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.

God Country: A sentient sword comes to Texas

God Country by Donny Cates (author) and Geoff Shaw (artist)

God Country is a graphic novel you have got to check out. It is one of the best works by my favorite new comic book author, Donny Cates, who has written other great comics like Redneck for Image and Thanos Wins for Marvel. In God Country, Cates tells the story of the Quinlan family and the arrival of a powerful sword that enters their lives and changes them radically.

The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him.

W... Read More

Buzzkill: A superhero joins AA

Buzzkill by Donny Cates (writer), Mark Reznicek (writer), and Geoff Shaw (artist)

Buzzkill, collecting all four issues of the mini-series, is a funny superhero parody by Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek, with art by Geoff Shaw. I sought it out because Donny Cates is one of my favorite new writers, with great titles like Redneck from Image and the insane Marvel title Thanos Wins, which features a cosmic Ghost Rider who is a resurrected Frank Castle, The Punisher. Buzzkill is about a superhero trying to get sober. He eventually ends up with a sponsor who is a Doctor Strange parody. Together, they get this retired superhero the help he needs.

Buzzkill opens with our hero, Ruben, in a self-help group trying to get assistance as he decides to quit all drinking and drugs. Unfortunately, we find out, that is whe... Read More

7 Against Chaos: Science Fiction art not to be missed

7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison

7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison tells the tale of the robed man who gathers six others to join him in his attempt to save the Earth. The robed man, Roark, has been guided by near-sentient computers created by other near-sentient computers: They tell him that in order to save the earth in the twenty-second century, he will need the complete team of seven gathered together. Once the team is complete, they go back in time in order to confront their nemesis, Erissa, a lizard-man who wants to change the earth so that it is dominated by reptiles rather than mammals.

The first half of the book is a series of last-minute life-saving maneuvers by Roark. Each character is saved from near doom, for a variety of reasons. For example, Tantalus, the insect-man, was about to be killed by an angry crowd upset that they lost money betting that Tantalus would lose his battle in a large a... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Free Comic Book Day 2019! (Giveaway!)

Free Comic Book Day — FCBD — is always the first Saturday of May. To get your free comics on May 4, 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

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town: Another Adventure Into the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson (writer), Vladmir Krstic (artist), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson is another adventure into the occult (though if you haven’t read volume 1, you should start there and first read my review of Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted House). It opens with the evil Markus showing up in Germany at a wedding that is just about to go bad — supernaturally bad. And he isn’t alone: He’s forced Rusnak, the psychic from the first story arc, to accompany him to witness the unholy union that’s about to take place unbeknownst to the two families gathered together to celebrate what should be a festive occasion. As they sit and wait for the wedding to start, Markus tells Rusnak about his past and about how he survived the “ghost bomb” that Jackson dropped on him at the end of Volume 1. Hi... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish: Another Great Tale of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Ghosted (vol. 3): Death Wish, Jackson Winters, our master thief, is in prison yet again (And if you haven’t read volume 1 yet, start there and read my review of Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted House). When we last saw Jackson, he had just escaped a haunted temple only to be greeted by his old friend King. King was a member of his gang of thieves who, in volume 1, tried to steal a ghost from a haunted mansion. But at the end of volume 2, it seemed that King had switched sides because he shows up with the Feds to arrest Jackson for escaping prison (back in the first issue of the series when Anderson broke him out to work for her boss). Anderson, who died the first story arc, is still haunting Jackson, our mastermind thief, but it seems as if he’s being haunted by something even worse... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead: Another Trip Into the Land of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Joshua Williamson’s Ghosted (vol. 2): Books of the Dead, Jackson T. Winters is given yet another offer he can’t refuse, and again it’s got him dealing in ghosts and the possessed (And if you haven’t read volume 1 yet, start there and read my review of Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted House). When we last saw Jackson, he was on his island in a little paradise all his own. But his paradise is next to a resort, and with people coming and going, it was only a matter of time before someone from his past life spotted him. This man sees Jackson, picks up his cell, and calls someone Jackson once wronged. Jackson shows up just as the phone call ends and kills the man; unfortunately, the call has been made, and he has only a short time to pack up and get out of there. As you might e... Read More

