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.

Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will

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Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will

Over the years, I’ve found that more and more I seek out unique black-and-white comics that, most often, are written and drawn by female creators. And I have a particular interest in any books dealing with mental illness. For example, one of my favorite graphic novels is Ellen Forney’s Marbles, a memoir focusing on her learning to live with bipolar. I was pleased to find recently another book that addresses the topic of bipolar — Elaine M. Will’s Look Straight Ahead Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Third Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our third 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, t... Read More

The House of Secrets by Steven T. Seagle and by Teddy Kristiansen

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The House of Secrets written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen

The House of Secrets is a twenty-five issue series that started in 1996 and is written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen. It features a lying, unreliable runaway named Rain Harper; a young girl she takes under her wing named Traci; and a group of musicians, one of whom, Ben Volk, becomes the third central character in the series. Right after Rain and Traci meet, Traci tells Rain a valuable secret: She knows a place to squat where they will be safe. Rain, therefore, joins Traci and moves into the House of Secrets. And then all the fun starts.

This series brings with it a long history: House of Secrets, an old horror series that started in 1956, was mainly a platform for one-off stories in the tradition of all the old classic horr... Read More

Scarlet (Volumes 1 & 2) by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

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Scarlet (Volumes 1 & 2) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Angry about innocent people being shot by police? Scarlet is the comic book series you will want to read, even if you think you don’t want to read a book on this subject because you are angry enough already (I know I am).

Before I continue with this review, let me be clear: This book is not a cop-hating book, even though there are cops depicted whom you will hate. The book does not suggest that all cops are this way; in fact, of the two main cops that initiate Scarlet’s story when she was younger, one is corrupt and the other is every way his opposite. I like that the author, Brian Michael Bendis, deals with these issues in a more complex way than you might think possible in twelve issues of a comic book series.

I’m very excited to be writing this review, because I’ve be... Read More

Shazam! by Geoff Johns

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Shazam! by Geoff Johns (writer) and Gary Frank (artist)

Shazam! was told in short installments in the back pages of The Justice League, in issues 7-11, 0, 14-16, and 18-21. As his story progressed, he was eventually added to the primary Justice League story. In other words, by issue #21, Billy Batson, as Shazam, was a member of the Justice League and the short installments were no longer needed. However, DC has collected all these installments into this single trade collection, a wonderful stand-alone volume. Shazam! by Geoff Johns is THE Shazam book I’ve always wanted to read: It gives a great introduction ... Read More

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

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Editor's note: Won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

Most monthly comics come out, well, monthly, but DC decided to drag out The Sandman: Overture and release it every other month, and that seemed reasonable given how long it takes for J. H. Williams III to create his exquisite artwork. However, the comic ended up taking a full year longer than announced — from October 2013 to October 2015. After the first three issues, I quit rea... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 10): The Wake by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 10): The Wake by Neil Gaiman

Spoilers are included from the previous nine volumes.

The Wake — the final volume collecting the last six issues of THE SANDMAN series — is a difficult book to review because it is both the perfect ending to the series and an anti-climatic closing narrative that I find disappointing. How are these both possible? The first three issues in this volume are a three-part ending to Dream’s story. At the end of that third issue, I am satisfied emotionally and intellectually. The problem for me is that Gaiman wrote three more issues, one of which is mediocre and one of which is disappointing. So, ... Read More

The Bull and the Spear: Begins a second, compelling CORUM trilogy

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The Bull and the Spear by Michael Moorcock

This review contains spoilers for the first three books in the Corum series.

Michael Moorcock’s CORUM series is comprised of two trilogies. In the first trilogy, Corum defeated the three Chaos rulers of the fifteen planes, giving Law back much of its lost power and thereby restoring the Balance. Starting eighty years later, the second trilogy starts with The Bull and the Spear (1973). As the book starts, we find that Corum has lived in peace with his great love, Rhalina; however, since he is one of the Vadhagh race, Corum lives much longer than humans do. As a result, he must watch Rhalina grow old and die along with all the people of her generation, all Corum’s friends and extended comm... Read More

Wayward (Volume 1): String Theory by Jim Zub

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Wayward (Volume 1): String Theory by Jim Zub (writer) and Steve Cummings (art)

Wayward: String Theory is the first collection of yet another great new Image title. Jim Zub tells the coming-of-age story of a teenaged girl, Rori Lane, travelling to Japan for the first time to stay with her Japanese mother, now divorced from Rori’s Irish father. The story behind the divorce is not explained in this volume, but evidently Rori’s had a rough time: Her psychological struggles manifest in physical self-harm; however, so far, this problem is touched on only lightly. In fact, other than a few brief encounters w... Read More

The King of the Swords: Corum learns the nature of revenge

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The King of the Swords by Michael Moorcock

This review includes spoilers for Books 1 and 2 in the CORUM series.

