Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened once a month to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Happiness Will Follow’, available now from Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios.

Required Reading: 'Happiness Will Follow'
Cover to ‘Happiness Will Follow’. Art: Mike Hawthorne/Archaia/BOOM! Studios

by Arpad Okay. Mike Hawthorne has more to tell you than a memoir. Happiness Will Follow isn’t his story so much as a vision, a dream of youth. Hawthorne is a storyteller whose purpose comes from their craft. So brace yourself. A city street stands empty as a stage but for a son and his mother. They are the only ones there because they are the only ones who matter in this ornate and deliberate construction that Hawthorne tells his truth through. The times were hard, the people were harder, tradition and poverty come to blows, happiness and sorrow come to rest, a comic book.

More than a memoir, as the story is about Michael and the story is about Blanca, his mother. The story is Hawthorne wrestling with a demon, his curse, his mother, himself? The antagonist is power, the memoir is a cartography of poverty. Hawthorne has seen his family cut to pieces, his past forever obscured due to circumstances living under the heel of the ruling class.

And so the family story isn’t a memoir for the author but for the author’s childhood. Michael and Blanca and the world, the struggle the two of them are up against together. Neither of them is flawless. The highs and lows of life on government cheese are transcendentally beautiful and endlessly ugly. Hawthorne bears his soul, you can see it panel to panel. You can see it in his eyes.

If you know Hawthorne from Spider-Man or Queen & CountryHappiness Will Follow is a natural step towards comics’ deeper reaches. Hawthorne is reaching out to his peers who love comics too and saying, yes, we are all vulnerable. It’s a new wave kind of thing to pit one kid’s experience in the free market against the latest exploits of pan-galactic warriors with fantasy abilities and say both have equally valid claims to being the peak of spectacle. But Hawthorne does, and his style pushes it into a professional aesthetic where it looks like Batman could show up at any moment.

We know better though, don’t we?

Yet St. Michael still swings for the demon. If Happiness Will Follow seems larger than life, it may be because Hawthorne has had to get much of his family history second-hand. He shares the legends of people he has only met, not lived with. Ultimately the reader must decide what to make of the stories Hawthorne tells of others measured against the tales of his personal experience. His truth holds too many facets to be explained away, even by Hawthorne. The situation can’t be saved.

Hawthorne’s traditional skills as an artist really bring the Kurosawa. He builds his drawings up from gestures, figures where the focus framing and perspective grow out from (and point back towards). Reading this comic is experiencing the mind’s eye of a seasoned director; the shots Hawthorne constructs are the essence of a moment. The intersection of film and static art, of museum values and pulp traditions, makes for a surreal and yet noticeably intentional environment. By excluding all details that aren’t meaningful, the spotlight is kept secret and constant at the same time.

Mike is here for the medium. A love of art and strength of perseverance has made it is his career. Happiness Will Follow is in a way pulling back the curtain on the industry for the benefit of the community. These are the lives of the people who create comics—they aren’t rock stars. For many it’s just as rough (or worse) as the lives of their readers. By pushing the boundaries of memoir out from documenting Hawthorne’s own childhood to a collective experience that he and his mother had with poverty, he is opening the door for the reader to be a larger part of the book, too. For better or worse, we’re all getting through this together.

Archaia / BOOM! Entertainment / $24.99

Written and illustrated by Mike Hawthorne.

Colored by Saem Bowen and Ari Pluchinsky.

Lettered by Clem Robins.

‘Happiness Will Follow’ is available now. Contact your LCS to order a copy of your own.

Enjoy this 7-page preview of ‘Happiness Will Follow’, courtesy of Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios:

More Required Reading…

Read Tahir’s ‘A Thief Among the Trees’, now a delicately crafted graphic novel from Archaia

‘We Served the People’ a stirring account of perseverance, tragedy, liberation

Crime ain’t pretty and neither is ‘Bog Bodies’, an essential bit of comics from Image