Wednesday 25 April 2012

CBR4 Books 40-42: "Empowered vol 1-3" by Adam Warren

Total page count: 664 pages
Rating - All three volumes - 4 stars
Date begun: April 17th, 2012
Date finished: April 22nd, 2012

The somewhat ironically named Empowered is a C-list superhero whose powers are given to her by her ultra skintight supersuit (so much so that she can't wear underwear underneath it and even has to have very careful personal grooming so that nothing shows when she's wearing it). While the suit is intact, she's strong enough to lift and throw cars and even zap people from a distance, but the suit is also ridiculously fragile, prone to ripping if she catches on a nail, thorn, tack or say, gets shot at. The more the suit tears, the faster she loses a her powers, leaving her frequently captured, bound and gagged (in ridiculously skimpy, yet conveniently strategically covering tatters) by various super villains. Her team, "The Super-homeys" rarely take her seriously, and she's most frequently used as bait. She's blond and buxum, but has terrible self-esteem issues and is convinced that her butt is too big.

The first volume is pretty much a series of short vignettes, interrupted by fairly meta chapter breaks where  "Emp" explains her origin as a bondage prone sketch Adam Warren would draw for fans at conventions, then flesh out with a back story and turn into a surprisingly sweet and very clever satire on sexy superhero comics. Over the course of the first volume, Emp (her real name isn't revealed until volume 3) meets her boyfriend, a sometime super villain henchman, and her best friend, Ninjette (who is unsurprisingly a ninja), and ends up sharing a flat with the "Caged Demonwolf", a cosmic beast entrapped in alien bondage gear who lives atop her coffee table (possibly my favourite character). In volumes 2 and 3, the stories are longer, and continue to explore the world of Empowered, the Superhomeys, the various rather ridiculous super villains they fight, and the myriad ways in which  poor Emp can be captured, humiliated, bound and gagged.

While the art is very sexy, and Emp is frequently more unclothed than not, there is never any complete nudity, the book is very good about equal opportunity cheesecake art, with Emp's boyfriend Thugboy frequently shown just as scantily clad as her. It's clearly a aimed at an adult audience, with quite a few sex scenes in especially volumes 1 and 3 and quite a lot of violence (in a very manga style) in all 3 volumes. Refreshingly, as a female comics reader, I never felt this comic is as insulting to or exploitative of women as several more mainstream superhero comics. For all it's near nudity and bondage prone heroine, the main premise of the comic is sweet. I very much agree with this article on Comics Alliance, that Empowered is a comic that gets sexy superheroes just right. I will absolutely be getting more, as soon as my budget allows it.

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