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A must-read for manga fans

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban & Tezuka Productions & translated into English by Frederik L. Schodt

“They say if you try making anime for 3 days, you’ll never be able to quit and that in 3 days you’ll also be broke. But even if I were to go broke, I still don’t think I’d be able to quit.” These words from Tezuka, upon receiving an award late in life, express his passion for his work in anime, but he had an equal passion for manga. But doing experimental anime proved so expensive, that he had to produce over three hundred volumes of manga in his lifetime to support his ongoing anime work. The more anime work he did, the more money he needed. The more money he needed, the more manga he produced. He was such a workaholic that he rarely left his office, where he often slept and usually ate his meals. Towards the end of his life, he even had multiple desks set up in his office with different ongoin... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist: Haunted houses, possession, and revenge

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, Miroslav Mrva, Goran Sudzuka

In Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, we meet Jackson T. Winters, currently in prison after an armed robbery gone wrong. It turns out that his death wish is not simply because he hates living inside a prison; rather, it’s because of a supernaturally disturbing vision he had the day of the robbery — it turns out the casino they were robbing was built on an ancient and sacred burial ground. Also, in the course of the robbery, every member of his team dies but him, and he is left alone to be caught by the police. The story takes off when he hears gunshots while sitting on his bunk in his cell. In minutes, a woman, Anderson Lake, opens his cell, kills his two cellmates, and knocks him out. When he wakes up again... Read More

Marvel 1985: A realistic superhero story

Marvel 1985 by Mark Millar

In Marvel 1985, Mark Millar tells us the story of comics coming to real life. Young Toby Goodman sees the Red Skull one day, and wonders if his eyes might be deceiving him, but after he sees a few more Marvel characters, he realizes that the super-villains from the Marvel Universe are invading our reality. He encounters the Hulk at one point, but mainly it’s the bad guys coming to his small town: Ultron, the Blob, Sandman, and many more villains appear and begin to kill indiscriminately. But things really seem bad when the planet-destroying Galactus shows up. We begin to wonder who the mastermind is behind this invasion.

Why is this story so good? Because it’s grounded in the reality of a young boy’s daily struggles: Toby’s parents are divorced, and he doesn’t like his stepdad. He seems to get enjoyment only by escaping through comics, going to the comics shop, and han... Read More

Empress: So much action!

Empress by Mark Millar

Empress is another one of Mark Millar’s big-action comics. It’s about Earth’s first rulers, long ago, when apparently they had technology beyond anything we could imagine. The Empress, Emporia, lives with a terrible husband, King Morax, who is all-powerful and likes to express that power by killing his people for the smallest possible infraction. This story is about her escape from the misery of his company as she goes on the run with her family across the galaxy.

The story is fairly simple and lacks the complexity of Millar’s best work. Emporia’s bodyguard has agreed to help her escape along with her three kids, one of whom is a small baby. The action often involves monsters and other dangers, and the baby, Puck, frequently is thrown from his mother’s, brother’s, or sister’s arms as we watch what we assume will be his immediate death. At one point, he is thrown towa... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent: Don’t miss this

Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

The Last of the Innocent is volume six in the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker, and it tells the sordid tale of Riley Richards, another perfect noir character from this series of comics. What makes this an unusual noir tale is that the story, which takes place in 1982, is blended with flashbacks from the late 1960s that are told as if the characters are from the Archie comics. Even the style of the art changes to an Archie-style imitation, but it’s odd because the innocent Archie comics are replaced with a group of teenagers doing what teenagers from the 1960s often did: Have sex, smoke pot, and generally get into trouble.

The Archie gang is all there. Riley is Archie, and his druggy friend Freakout, or Freak, is Jughead. Betty, literally the girl next door, is Lizzie Gordon, and Veronica is the rich brun... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners: Will have you feeling conflicted

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Tracy Lawless, whom we met in Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless, returns in The Sinners, volume five of Criminal. In this volume, he’s working for Sebastian Hyde, the man behind most of the organized crime in the city. He doesn’t want to work for Hyde, but he’s given his word (due to reasons explained in volume two), and Tracy always keeps his word — which keeps getting him into trouble. When other people involved in organized crime start getting killed for seemingly no reason, Hyde makes Tracy take on the role of detective: Find out who is doing the killings and dispose of them.

