Empowered is my favorite superhero series and my favorite ongoing series. However its hard to recommend a series thats described as “sexy superhero comedy” about a woman who is constantly tied up and humiliated because her flimsy superhero suit loses its power when it tears, and it tears easily. However Empowered is amazing with its biggest strengths being the relationship between Empowered and her friends and partners. The drama builds and builds to the kind of heart beating suspense that most mainstream superhero comics lack. Frank Miller said superhero comics should be big action and big drama (I think he said it, I know someone said that) and Empowered is all that plus good laughs and great rom-com situations.
Yes Emp gets tied up, but when she breaks out and saves the day-it is both an amazing feeling for the character and the reader.
Below I’m gonna give you a brief feelings about each Empowered volume and my fave stories inside. Also-BIG FUCKING SPOILERS.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 1
Summary and Opinion: Volume 1 introduces her and the main supporting cast. Mostly short vignettes and is focused on character building through comedy, drama and romance. Volume 1 is fun but its the bottom of the pile of the Empowered volumes in my opinion. It sets up a lot of stuff but the true meat of the series comes in later. The largest story elements revolve around Emp/Thugboys relationship. However this volume does hint at a few major villains who will show up later and the origin of Sistah Spooky who is one of the Super-Homey’s who makes Emps life hell in the series.
Favorite Stories: “Blueberry Pancakes” is the sixth story with Thugboy, Emps boyfriend who works as a local thug and was once a witless minion (also part of a group called Witless Minions who would swindle supervillains). In this story Thugboys partners figured out he was helping her score points with her team and decide its time to off him. Thugboy makes big speech about how he was having a good day and that none of them will ever have anything close to what he had in short time with Emp. Emp however comes barging in, bad ass, to save her boyfriend. I love this chapter because of the way Thugboy describes Empowered and just the joy he gave to her in the short time they had at that point. Plus Empowered gets to have a genuine hero moment. Also bonus points for the fact the guy with the gun to Thugboys head is his friend Frank (who shows up once in a while as a sounding board for Thugboy) and seems genuinely happy for Thug, even if he has to blow his brains out.
“Good Girls” is right after Blueberry Pancakes and introduced Emps BFF Ninjette. A white girl ninja from New Jersey who is trying to kidnap Emp but when her partners fail to show, Ninjette lets her go and the two go out for food and drinks. Its a very simple chapter but incredibly effective in making the bonding between the two feel organic. They talk about Empowereds boyfriend and her teammates in the Super-Homeys. Its a fun bit thats the start of one of my favorite female friendships in comics.
“Demonwolf of the DVDs” comes right after Good Girls (the three best chapters right next to one another) introduces the last main supporting character and occasional narrator the caged Demonwolf. An immortal ancient who tries to takeover Earth and smacks around the Super-Homeys until Empowered us a cosmic bondage belt to imprison him. Now he’s living on her coffee table watching their DVDs and talking sports with Thugboy. Short and sweet with the Caged Demonwolf throwing out great line after great line-especially at disappointment that Emp and TB won’t let him watch them have sex.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 2
Summary and Opinion: Volume 2 is similar to volume 1 in that its mostly vignettes. Where as the last volume established the character and the main supporting this one expands on them with bit of world building. While its more of the same in some regards, its an improvement over volume 1 and has more reread value.
Favorite Stories: “Dire Peril” “Much Flaunted” “Amorous Audacity” These three stories take place one after another and would probably compose a single hour episode. The first part has Emp returning after another humiliating day (tied up by bad guys and then laughed at by her teammates as they arrived) and Thugboy and Ninjette can’t quite make her feel better but the Caged Demonwolf reminds her of how they met and how she beat him after he made short work of her teammates. All by using a cosmic bondage belt that was once used on her. Actually making her feel better. This leads to Ninjette dressing as Emp giving the baddies who Emp had a run in with only to be told by Thugboy by doing that its possible Empowered next run in will not end in being tied up. This scene presents a powerful Ninjette moment where she references her clan (the story right after these 3 gives a bit more background on Ninjette) and we get a peak behind her cool interior. The next two portions are less a downer with Ninjette fixing the situation and then being scammed in flashing the Demonwolf followed by Demonwolf getting juicy info out of Thugboy all in a plot to blackmail him into constant use of the TV remote. This three parter is a great section.
“Fruity Flakes” is the best story of the first two volumes. In this one a tied up Empowered convinces a thug who has her tied up that he has an aneurysm growing. This is the first time we learn her first name (Elissa) and find out about her dad. Its a great chapter of Empowered trying to save the life of a thug who has a family. I don’t want to give away too much but if volume 2 is a make or break book for a new reader I believe it definitely makes it with the last story really sticking the landing.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 3
Summary and Opinion: Volume 3 is the last volume where there is not a central plotline running through a single volume. It is a series of vignettes but ends with a follow up to the ninja clan tease in the previous volume. Some of the stories are a bit of a miss, some have great character moments in an otherwise unmemorable story, but there are a few that hit are really hit the mark. I like 3 quite a bit and of the first three volumes I’d put it as the best but god damn 4 and up are just leagues above.
