Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Comics Review (#1): Empowered Volume 7

Empowered Volume 7 (by Adam Warren)

Yes, Adam Warren's saucy supes series (mm, alliteration) has a new entry! For fans of the series (like me), this is definitely good news, because this particular series updates only in volumes, not in individual monthly (or monthly-ish, depending on the creators) issues. So it's been significantly over a year since the last one of these. Long wait, yeah?

But since we're coming in at Volume 7 here, a little bit of rudimentary backstory is probably called for. "Empowered" got its start as a lighthearted chronicle of the travails of its titular (hurr hurr - "titular") character - that's the blonde on the cover -  an aspiring superheroine with an unfortunate tendency to wind up subdued and tied up by the bad guys because she loses most of her superpowers when her "supersuit" gets torn or damaged - and it's VERY fragile, sadly for her. Upshot? Crossover between superhero action (set in a comical sendup of the Very Serious backdrops of many superhero stories - the founding members of the supergroup Empowered is a lowly associate member of all met at a support group for people who acquired their superpowers through - ick - "metahuman STDs". use protection, kids. unless you want superpowers? kind of a mixed message, actually.) and pinup-style cheesecake.

Speaking of jokes - here's the Caged Demonwolf (an unholy demon spirit from outside space and time... currently trapped in alien power-draining bondage gear (what?) and sitting on Emp's coffee table) on his appreciation for popular music:
Yeah. Be careful what you get him started on.

But as the series went on, things progressively got... well, darker. Sure, the jokes and the saucy shenanigans stuck around. But genuinely frightening villains, occasionally gruesome mayhem, character development, and (no spoilers) genuinely affecting character death showed up too. The usual verdict among people who follow the series is that it's grown beyond what it was, and has pretty consistently gotten better with each passing volume. And I'm 100% on board with that myself too.

So here we are at Volume 7. Without spoiling too much of what's come before, the Ayakami clan of ninjas (yes, there are ninjas - why wouldn't there be ninjas?) are coming after Empowered's very bestest BFF Ninjette, sometimes also called Kazue Kaburagi - that's the ninja girl in Emp's arms on the cover. And that's the Ayakami clan as in the ENTIRE Ayakami clan. As in all of them. And they are most definitely out for blood. And to stop them? Well, our dear 'Jette is gonna have to get just a mite bloody herself. How bloody, you ask?

That bloody. Ouch.

And who does 'Jette have for backup? None of her friends, because she refuses to involve them in such a Charlie Foxtrot (to be polite) of a mess. More principles than common sense there, you ask me. But I guess you didn't.

No, 'Jette (I like the dimunitive, okay? so sue me.) only has Oyuki-Chan, a potty-mouthed and rather scary ninja from 'Jette's former clan with some SERIOUS personal issues with 'Jette - and incidentally, the redhead from the cover. And she's only helping because she owes 'Jette - or Kaburagi-San, as she prefers to address her - some great past debt, and ninja honor demands it (or whatever). And how much help is she beyond the limits of that, if 'Jette needs it?

That much. Damn, that was so cold I think I got frostburn just from looking at it.

But anyway. Upshot is, between all the entertainingly brutal ninja violence and some (naturally effed-up and disturbing) looks into 'Jette's backstory - including some insight into Oyuki-Chan's debt - this is an unusually Ninjette-centric volume. In fact, as Emp complains - or actually doesn't complain, just semi-passive-aggressively insists loudly that she's not complaining (oh, Emp) - the title character is effectively co-starring in her own book this go-round. Oh, she definitely still gets her share of screentime, for both the aforementioned saucy shenanigans (and I bet you internet kids are wondering why I couldn't have posted any excerpts of those), and even for some potentially down-the-road significant character-development/insight related to her eensy little bondage problem. But fundamentally, this volume is really 'Jette's story. And while I wouldn't want that to be the case every volume (seriously, Emp definitely grows on you as a character, especially when she manages to overcome her insecurities enough to lay down some - naturally still unappreciated - whoopassery on some super-deserving supervillains), that's a-okay with me here. Highly recommended, this one.

To pick it up:

Or to start where it all began and get the whole story from the beginning:

The Deluxe Edition is available on this one, by the way, if you don't mind shelling out for the primo version.


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