Comic creator Mike Hawthorne presents his memoir about his and his mother’s relationship. Blanca was a Puerto Rican immigrant who moved to New York after what she said was an affair with a married man that produced Mike. Once when he was three, Mike pointed out a shoe in a door, which Blanca viewed as a curse. They moved around both in and out of the city, living in poverty. Blanca was forced at one point to sell drugs so they could survive. Mike recalls the abuse, both physical and emotional: the lies, manipulation, and withholding of information. Does that mean she was truly a bad person?

Above all, this graphic novel is about the power of suggestion. Mike spent a long time believing his life was cursed because of Blanca believing in one. At one point he even came to believe he himself was that curse. Because of all these lies and omissions, a lot of truths about Mike’s life, Blanca’s life, and his family’s life, did not come out until after her death. Through it all, however, Blanca was his mother. Mike examines how you can recognize and acknowledge your abuser, and the abuse you suffered at their hands – and still love them.

Echoing the harsh truths contained within this graphic novel, the art is harsh as well. Thick, sharp lines and hard shading paint a stark portrait of the characters and their environments. The colors are muted except for instances of high emotion. These art choices made Blanca at times look like the Joker. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not: if it was, great analogy, but if not, oops!

Mike Hawthorne offers a hard look at the power of suggestion and loving your abuser in spite of what they’ve done to you. I recommend it for teens and up.

– Kathleen

Hawthorne, Mike. Happiness Will Follow. 2020.