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.

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

Eden: The mundane slowly morphs into the horrific

Eden by Cullen Bunn (writer), Dalibor Talajic (artist), Valentina Briski (colorist), & Marshall Dillon (letter)

Eden by Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic is a fun, suspenseful comic book with a surprising, disturbing ending. Bunn quickly introduces the main characters and plot in the first four pages of this one-shot: Niles is a tattooist who has been mourning the loss of his wife and young child for a long time, we are led to believe, because when a beautiful and mysterious woman walks in, Niles’s friends and colleagues immediately start trying to set them up, showing that they believe Niles has been in mourning for too long of a time. The artist adds a serious touch to show Niles’s mourning: The names of Niles’s wife and child are tattooed across his arm.

The premise is that this mysterious woman comes in regularly without any tattoos, gets a new tattoo, and then comes back again without any tattoos. Niles is curious and... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 3): Russia: If there is horror to be found, the B.P.R.D. will find it!

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 3): Russia by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Tyler Crook (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer).

As in all my reviews of long series, I do give spoilers for previous books in the series, so I can now mention the major event of volume 2: Abe is shot by the runaway teenager Fenix, and at the close of the volume, Abe seems to be brain dead and barely alive physically. I can also mention what happened when he was shot: Devon observed the shooting, but he not only did not arrest the girl, he let her go. And he reported officially that he had no idea who shot Abe. We find out at the beginning of this book that Devon has been sent to find Fenix (and who shot Abe, if possible). Devon travels the railroads in boxcars, seeking for word of Fenix.

Meanwhile, Johann and Kate fly to Moscow to investigate a supernatural event. They meet with the director there, who seems more fort... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 2): Gods and Monsters: Abe confronts a teenager with second sight

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 2): Gods and Monsters by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Tyler Crook (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer).

This volume consists of two stories: “Gods” and “Monsters”. “Gods,” the primary story in this volume, introduces us to a great new character: Fenix, a sixteen-year-old girl who seems to be able to sense things before they happen. She is on the road as a runaway, but she befriends other teenagers on their own for various reasons. Given that she got them out of town before the last catastrophe hit, they trust her for her intuition to keep them ahead of impending doom, particularly in Houston, which was destroyed by a volcano. Fenix got her friends out of town at the last possible second.

Back at the base of operations for the B.P.R.D., Kate forces a sit-down conversation between Devon and Abe. Abe wants Devon fired because Devon has a... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 1): New World: Abe Sapien Tackles Monsters with an Old Friend from the B.P.R.D.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Vol. 1): New World by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer).

This volume jumps back and forth between Abe out in the field and what is going on at the B.P.R.D. base back in Colorado. At the base, Kate is trying to manage all the teams in the field, Johann is still obsessed with the possibility of getting another body so he can feel physical sensations again, and Devon is assigned his own mission in France. Meanwhile, come-to-life mummy Panya seems to be manipulating creatures on the base for her own secret purposes.

Out in the field, Abe tracks down an old friend and fellow-agent who went missing in previous B.P.R.D. volumes. The two of them work together to figure out what mysterious creature is haunting the woods and what connection it might have to the large number of disappearances in a nearby small town. At the center of the... Read More

B.P.R.D.: Vampire: The story from B.P.R.D.: 1947 and 1948 is continued

B.P.R.D.: Vampire by Mike Mignola (writer), Joshua Dysart (writer), Gabriel Ba (artist), Fabio Moon (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer)

It’s essential to read B.P.R.D: 1947 and 1948 before reading Vampire, which continues the story of Anders, an early B.P.R.D. agent who, after being taken hostage by two vampire sisters, has had a supernatural cure: The spirits of the two vampires have been locked away inside him, and they are trying to get out. Anders asks the professor for the opportunity to leave the B.P.R.D. before he gets even worse. And, primarily, Anders wants to seek out and destroy vampires as his way to seek revenge.

On his journey, Anders traces family bloodlines and history and rumors that will lead him to the gathering of witches and vampires to worship Hecate. When he is assisted by a local young woman who is seem... Read More

The Crossroads at Midnight: An excellent collection of five horror stories

The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard (words & art)

In this wonderfully disturbing collection of five short horror stories in a 340-page book, Abby Howard takes us on five very different journeys. The Crossroads at Midnight is a near-perfect collection of tales, with flowing artwork that makes the horrific quite surprising when it makes its appearance. In the first story, “The Girl In the Fields,” we meet a teenager — about fifteen-years-old — who is misunderstood by their parents. They call their daughter by their given name — Francine. However, Francine insists on being called Frankie. Her less-than-progressive parents seem to be always ready to pick a fight with Frankie, and they are so intrusive as to read private information off of Frankie’s computer. Frankie does not back down from these fights, but does retreat to the backyard to lean against the fence crying. She is interrupted by a kind voic... Read More

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