The King of the Swords (1971) wraps up the first of the two trilogies that make up the CORUM series. Between the end of this book and the start of the second trilogy in The Bull and the Spear, eighty years will pass. But The King of the Swords is a culmination of all the events set in motion in the first two books. The main event of The King of the Swords, of course, is Corum’s quest to defeat the King of the Swords, a Lord of Chaos who rules over the last five of the fifteen planes in this universe. Along the way, however, Corum must overcome other challenges, most of which seem more difficult than those he faced in his quests to... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 9): The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 9): The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman



The Kindly Ones, Volume 9 of The Sandman, is about revenge and repercussions, and at thirteen issues, it explores these topics in the longest story arc in the series. The Kindly Ones refer to the Three Furies, whom we’ve met in previous volumes. These three female entities help a wronged woman seek revenge, enlarging her fury and giving it power beyond all imagination. The object of their combined fury has much to fear, as we see by the close of the arc.

The major plot begins and ends with two people: the young child Daniel and his mother, Lyta Hall, the woman who... Read More

The Queen of the Swords: Delightful prose and a page-turning plot

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The Queen of the Swords by Michael Moorcock

This review contains spoilers for The Knight of the Swords, the first book in the CORUM series.

The Queen of the Swords, the second book in Moorcock's CORUM series, takes place after Corum, The Prince in the Scarlet Robe, has had a needed respite from defeating Arioch, The Knight of the Swords. Aricoch, along with the Queen and King of Swords, are the three Lords of Chaos responsible for upsetting the Balance in the fifteen planes of Corum’s universe. At the end of Book 1, with Arkyn of Law restored to power on Arioch’s plane, Corum is told that Chaos still has too much power within his universe, which encompasses these fifteen planes of existence. S... Read More

The Knight of the Swords: Begins as a tale of revenge, but becomes much more

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The Knight of the Swords by Michael Moorcock

I started reading Michael Moorcock only a few years ago, and already he is one of my favorite authors. And the six-book CORUM series, for me, is second only to the ELRIC saga. In some ways I like better that Corum’s story is complete within these six volumes, unlike Elric’s, which never ends as Moorcock continues to add new stories (though he has, at least, written the story that tells of Elric’s end as a character). The basic story is that Corum, a being of an older race in its decline, is confronted by the upstart creatures Man, who attack Corum’s people, systematically destroying them all, leaving Corum the last of his race. Corum’s story is, at first, his simply seeking revenge, but what makes the story great is th... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 8): Worlds’ End by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 8): Worlds' End by Neil Gaiman

Brief Lives, volume 7 of Sandman, told a single story, a road-trip, about Dream. It was preceded by Fables and Reflections, volume 6, in which nine separate tales were told of varying quality. Volume 8, Worlds’ End, blends the two approaches via Gaiman’s Chaucerian narrative: There are a series of separate stories told in Worlds’ End, but they are unified by a framing device. The framing device is that travellers from different worlds and r... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 7): Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 7): Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Volume 7, Brief Lives, offers a nice contrast to Volume 6, Fables and Reflections. Whereas Fables and Reflections offered nine unrelated tales in terms of plot and characters (there are thematic connections, of course), Brief Lives is a single story, an adventure tale, a road trip. Dream goes on a journey with his youngest sister, Delirium.

Their need to go on this journey is set up in previous books. Repeatedly, the family of the Endless mention their elder missing brother, and they do so rarely by name; however, in Read More

Sandman (Vol. 6): Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review

Sandman (Vol. 6): Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

Sandman: Fables and Reflections is a collection of nine separate stories that originally appeared in two separate groups plus an introductory short story and a lengthy Sandman Special about Orpheus and Eurydice. Basically, this collection is one of the most far-ranging and eclectic volumes available in the Sandman trade editions. The first grouping of stories about various emperors across time includes “Thermidor,” “August,” “Three Septembers and a January,” and “Ramadan” (Issu... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 5): A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Sandman (Vol. 5): A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

One of the key points of A Game of You is that nobody is a stereotype, and nobody is what he or she seems on the surface, once you get to know the person. Every single one of us has glorious, weird, majestic, stupid, magical worlds inside us.*   –Neil Gaiman