Favorite Stories: “Witless Minions 4-Eva” is mostly a straight up origin of Thugboy. You watch him and his friends screw over supervillains with Thugboy taking an extreme un-liking to capes. Even shows he was involved in the San Antonio violence (cape killing). However when they try screwing over the psychotic (and one of the scariest villains ever) Wily Pete it leaves him as the last of the Witless Minions. He goes into a downward trajectory as he becomes pretty oblivious and unconcerned with the world around him until he meets Emp. This story established Empowered as the best thing that’s happened to him in years. A lifeline. Its another great chapter in their beautiful relationship.
“E.M.P. and the Nukenin Princess” a group of ninjas come to cash in on the bounty on runaway ninja Princess Ninjette. This is a big action piece with Ninjette fighting for her life and losing until Empowered and Thugboy swoop in. This chapter jumps back in time to several points including to a scene of Emp and Ninjette after a night of drinking (documented in the very fun “Karaoke Rocket Sled and the Eye of the Tippling Tiger”) where they talk about their fathers. While Empowered is the main character Ninjette’s story is incredibly important and the aftermath of this is felt throughout (and still). This is a great ending story and the first time we get Emps full name and Ninjette’s name. The action sequence is great-Warren does not get enough props for the way he sets up action scenes.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 4
Summary and Opinion: I love 4. This one introduces two great characters in the awesome Maid Man and Sistah Spooky’s ex Mindfuck. It also is the first one where there is a central plot to the volume as it revolves around the Capey Awards as well as Ninjette’s recovery after the attack by the ninja clan who tried to cash in on the bounty on her head. Not just that but Wily Pete, the psychotic villain who haunts Thugboys dreams, makes an appearance and further establishes himself as “I hope this guy dies a horrible death.” Which Empowered gets nominated for and later finds out its a joke. Volume 4 had such a WTF ending.
Favorite Stories: “Of Maids and Wet Blankets” Introduces the vigilante Maid Man. He dressed as a french maid.He kicks a lot of ass. In this one he almost single handily takes out a group of villains (except for the guys who tried to recruit Wily Pete in the chapter right after, poor guys). Emp got one good lick in and also quickly hits it off with Empowered. Its great for her to have a superhero friend who is not just respected in the cape community but feared by its villains. This is a very cool story.
“Orbiting Spookums” is introduces Mindfuck who is a telepath living alone on the d10, Soper-Homeys space station. Mindfuck checks in on Spooky after the Capey nomination for Emp is announced. Spooky hates Emp for a rather dumb reason (she went to a high school where she was the black geek surrounded by super hot blond women) and has bullied Empowered because of it. The biggest sticker of this is the fact that it establishes that Spooky pushed Mindfuck away who truly loved her despite all her flaws and self hate. Its a chapter thats pretty sad and does a lot to help make Spooky less a bitch.
“Of Wishes and Mayflies” is a fun one for the fact Empowered grants a kid with cancers wish. Excpet its that he wants to be a villain and wants to tie Emp up. Empowered goes with it and Manny, the kid, is really appreciative and very much a fan of Emp. He gets upset when a camera crew busts in to film her tied up. But while some of her teammates laugh at her embarrassment later a couple other teammates come in with the enws that the meeting inspired Manny to break into the superhuman (or suprahuman) wing of the hospital and dope up on an alien drug. Now he created mechas and working out theories on how to survive the human (and now alien) cancers that are trying to kill him. All because Empowered gave him the confidence he needed. Its just an incredibly amusing chapter.
“Because This Is What I Am” is the final story (I tend to pick the last story a lot) and Empowered gets over her depression about the joke nomination (they did it to a guy Fleshmaster and than went Carrie prom on him) and heads to the show with an angry Thugboy and a still recovering Ninjette. Of course things go south when the powered heroes get their powers nullified and a living cloned alien organ to thrash the show. Its up to Emp to save the day. Luckily Maid Man and Thugboy is there plus Ninjette grabs a sword and jump in and fight the alien organ. There are a couple important bits to see which include a call back to Thugboys San Antonio situation and the revealing of Mindfuck. Who is a hot blond chick. Fuck apologizes for Sistah Spooky and thanks her for saving the day.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 5
Summary and Empowered: 5 or 6 go back and forth as my favorite book in the series. 5 is almost the Empire Strikes Back or Book 2 of A:TLA for the Empowered series. