Words and art by Nathan Schreiber
Power Out is one of those books that you read through, and when you get to the end, you wonder where the time went. It is a quick read, but that is due more to the quality of the storytelling than to the length of the book. When I was done, I found myself flipping back through the book, revisiting several of the scenes and soaking them in.
Justin is fourteen and alone. That is not to say that there are not people in his life. He has a family (two parents and an older sister) and he lives in a neighborhood where there are other children. However, Justin chooses to cut himself off from the rest of the world. He immerses himself in video games, tuning in and tuning out, as it were.
It is difficult to tell if Justin is “normal”. At times he comes off as being autistic. He struggles to interact at even the most basic level. He rarely makes eye contact. His facial expressions rarely change. He stumbles through physical activity with awkwardness and difficulty that is often synonymous with autism. Then again, I know plenty of teenagers who are just awkward and antisocial.
The reason I bring this up is because Justin becomes isolated in the physical sense and no longer has his family around to take care of him (or interfere with him). His parents leave on a cruise, and his sister takes off with a group of boys she just met for a weekend at the beach. Justin is content to stay at home and play his video games. that is until there is a massive power outage.
When the power goes out, it is as Justin’s entire world stops. He cannot play his video games. He is forced to interact with the outside world. He meets a neighbor girl who does not speak English, but befriends him anyways. In a sense, his interactions with her are just as strange and incomprehensible to him as any other of his interactions. The only difference is that she actually seems to enjoy his company.
Once the power is out, the book really picks up and begins to deviate from the predicted path. There are surreal dream sequences, interesting time shifts, and some striking visual images. As I said before, the book deserves more than one read!
My only complaint about the book is that it ends too soon. The break does not seem to come at a natural place. I would have preferred for Schreiber to have more story included in this volume, or break at a more satisfying point. That being said, the story continues at the Act-I-Vate website. I just think the story would have been better served to be collected in its entirety once it was complete.
Regardless, Schreiber is on to something strong here, and I will be back for more. Do yourself a favor and check it out!