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.

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

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

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 follows. First, he won’t... Read More

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

Criminal (Vol. 4): Bad Night by Ed Brubaker

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 immediately, as Jacob’s... Read More

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

Criminal (Vol. 3): The Dead and The Dying by Ed Brubaker


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 debt to dangerous ... Read More

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

Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless by Ed Brubaker

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 but the “n” burned out back in t... Read More

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

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 has tried to stop being a part armed robberies because the last one he was in on ended with d... 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

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories: Shows off Tezuka’s mature work

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka is one of the best collections of his short stories and shows off his mature work. Chloe Metcalf has done an excellent job in the translations, and we have Digital Manga, Inc. to thank for this volume’s availability in the United States. The stories were written from 1972 to 1979, and the collection was released in Japan in 1979. Digital Manga, Inc. released this translation in 2017. I hope there is much more to come from this company.

The five stories in this volume are not for kids. If anybody has been exposed only to Tezuka’s Astro Boy and other works for children, they will be shocked to read these tales. The first story, “The Record of Peter Kurten,” is based on a true story, and Tezuka’s source material is from Shunsu... Read More

Dust 8: Examines the wide varieties of human experience

Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka

In Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka, a plane wrecks on a strange island inhabited by peculiar beings. As the plane wrecks, it runs into part of a magical mountain, and bits of rock, or “dust,” land on ten people, bringing them back to life. Eight of these ten people leave the island and are rescued when they are found at sea. The other two stay on the island, and like the other eight, are alive only because they each have one piece of rock on them, as the mysterious creatures on the island explain. The creatures believe that the humans were fated to die, so they take back the rocks from the two survivors, who immediately collapse in death. The leader of the creatures sends off two others mysterious beings, who inhabit the two bodies of the recently perished humans, to retrieve the rocks, the eight pieces of “dust” from the eight survivors who have returned back to their everyday lives.

... Read More

Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories: A wonderful work by the “God of Manga”

Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka’s Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories is a wonderful work by the “God of Manga.” It is has been translated beautifully by Adam Seacord and is published by Digital Manga, Inc., a publisher that is doing an excellent job of putting out in translation many of Tezuka’s works that are completely unknown in the United States. This work is one of Tezuka’s mature collections from late in his career. The original collection is from 1974 (Tezuka died in 1989), and this first edition in English came out recently in 2017.

“Melody of Iron,” the first of three stories in the volume, is the main one in terms of length and weighty subject matter. In it, a young man from the U.S. whose family is a part of the mafia in New York, marries a young Japanese woman. The Albini family, at first resistant to havin... Read More

SAGA Volume 1: A brilliant series

SAGA Volume One, Issues 1-6 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

Brian K. Vaughan's brilliant new series SAGA is a mixture of fantasy and science fiction, with wonderfully humorous and realistic dialogue between a newlywed couple. But the subject being addressed (and critiqued) is war. It's also incredibly sexually explicit, so I must give my warning to those who either prefer not to have in their heads images of people with television heads having sex or want to keep such images from their kids. (Personally, I find it funny to watch one of the television head characters, a powerful and vicious military official and member of the royalty, struggle with impotence when out of his official attire.)

The premise of the story is that a couple and their new-born child, Hazel, are on the run from just about everybody involved in the war. When issue one begins, the war has been going on for many ... Read More

The Woods (Volumes 1-9): A wonderfully bizarre tale

The Woods (Volumes 1-9) by James Tynion IV is a science fiction coming-of-age story that tells a wonderfully bizarre tale across thirty-six issues (four issues per volume). A school in our world gets transported to another planet or dimension, we’re not sure which. We also do not know who is behind this event or what their reasons are. This comic book series is as much an adventure story as it is coming-of-age, and even though adults — teachers and administration — get transported along with the kids, it is a group of high school students who take the lead, venturing away from the seeming safety of the school out into the unknown of The Woods.

At first, the adults try to take charge, and the initial conflict is between adults and students, but as our main group heads out into the woods, escaping from adult supervision, we get to watch over a period of a few years as these teenagers grow into young men and women, battling both real monsters... Read More

Heavy Liquid: These characters move through a world that leaves a mark

Heady Liquid by Paul Pope

Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope is a futuristic neo-noir comic book put out by DC’s Vertigo imprint. The story is a little disorienting and slow to start, but it builds into a very engaging tale about a mysterious substance called Heavy Liquid. Is it a special metal, a drug, or a weapon of mass destruction? Perhaps, possibly, this black liquid is even alive. All of these possibilities are considered in the course of the comic. Overall, the book is not for everyone, but if you like Paul Pope’s art, it is an essential read, perhaps his greatest single narrative other than Batman: Year 100.

