- Posted by Johanna on August 14, 2011 at 10:58 am
- Category: Indy Comic Reviews
- CREDITS: by Charles "Zan" Christensen and Mark Brill
- PUBLISHER: Northwest Press; $4.99 US
I fully support the purpose of this inspirational oneshot that tackles the issue of bullying of gay teens, but I wish it had been a little more satisfying. I wanted to see more positive change, even if that’s unrealistic. The creators set up the problems faced by their character in excellent fashion, but the solutions are much sparser.
The Power Within started as a 24-hour comic that later was printed via Kickstarter. It’s the story of Shannon, a boy who uses fantasies of becoming a superhero to cope with the harassment he faces at school. (Click the images for bigger versions.)
Mark Brill’s cartoony art is easy to read, plus it makes Shannon approachable, since he’s small and cute. One of the things I found true-to-life is how Shannon is blamed for being a target. His parents and teachers, the people who should be valuing and protecting him, instead condemn his clothes and his actions. The scene with Mr. Cameron is heart-breaking, as Shannon is told that his mere existence is to blame for his being picked on, that he’s not trying hard enough to fit in. The dialogue feels very authentic, but in the story, I wanted to see those authority figures called to account, made to realize that they were contributing to the problem, not fixing it.
A new friend helps out Shannon, but he reads too much into the assistance, leading to more problems. This was another conflict I wanted to know more about than what’s in the comic. Do the two ever speak again after the events shown here? What, for that matter, is the friend’s name? The art is particularly lovely and emotional in the final sequence, but what happens? What choice does Shannon make? I wanted to see more information on how he copes. Perhaps I’m just wishing for this to be a graphic novel, not just a 36-page comic. There’s a lot more here that could be told, including exploring the question of whether Shannon’s fantasies of himself with superpowers actually help or not.
The story is told in three parts, with extra material between the sections, including a pinup by Dan Parent (Archie Comics), an excellent message page by Carla Speed McNeil, a crowded one-pager by Andy Mangels and Donna Barr, and a rather confusing wordless short sequence by Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark. There’s also a text page with suggested discussion questions about bullying and a short list of resources for gay teens.
The Power Within will be available in comic shops in September. Free copies are available to youth organizations and teacher groups and can be requested by emailing the publisher. Preview pages are available at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)