For the most part, Tracy is a hired killer. But what makes him an interesting character is his twisted sense of ethics: While he goes about killing many of those Hyde orders him to, he has certain rules he follo... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 4): Bad Night: The twists and turns in plot are some of Brubaker’s best

Criminal (Vol. 4): Bad Night Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Jacob Kurtz is the focus of Bad Night, the fourth volume of Ed Brubaker’s wonderfully disturbing noir series Criminal. His job is writing the newspaper comic strip that shows up in Criminal (vol. 1): Coward. The comic, based on Dick Tracy, is entitled Frank Kafka, Private Eye, and it’s as puzzling as the stories written by Franz Kafka, after whom he’s named. Frank is put on cases that go nowhere with leads that could never result in understandable clues. As the comic opens, our cartoonist goes wandering the streets at night, as is his custom because of his constant insomnia. He goes into a diner and has an uncomfortable verbal exchange, a near-violent one, with the boyfriend of a woman named Iris, a red-headed woman who is this comic’s femme fatale.

The story’s tension begins immediat... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 3): The Dead and The Dying: Does not disappoint

Criminal (Vol. 3): The Dead and The Dying Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips


The Dead and The Dying, the third volume in the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker, continues the noir tales that began in volume one. In this series, we get the background on a few characters we’ve already met in the previous two volumes, and we are reminded that in the world of noir, the meaner you are, the more likely you are to end up on top, at least in the criminal underworld. The Dead and The Dying gives us three stories: One about Gnarly Brown, a heavyweight turned bartender, and about Sebastian Hyde, Gnarly’s friend and heir to his father’s criminal empire; one about Teeg Lawless, a pretty criminal down-on-his luck and in d... Read More

Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless: Should not be missed

Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips



In Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless, Ed Brubaker tells a noir story of family loyalty. One brother — a criminal — dies and the other seeks justice, doing what he can to be an avenging angel on the wrong side of the law. When we meet Tracy Lawless, he’s been in the military, and for some unexplained reason, he’s been thrown in the hole for eighteen months (we do get the explanation later in the book). When he gets out, he is told that his brother, Ricky, died ten months earlier in February. Nobody bothered to tell him because when they put him in isolation, all communication between him and the outside world was cut off. But as soon as he finds out Ricky’s been murdered, he heads straight home seeking some kind of justice.

He is sucked into the Undertow, a bar where criminals hang out (it was originally called the Undertown... Read More

Criminal (Volume 1): Coward: Noir comics at their best

Criminal (Vol 1) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

In Ed Brubaker’s Criminal (vol 1): Coward, we get noir comics at their best. Until I first read the Criminal series about ten years ago now, I was still not persuaded that comics could be a great form of art. But once I read this series, I was convinced I should read more: I thought, if comics can be this good, then there must be many more out there like this one. And so my passion for comics began with the story of Leo, a thief who always has a meticulous plan of escape laid out before he will consider taking on a heist, and in the case of Coward, the heist will get his team five million dollars worth of diamonds from a police van carrying contraband. Leo, unfortunately, is known as a coward because of his escape plans. He is known as someone who runs away.

At the time we meet our cowardly lion, Leo ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Fourth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our fourth 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 f... Read More

Batman: Year One: Worth reading and rereading

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) completely reinvented Batman as an angry and bitter older man coming out of retirement to stem a rising tide of crime in Gotham City alongside Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. This was a dark vision of a complex and troubled soul driven to fight crime to avenge his parent’s senseless death, and it resonated with a new generation of readers and gained comics greater credibility among mainstream readers. Just one year later Miller produced a four-part story arc called Batman: Year On... Read More

Clockwork Apple: From Tezuka’s most mature period

Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka

Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka is a collection of short stories from Tezuka’s most mature period of writing. The stories were published with dates ranging from 1968 to 1973. The collection itself was translated by Steven LeCroy and published in English by Digital Manga, Inc., a company that is making it possible for fans to read in English the great works of the “God of Manga.” There are eight stories in this collection:

