cover image Happiness Will Follow

Happiness Will Follow

Mike Hawthorne. Archaia, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-68415-545-3

Hawthorne (the Deadpool series) chronicles his white-knuckle relationship with a rage-prone mother through potent graphic storytelling tightly braided with anger, love, and a longing to put sense to a childhood marked by trauma. He portrays his single mother as possessing superhero toughness (“Blanca the unflappable” saves strangers in peril—and went out looting in New York’s 1977 blackout) and as an unpredictable force of nature, equally suggestible to Santeria and Catholic superstitions from her native Puerto Rico. Convinced a curse has been put on the family, Blanca abruptly moves them to York, Pa., in the early 1980s. There, her carapace of immigrant self-sufficiency begins to crack in the face of racism. Suffering the indignities of the working poor (living on “government cheese,” as the package is literally labeled) and Blanca’s furious beatings, Hawthorne becomes an anger-cloaked delinquent. Drawn with sharply canted, horror-movie angles and muted, wintry colors that explode into fiery reds, Hawthorne’s memoir is unrelenting in depicting how poverty and familial dysfunction turned Blanca monstrous and then left her an “island” filled with a “cancerous loneliness.” Despite his drifting away, feeling cursed, and becoming a “ghost relative,” Hawthorne finds surprising room for graceful consideration of Blanca’s own pain amid this harrowing rendition of his own. Hawthorne doesn’t hold anything back in this gut punch of a graphic memoir. ([em]July) [/em]