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Review: _Empowered, v.1_, by Adam Warren
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
This book is almost the platonic ideal of "guilty pleasure". It's cheap, crass, exploitative, and just plain FUN!

The book's real-world origins are inextricably linked to its subject matter. Warren is a skilled artist, with heavy manga influences, who is particularly skilled at drawing high-tech battlesuits and... beautiful, scantily-clad women. This is not a unique skill, and, like many artist before him, he was approached by... let's be kind and use the word 'patrons'... who wanted to commission work from him. Specifically, images of scantily-clad superheroines in bondage.

Now, while Warren has a bit of a following, he's hardly popular enough to be turning down paying gigs. On the other hand, he is not just an artist, but also a skilled storyteller. Instead of doing simple 'pin-ups', he did short stories in comics form.

As he kept doing this work, for a select group of paying customers, the characters and backstory gradually deepened and became more interesting. Not just cheap thrills, there was comedy, drama, even noticable character growth, f'heaven's sake! While I recently complained about a movie which had 'caricatures instead of characters', this book does the reverse; it takes some very basic caricatures, but then fleshes them out into fully-realized characters, characters that I cared about. It turns out that if 'include superheroine cheesecake' is your *only* creative constraint, there's freedom to do quite a lot of interesting material.

After accumulating several hundred pages of this material, he's decided to give a go at publishing it. I've greatly enjoyed the first volume, and will be picling up the second when it appears a few months hence.

The title character is a superheroine who is granted super-strength, invulnerability, and energy beams by her costume -- a skin-tight dark blue number. However, the costume *itself* is not invulnerable. In fact, it has all the structural integrity of kleenex. And it only grants powers in proportion to how intact it is. So, in practically every fight, her costume is shredded and she gets captured and tied up by the baddies. (The costume can apparently regenerate itself, but only fairly slowly.)

Despite her obvious tactical disadvantages, she gradually becomes a valuable member of her super-team, and even gets a boyfriend and some wacky roommates. The boyfriend is a former Thug and Minion -- they meet cute while he's tying her up one episode, but her love eventually reforms her. The roomates include a former villainess named Ninjette, and a would-be cosmic world-conquerer who has been reduced to a helpless corporeal form, and functions as an incresibly overblown and pompous greek chorus (who often complains about what's on TV).

The book walks an interesting line with regards to sex. On the one hand, there never appears so much as a nipple. On the other hand, sometimes the nipples are about *all* that is left covered. (On second thought, I should mention that there are *male* nipples. While not quite equal-opportunity, the book includes a healthy dose of beefcake as well.) There are frequent depictions of people having sex, just from angles which don't actually show any of the naughty bits. But that doesn't stop them from being *very* naughty indeed! The vast majority of the sex is the kind of happy life-affirming kind that so few cartoonists do, especially since Phil Foglio stopped doing xXxenophile.

The work is mostly uninked pencils, but Warren's pencils are as detailed as many an artist's inks, and reproduce very well. While each individual story is quite short (3-8 pages or so), there are a *lot* of them; this book isn't thin.

Recommended. *Especially* recommended to hungrytiger who, as a long time fan of both Adam Warren's work and good chesecake art is pretty much the perfect audience for this book.
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Thanks for the tip. I had noticed it, but not picked it up yet mostly because I couldn't tell if there was a story in it or if it was just page after page of cheesecake art (which can be fun but I'm trying to curtail my spending). I'll let you know what I think.

Good to know. It's sitting on the to-be-read GN pile; I picked it up solely on the strength of Warren's name. He's wound up on my "just buy what he writes" list, because of his particular skill at taking weak subject matter and making it interesting, or at least very curious...

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