrin is an instant classic of a children’s tale. There is no doubt that this entire series, over seven volumes long now, is a five-star production, with fantastic art and dark, nightmarish storytelling. This is not a light-hearted fairy tale about a nice little girl. Courtney is decidedly not good-natured, and she’s always got plans that get others in trouble.

First, we meet Butterworm, a creature lurking in the backyard of Professor Crumrin’s house. He gives us an introduction to the professor and the rumors in the neighborhood that surround him. The professor is Courtney’s uncle, and when Courtney comes to stay with him, her adventures begin. She brings along with her a pair of vapid parents who care only about getting ahead and what the neighbors might think.

Courtney is apprehensive ... Read More

Dead Day: Transcends the Zombie Genre

Dead Day by Ryan Parrott (writer) and Evgeniy Bornyakov (artist)

“What would you do if the dead could come back for one day?” asks writer Ryan Parrott in describing in the introduction his motivations for writing Dead Day. Indeed, Parrott imagines a world in which the dead do, in fact, come back for one day, and we see that they all have different desires, ranging wildly from the mundane to the violent, as might be expected from a horror comic, but what really makes this story work is the way the living talk about their expectations from the dead when dead day rolls around, which is a sporadic event having to do with the alignment of the stars, or some such cosmic happening.

The story starts a few hours before sunset on the fifth ever dead day; a couple with children fight about what the wife, Mel, will do if someone close to her returns from the dead.  But not all the dead come back, and those who h... Read More

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