The Power Within is an emotionally affecting anti-bullying comic published by Northwest Press and created by Charles “Zan” Christensen and Mark Brill. I had read Christensen and Brill’s previous collaboration, The Mark of Aeacus, and enjoyed it, but Power Within is a very different and far more resonant book.
It’s a didactic story, about a gay teenager dealing with bullying peers and adults indifferent to his situation, who retreats into superheroic fantasies to cope with his problems. The story exists strongly within the shadow of the recent media attention given to the high suicide rate in gay teens and the “It Gets Better” project, but successfully avoids any hints of maudlin emotion or preachiness. Instead the story feels very honest and is genuinely affecting. Christensen’s script deserves credit here, but so does Brill’s art, which has an approachable, cartoony feel that still allows for very expressive characters. There are also a number of short stories by guest creators rounding out the package and expanding upon the central theme, and while none are as successful as the central story they are all worthwhile pieces in and of themselves.
The Power Within is available from Diamond, with order code: #JUL111189 and Northwest Press has a website devoted to the book with material aimed at comics retailers and information on how youth groups and educators can receive copies.