Sandman (Vol. 5): A Game of You collects issues 32 through 37, skipping issues 29-31, which are collected in volume six of The Sandman. A Gam... Read More

The Sandman (Vol. 4): Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

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The Sandman (Vol. 4): Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman (Vol. 4): Season of Mists collections issues 21 through 28 of Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, and since The Sandman, like most series, was a monthly, we should notice that by issue 21 Gaiman was wrapping up his second year on the title and well into his third year by issue 28. He had gained confidence in his writing, and he was getting comfortable working with different artists. He realized that The Sandman wasn’t going to be taken from him at a moment’s notice. The Sandman was just too successful to be cancelled. With that worry behind him, he could concentrate on making it the best series it could be over a period stretching out for as long as he wanted. The bigger problem would be arranging to have a successful comic stop where he wa... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 3): Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

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The Sandman (Vol. 3): Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's Dream Country, the third volume in his Sandman series, is a collection of four stand-alone stories. I think it makes for a great introduction to the world of Sandman because each story is incredibly different from the one that precedes it; therefore, this particular volume is more likely to include at least one story that appeals to new readers who may be put off by a volume collecting only a single storyline. In fact, I recommend that... Read More

Injustice: Gods Among Us (Year One, Volume One) by Tom Taylor

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Injustice: Gods Among Us (Year One, Volume One) by Tom Taylor

DC often puts out comic books that are connected to their video games, and I generally ignore them because 1. I don’t play video games because they give me migraines and 2. Most video game-related comics are just not that good. However, I started hearing a lot of good things about Tom Taylor’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, so I gave it a chance. It turns out, all that was said about Injustice is true, and apparently, it just keeps getting better after this first volume. So far, they’ve put out seven trade collections of Injustice: Year One (Volumes One and... Read More

The Sandman (Vol. 2): The Doll’s House

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The Sandman (Vol 2): The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman (author), Illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, & Steve Parkhouse, Todd Klein (letterer) 

"If you leaf through the series, you'll find either an image of a heart or the word HEART in virtually every issue. Hearts are a major part of what Sandman is about."     ~Neil Gaiman (interview with Hy Bender)

Gaiman's words should be kept in mind as one continues to read what is essentially a horror comic. As we peer into the abyss, Gaiman makes sure we know we are not alone. I think Gaiman always offers hope through the possibility of human connection, often established through the power of telling stories. Keep these words of hope in mind as I summarize some stories that sound solely horrific; my overview can be misleading since I'm trying not to give spoilers. Assume the missing spoilers are often the ... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 1): Preludes and Nocturnes

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Sandman (Vol. 1): Preludes and Nocturnes (Issues 1-8): Neil Gaiman (author), Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III (artists), Todd Klein (letterer), Karen Berger (editor)

[This essay is the second in an ongoing series on THE SANDMAN: This lengthy essay-review is for those who want a more thorough introduction than is offered in our shorter overview of the entire series. I recommend reading that one first, particularly since it contains no spoilers and it gives a good sense of what THE SANDMAN is for those who don't know what it's about. When I can, I avoid giving spoilers, but I can't avoid them altogether since I'm going over every story arc in the series. My main goal is to increase the enjoyment of those who want to tackle this masterpiece by calling attention to significant recurring themes, giving information about some of th... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Free Comic Book Day 2016! (15th anniversary!)

Free Comic Book Day — FCBD — is always the first Saturday of May and this year marks the celebration's 15th anniversary. 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... Read More

Roche Limit (Volume 1): Anomalous by Michael Mordeci and Vic Malhotra

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Roche Limit (Volume 1): Anomalous by Michael Mordeci and Vic Malhotra

Roche Limit (Volume 1): Anomalous is an excellent science fiction comic book and the first of a projected three volumes, though this first volume really does stand alone as a fully completed storyline: There is no cliffhanger, though future volumes will apparently take us back to the world of Roche Limit. The second volume is already available in trade, and the first issue of the third story arc has already been published. The story takes place in the future in a small colony on a small planet. The colony has been around for about twenty years, and there is already an extreme divide between the wealth... Read More

Can’t Get No by Rick Veitch

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Can’t Get No by Rick Veitch

Rick Veitch is one of the best comic book artists and writers most people have never heard of. I’ve already reviewed one of my favorite books of his, Shiny Beasts, a collection of short stories. He also worked with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and he’s sort of what Alan Moore would be if he were primarily an artist, I believe. Consider this little plug for Rick Veitch’s Can’t Get No: “. . . supremely, magnificently strange, and like nothing else I’ve read.” And that’s from Neil Gaiman, author... Read More

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