March 14, 2012

Dark Horse Reviews: EMPOWERED Deluxe Edition Vol. 1

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Written by: Aaron
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Lookin' pretty great so far!
Lookin' pretty great so far!

Already looking fairly ridiculous! Off to a good Start!

Empowered Deluxe Edition Volume 1
Writer: Adam Warren
Artist: Adam Warren
Cover Colors: Joe Weltjens
Publisher: Dark Horse

Empowered is an interesting bundle of genres all thrown into a mixed bag and shook up rather thoroughly. It’s action, comedy, drama, superhero, manga style, absurdist humor, borderline soft-core (more risqué than actually graphic), and parody all wrapped into one book. Think The Tick, with a rather high level of sexual content. And the manga style is apparent in more than just some of the humor and action. It’s actually drawn in a manga-esque style. So, it’s an American Superhero Comic, drawn like a Manga. Adam Warren refers to Empowered as “my sexy superhero comedy.” And it’s exactly that. Is it as crazy as that sounds? Oh most definitely. Is it as AWESOME as that sounds? Oh hell yes!

Coming from writer and artist Adam Warren, well known for his work on Gen-13 and the American manga feature Dirty Pair, this comes as no surprise.

Empowered is the story of a young woman named Elissa Megan Powers (or EMP), who is highly self-conscious about her figure and has other self-esteem issues, who obtains a revealing, as well as unreliable, “hypermembrane” supersuit that grants her incredible powers. These include, but are not limited to, super-strength (the strength of ten incredibly in shape men), magnified vision, x-ray vision, sticking to walls, survival in outer space, enhanced durability, and energy blasts. There are a few problems with the suit, however. Even though it protects Elissa from bodily harm, it tears apart very easily, providing a humorously revealing and embarrassing view of Elissa’s body. The other problem is that the more the suit is torn, the more powers Elissa loses, until eventually she’s helpless against her foes. This usually results in her being bound and gagged in some odd Wonder Woman-style parody situations. The bright side, however, is that another of the suit’s powers is self-repair.

Gotta love meta-humor and breaking the 4th wall!

So, now you’ve got the hero’s premise and power set. What’s next? Why the setting and plot, of course!

This comic’s setting is pure parody-ville. Complete with unnamed colleges with classes like “Metahuman” studies! All you DC fans know what Metahumans are! She also becomes an associate-level member of the Superhomeys, this series’ parody of super-groups like the Justice League. To further add to the parody, villains in this world tend to be unwilling to break the unspoken rules of superhero/supervillain interaction, and therefore constantly leave Empowered tied up for the Superhomeys to come rescue, as opposed to just killing her. As a matter of fact, the motif of bondage seems to be a recurring theme of this comic. This leads to constant teasing and disrespect from the members of the Superhomeys, even though she has managed to save the lives of the Superhomeys singlehandedly on more than one occasion. Other plot points include settings like the “Homey Crib” – The Superhomeys’ headquarters (a parody of The Hall of Justice) – and the Joint Superteam Space Station 3, commonly referred to as “the D10” because it’s shaped like a 10-sided die.

The best part of this comic is the dialog. It ranges from sincere and nice to gut-bustingly funny. Featuring hilarious exchanges that would give even the sharpest, quirkiest, funniest comedies a run for their money, this comic never fails to provide a great exchange of lines. Seriously, there’s never a dull moment, and for a comic release spanning over 650 pages (over 700 with the extras) that’s a major accomplishment. The best character, at least the favorite of this reviewer, and most common source of bust-a-gut funny dialog, is a villain (eventually turned ally) named The Caged Demonwolf. This character is a multidimensional being of pure energy, who requires a physical host in order to inhabit the three-dimensional material plane. He lives inside a set of power-draining bondage gear, created by one of the series’ villains, and has a permanent home atop Emp’s coffee table.

And this about sums up the over the top nature of this comic

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of the comic series already, as this is specifically a review for the collected “Deluxe Edition.” So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at what sets this volume release apart from other individual releases.

The “Deluxe Edition” comes with all of the extras from the original volume releases, plus 30 pages of extras, including rough draft images, insight into the comic’s design, sketches, unpublished sections (the comic equivalent to deleted scenes), and a whole lot more. It also features story notes, a gallery section showcasing drawings from the various covers, and a brief biography page about the series’ Auteur. The ONLY negative remark that one might make is this: This is supposed to be a “Deluxe” edition. One might expect some sort of new covers, some collaborations, something NEW to commemorate the release. Now, yes, it has the “extras” features, but nothing more. But you’re probably thinking, “that’s a rather petty nit-picky complaint.” And it totally is! However, it was included with the intent of keeping the review balanced and fair. And, if that’s the only negative a review has to offer, that’s pretty great news for the comic itself and for the reader wondering whether or not he/she should check out said comic!

One of the biggest selling points of this release, unless the place you snag it from jacks up the price on you, is the price tag! It’s a collection of volumes 1–3, which combined might run over 50 dollars at the usual asking price. This DELUXE EDITION, which collects the volumes, plus all the extras, might run 30–40 bucks. That’s a steal, folks! [Editor’s note: Actually, MSRP is $59.99, but you can get it for about $37 off]

I highly recommend picking this up! If you like superhero stories, sci-fi stories, action/adventure, comedies, parodies, deep character development, complex character interaction, and comics with a great story line, PICK THIS UP!

Aaron Nicewonger