Every year I get more impatient for the latest Empowered graphic novel, hangry for my sexy superhero fix and snarking that it gosh darn better be worth the wait.
This one is definitely worth the wait.
See below a review of Adam Warren’s Empowered volume 10.
As always, minor spoilers follow. I’m not going to give away any of the major plot points, but I am going to dance around the edges of them, so if you’d rather go read the book first and then come back here, I promise I won’t mind.
Regarding the art: I swear I have nothing new to say. I’m entranced as always, but I’ve certainly gone on about it before now. The guest artists who do the one-shots are brilliant, but I love Adam’s art, and I missed it so.
Though if you want to see something cool, check out his Instagram feed where he does daily life-drawing sets, studying anatomy (slightly NSFW) and poses in seriously minute detail. Then see how much of that detail goes into panels of Ninjette working out or Thugboy taking off his shirt.
Moving on to the story, one thing I’ll say right off the bat: the past couple volumes haven’t been too heavy on the sex, and Adam made up for it in this one. Celebratory sex, comfort sex, shower sex, superhero sex, Emp’s-boyfriend-asked-for-a-breather-because-she-literally-wore-him-out-sex, the works. If you’re not comfortable with some pushing-the-boundaries-of-an-R-rating explicitness, you should probably go check out one of Adam’s other books. (Scissors Paper Stone is a good one.) But yes. Pretty people having loud sex is a good portion of the book. I approve.
If you really wanted to distill the theme of the book down to a couple things (other than “sexy good times”) (and “epic super-villain beatdowns”) one of them would be “how people cope.” I mean cope with good things and bad things, and coping in good ways and bad ways.
Emp copes with her insecurities and fears by doing a lot of platonic (…mostly…) snuggling with Ninjette and Thugboy. At the same time. That’d be weird if it wasn’t so gosh darned cute.
Hilariously, snuggling is also how she copes with her happiness spilling all over the place when she’s finally promoted to full-time superhomey; she glomps everyone around. Well, mostly. Not even Emp would touch El Douchcanoe Supremo: Major Havoc.
Ugh. That guy. I have to admit, I want to see what happens to him eventually. If Adam plays true to form, we’ll eventually get a volume that includes his backstory and spells out why he’s such an ass and lets us understand him, after which he’ll realize how he’s been Wrong All This Time, and then probably do something heroic that makes us like him more. You know, a Sistah Spooky kind of transformation.
And as long as I’m being honest: I don’t want that. I want him to die a horrible, ugly death. He’s awful.
Anyway, speaking of Sistah Spooky, and coping, this volume doesn’t have much about her, but we do get a quiet lunch with her and Emp. Spooky’s coping with losing Mindf**k as best she can, sometimes in positive ways (like that quiet lunch with Emp) and some not so positive, like how she deals with excess calories and NO I DON’T MEAN ANYTHING GROSS. I mean magic. It’s still a little disturbing when you think about it, because magic or no magic it’s still an eating disorder. However it’s Spooky, so it’s also back-stabby and a little funny too. Also, I really like Spooky’s new look. Way better than the hose-and-garters, but just as sexy.
As long as we’re talking about people who aren’t in the spotlight this volume, and coping, we see what Ninjette’s dealing with, and it’s related to, as the Demonwolf puts it, “your charnel house of a childhood.” But (spoilers) we don’t see half as much alcohol in this volume. We see some, sure, but when it comes to coping I think you’ll be surprised.
Just in case you think it’s all daisies and Demonwolf disseminations (heh, his alliteration is alluring once you get used to it) we also see one of Emp’s less-attractive coping methods: fishing for compliments.
Props to Thugboy for dealing with it so well, but if it was my sig-other I’d have run out of patience with it a couple volumes back. In this volume she’s lightning-quick with the transition from ultra-cheery top-of-the-world Emp to sniffling, defensive, I-suck-and-you-should-probably-go-get-a-better-girlfriend Emp.
I think Adam’s setting us up for a new character: we’ve seen superhero garbagemen, nurses, and reporters, I think it’s time Emp looked to see if her new full-time benefits cover a superhero therapist. Looking to Thugboy for reassurance and confidence-building sex worked pretty well for a while, now it’s time to try something different.
But you know what? In the midst of magic lunches, prison tours, promotions, parties, and sexy good times, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in dialogue. And you should really pay attention. Some of it I’m guessing is preparing us for future stories (I’m watching you, cleaning droids) but some of it pays off very quickly. And I’ll say right now that this is the first time in a while I’ve had this reaction while reading a comic: I turned a page, my jaw dropped wide open, and I flipped through the next few pages at breakneck speed going “What? WHAT?? WHAT’S HAPPENING?!!”
Consider yourself warned.