Written and Illustrated by Adam Warren
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Empowered Vol. 2 is another collection of stories featuring the world’s least effective superheroine. Once again, readers are treated to numerous stories where Empowered is easily captured, stripped, and humiliated by villains, teammates, and even a girl she rescued in the previous book. However, she still manages to save the day despite (and even because of) her habit of being tied up.
We also learn why her boyfriend, Thugboy, feels compelled to compliment her ass, and how kidnapping Empowered reveals society’s racism. Additionally, the evil god living on Empowered’s coffee table reveals the ultimate goal of his latest sinister plan.
I didn’t read the first volume of Empowered. I wrote it off as a cheesecake book with a one-note premise. Now that I’ve read the second volume, my opinion has changed. Empowered doesn’t rely on a single gag repeated to death. It uses a simple premise as a launching point for a variety of stories. Adam Warren explores how Empowered’s bad luck affects the people around her.
Other heroes with “lame” powers are inspired to rescue her. Empowered’s teammate, Sistah Spooky, believes that villains find Empowered hotter because they target Empowered more than they do her. Emp’s roommate, Ninjette, is inspired to help EMp’s reputation by fighting bad guys disguised as her. Thugboy constantly compliments Emp’s body, even though Emp’s very self-conscious about it. Nearly every story answers the question, “Hot chick gets tied up, then what?”
There are times when Empowered’s unique history helps her save lives. After being tied up so many times, she’s able to escape the poorly-tied bonds of a lame clock villain. Hanging from the ceiling, her X-Ray goggles find a fatal aneurysm growing in the head of the henchman assigned to watch her. The evil god also reminds her that she obtained the bonds that hold it when they were used to restrain her. Sometimes she turns her negatives into positives. If she didn’t win some of the time, this comedy would get very depressing.
But it’s not all light humor. There are more serious moments, such as four vicious assassins who target Ninjette, or Thugboy’s violent past that he’s kept secret from Emp. And the evil god is maneuvering Ninjette, Thugboy, and Empowered into a love triangle. These will undoubtedly come together in a life-changing story in volume 3. We also learn who the characters are, their feelings, unique worldviews, and the reasons behind their actions. If volume 1 focused on Empowered, volume 2 belongs to her friends and enemies. It expands the cast and finds new depths to their personalities.
I should really address the sexual content of the book. While there’s no nudity (barely), there’s enough sexuality to arouse someone not jaded by pornography. There are plenty of pictures of a near-naked Empowered gagged and bound at the hands and wrists. But I didn’t find it sexy. When she’s doing anything else, (fighting, in bed with Thugboy, dressed as a fantasy librarian), she is gorgeous! But in light bondage poses? Not so much. After a while, I started feeling sorry for her. Especially in the story where she comes home crying after a particularly humiliating defeat. She’s such a plucky spirit who keeps fighting the good fight, no matter what it costs her. Pornography doesn’t really work unless you consider the woman an object of lust. But Adam Warren does such a good job developing Empowered as a character, you see her as a real person. Her plight evokes sympathy. And that kills lust every time.
The art is Adam Warren’s typical manga style. It’s light, breezy, and highly expressive. Everything is ratcheted up to 10 and above. Empowered is bright and cheery. Ninjette is a cute drunk. Thugboy is a stylish touch guy. Body language is perfect for what the scene demands. The art doesn’t distract from the story, which means the two work together beautifully.
Empowered is that rarest of humorous comic books: it’s funny. Like Groo or The Tick, it begins with a simple premise and builds upon it. It’s good for light fun, and it’s smart enough to withstand multiple readings. Deeper analysis only reveals the talent and quality behind it. I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to volume 3.
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