The story is about “S,” a man whose job it is to find people. He’s been hired by a wealthy art collector who wants S to find Rodan, a famous artist who has become a recluse, lost in plain sight in the middle of a sprawling futuristic city. Rodan also happens to be S... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 5): Curse the Demon: A fitting close to the Fatale series

Fatale (Vol. 5): Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker

In the fifth and final book of Fatale Curse the Demon — Ed Brubaker returns us to Nicolas Lash’s story throughout most of the book. The year is 2014, and Jo, our femme fatale, has decided to fight back, and with Bishop, or Sommerset, on her trail, it doesn’t take much to lure him in. The question is who is luring whom, because from Sommerset’s perspective, he’s the one reeling Jo in so that they’ll meet in a grand finale. The question, of course, is whose plan will win out — Jo’s or Sommerset’s. In noir, there really is no way to predict an ending.

When we left Nicolas at the end of the last book, he was captive of a strange man we eventually discover is Lance from the band Amsterdam. Lance has plans of a supernatural kind, ones in which a sacrifice is required, and clearly that sacrifice is Nicolas. Jo shows u... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 4): Pray for Rain: You will want to pick up Book Five

Pray for Rain by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Pray for Rain is Book Four in the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. And the noir-Lovecraftian story continues in unexpected ways. First, we find out what’s going on with Nicolas. And then, we get the story of Jo and a grunge band in Seattle in the 1990s. But of course, there are other characters in play: A strange man named Wulf is seeking her out, and Bishop, the cult leader, is still tracing her scent.

When we last saw Nicolas Lash, he was in jail for the suspected murder of a woman with whom he had a one-night stand. He was on her trail because after sleeping with him, she ran off with his godfather’s manuscript of an unpublished first novel. He is now an innocent main imprisoned and confused about his inability to find this document. However, while he is in jail, the inmate librarian hands him a novel by Dom... Read More

West of Hell: You can’t look away

Fatale (Vol 3): West of Hell by Ed Brubaker

In West of Hell, Book Three of Fatale, Brubaker adds depth to the character of his femme fatale, Josephine. He also adds more mystery because we meet two women who look like Jo, but do not go by that name. These two women show up in the four interlinked stories that make up West of Hell. The first story is set in the Great Depression, and the second story takes us back to the Middle Ages. The third is set in the Old West, and the fourth during World War Two. Because of these jumps in time, Brubaker gets a chance to try his hand at two genres that are new to him — the Western and the war story (stories three and four, respectively). The first story, however, feels more noir-like in keeping with the rest of the series, but the second, set in the Middle Ages, has a feel all its own. It is unique out of all the issues that mak... Read More

The Devil’s Business: Another excellent Brubaker and Phillips collaboration

Fatale (Vol 2): The Devil’s Business by Ed Brubaker

 The Devil’s Business, Book Two of Fatale, continues Ed Brubaker’s noir thriller within a Lovecraftian universe. Josephine, our femme fatale, has been in hiding for about five years since she has gotten rid of Hank from Book One, Death Chases Me. The year is now 1978, and Miles, an out of work B-movie actor, is looking for his friend Suzy Scream. When he finds her in the basement of a party hosted by a religious cult, she is covered in blood and standing next to the dead body of Brother Stane from the Method Church, a popular cult. Playing in the background is a film of some ritualistic human sacrifice. They grab the film and go on the run before the other members of the Method Church find them. Running in the night in Los Angeles, they climb over a wall and find themselves in the backyard of Josephine’s home... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 1): Death Chases Me: A must-read for fans of noir or Lovecraft

Fatale (Vol. 1): Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker

Death Chases Me is the first of five volumes in the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker and his frequent collaborator Sean Phillips. In the prologue to this story, Nicolas Lash is attending the funeral of his Godfather, Dominic Raines. Dominic was known as a hack writer of detective novels, but still, when Nicolas, as executor of the Raines estate, returns to Dominic’s home and finds the manuscript of Dominic’s unpublished first novel, it’s quite a find and possibly one with monetary rewards. But at the funeral, Nicolas already has made a more important discovery, of which he is unaware: He has met the mysterious woman, the femme fatale of the story, who goes by the simple name of Jo. When she shows up at the estate that night as Nicolas discovers the manuscript, all hell breaks lose and Nicolas’s life will never be the same again.

... Read More

The Secret Service: Fun story, but glorifies violence

The Secret Service: Kingsman, by Mark Millar, is about a young man, Eggsy, being rescued from rough, poor neighborhoods by his uncle, who takes him under his wing and trains him in a new profession. The twist is that his uncle, Jack London, is not in computer work like Eggsy thinks; actually, his uncle’s job is as a spy for his country. Our young man is sent to a spy school and, given that the rest of the spies-in-training are from upper-class families, he sticks out in a number of ways, including not being able to act with a certain amount of class socially. This story is about his learning his trade and getting to put it to good use by the end of the book.

The Secret Service: Kingsman can be divided into three storylines: First, the book is about a man wanting to do well and come back to take care of his mother and get revenge on his mother’s abusive boyfriend. Eggsy’s mother lives a dismal life and is beaten re... Read More

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