“The Execution Ended at Three O’Clock” is about a Nazi officer who tortured and killed many people, in particular a doctor who is the focus of the story. The doctor has invented a special drug that slows down time, and the Nazi officer wants the formula. He eventually gets it and uses it, but it turns out to b... Read More

Under the Air: This is the place to start if you have never read any Tezuka

Under the Air by Osamu Tezuka

Under the Air by Osamu Tezuka, a collection of fourteen manga stories, was published from 1968 to 1970 and translated in 2017 by Grady Martin and published by Digital Manga, Inc. This collection is the place to start if you have never read any Tezuka. That this is a five-star collection would not be debated by any who read it; even Tezuka thought highly of it, and he was very critical of his own work. The afterword to this collection is the first one I have read that did not include Tezuka’s humble apologies for a less-than-perfect work. The manga collection is fully mature in its themes, and for the new reader interested in Tezuka, it introduces most of the topics that preoccupied him throughout his long career.

“Joe’s Visitor” opens ... Read More

Yaketpachi’s Maria: How on earth do I evaluate this book?

Yaketpachi’s Maria by Osamu Tezuka

Yaketpachi’s Maria by Osamu Tezuka was written in 1970 and recently translated and published in 2017 by Digital Manga, Inc., a company that has been putting out editions recently of Tezuka’s later works. It is about a young tough boy in seventh grade (though he has been held back a year), who gives birth to a formless ectoplasm that requires a body to speak and move around. So, they provide this creature with the body of a toy doll — of the adult variety! If you think that is bizarre, even more so is that the book is aimed not towards adults, but towards adolescent boys.

Yaketpachi, it turns out, longs for a female figure in his life ever since his mother died, and so that is given as the reason for his “giving birth,” fo... Read More

Record of the Glass Castle: Tezuka explores the darker side of humanity

Record of the Glass Castle by Osamu Tezuka

Record of the Glass Castle by Osamu Tezuka is a manga that was originally serialized in 1970 and was recently translated by Marti McElreath and released by Digital Manga Inc. It has a great premise that allows Tezuka to once again explore the darker side of humanity, as he often did in his later work of the 1970s. The Glass Castle is a house in which a family has been in cryosleep for twenty years — from 1972 to 1992. And as this manga graphic novel opens in 1992, we are witness to the family waking up and turning on itself.

The father is known as a shameless and cruel man who forced his family into cryosleep in order to have his fortune increase over twenty years based on earning interest on a sum of money that is going unused by almost the entire family. Only one brother, Shirou, was allowed by the father to avoid cryosleep s... Read More

Alabaster (Volumes I and II): A dark but compelling story

Alabaster (Volumes I and II) by Osamu Tezuka



Alabaster (Volumes I and II), written by Osamu Tezuka in 1970 and published in 2015 by Digital Manga, Inc., is a dark but compelling story that touches on the evils of which humankind are capable and the resentment and desire for revenge that results in those who are mistreated. Alabaster’s story allows Tezuka to critique bigotry, specifically focusing on racism in the United States. James Block, a young African-American gold-medal winning Olympic athlete, turned into Alabaster because of his experience with the woman he loved as a young man. After a year of dating, James Block proposes to Susan Ross, only to be laughed at, mocked, and turned down by her because he was a black man. She displays shock that he would even imagine that she would stoop to marry ... Read More

The Euphrates Tree: Deals with serious topics of great importance

The Euphrates Tree by Osamu Tezuka

The Euphrates Tree is written and drawn by the great Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the “God of Comics.” Tezuka warns us in the postscript not to take this story too seriously; however, I am afraid I will have to go against his advice, because I believe this volume of manga deals with serious topics of great importance. It is about three high school students who visit Jova Island and discover the mysterious Euphrates tree. The tree bears fruit that, if eaten, will give the person or animal great powers and heightened intelligence, but the one aspect of a person that is not changed is their sense of morality.

The three children — Oya, Kama, and Shiko — go to the island for their biology class to study a primitive forest. Tezuka suggests that the island has religious associations for us since at times, he hints that it shares qualities in common with the Garden of E... Read More

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