You can write and draw super-heroines in skimpy costumes, bondage, or next to nothing for titillation value or, if you are clever, you can do this for genuine satire. You the reader will have to make up your own mind up which side of the line this work falls. There is small part of me that thinks the writer is actually trying to get away with both.
We follow young super-heroine “Empowered” as she juggles a skin-tight costume (more fragile than a moth’s wing), lame powers, stuck-up teammates, a regular job and a love life. This book is presented as a lengthy series of short sketches inviting the reader to laugh at our protagonist’s latest predicament, which usually features her tied up or mostly naked.
If this work has a genre its paragons would be Garth Ennis’ The Pro whose humour is unparalleled; or The Boys whose balls-out satire really bites hard. But this book grows. Between some of these sketches “Empowered” addresses the reader directly and makes some quite astute comments on our voyeurism. She usually thinks her way out of whatever predicament she is in rather than relying on powers or a rescuer. Other characters are introduced and a rounded, emotional storyline develops. It also has an incredibly dark and jarring moment that really hits you hard setting up some more involving storylines for the future.
The art is entirely pencil drawn and hand lettered in an unmistakably manga style. This means the whole thing has a very dark, shaded look to it. It is well executed but every page looks like an advert for charcoal. There is nudity although you never see a nipple or a groin but there is sex and even some intimate depilation. We also don’t get to see our protagonist’s eyes as she wears an opaque mask most of the time resulting in some quite uncomfortable objectification. This makes you wonder if you should be feeling guilty while you read or not.
It is no Sucker Punch and it took over 200 pages to convince me but this eventually crosses the line as a Thumbs up!
Tomorrow: Empowered Volume 2 – Adam Warren