Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Empowered Volume 2 (September, 2007)
Beginning with this second collection of Empowered stories, there's an obvious shift in the manner of storytelling within its chapters. After a single sheet primer, the book launches into a harrowing twenty-four page "issue" wherein Emp battles King Tyrant Lizard. There are numerous flashbacks, character introductions, and a building tension that's a far cry from the short gag strips which launched the series. This feels like a trade paperback compilation of a monthly comic that doesn't exist, with a more serious tone throughout. On the one hand, this is the only way to mature the heroine's adventures beyond repetitive set-ups and letdowns, saving her from becoming the Cathy of the long underwear set. On the other hand, you have to trade the simple, puerile fun of the first volume for a more adult read.
Given the dour landscape of modern comics, I'm not sure I would have made the switch if given the choice, but it still leaves Empowered as among the best super-hero books going. There's steady, natural progression in the individual characters' narratives, and they react to the circumstances these types are prone to face in a truly believable and often unusually optimistic fashion. Their effervescent personalities make it difficult not to take them into your heart, so when they are threatened, you react to the high stakes in ways the corporate Lazarus-Men cannot evoke. If someone is killed or otherwise molested in this book, you know you will inevitably feel the trauma and sense of loss, so each episode matters.
Not to say that this edition fails to bring the funny, mind. After the lengthy opening "Thuperlame," there are three shorts centering on drunken gaming, excessive drooling, and hot patootie. Thugboy returns to provide teh sexay for the ladies and more genuine lip-service for his girl. "The Aryan Ideal of Shoulder Candy" is twenty-two pages of naughty play, sapphic groping, and one-liners."Wahh, Wahh, Wahh" proves Emp can be entirely too effective, even whilst stripped of her powers. A "sexy librarian" piece should satisfy that sector of the fetish community.
A bit shy of the halfway point marks the beginning of a three chapter arc covering nearly sixty pages, involving a burgeoining threeway entanglement between our romantic leads and the mysterious Ninjette. Major subplots are introduced, and a follow-up chapter foreshadows serious business in an upcoming volume.
"The Power of TIME!" returns Empowered to both solo action and singular ability, but that bit of levity barely allows a breath to be caught before "A Long Line of Dead People" sits on your chest. Ninjette and Thugboy both carry surprisingly heavy baggage for what would appear to be a humor series, and their sordid histories do a great job of contrasting Emp's sweet neurosis and kind heart against their avoidance and possibly missplaced hope for redemption. This is made all the more clear in the final tale, "Fruity Flakes," which exposes the childhood tragedy that motivates our heroine, and the simple humanity that sets her apart from her fellow Superhomeys.
Empowered Volume 2 is the total package, serving comedy, pathos, light adventure, and heavy consequences for all the shenanigans these exceptional beings get up to. There isn't as much of an emphasis on the art this review, but rest assured it is lovely to gaze upon, and now serves to propel a denser read. Anyone who claims to love comics and turns their nose up at Adam Warren's opus is doing themselves and the form a great disservice.
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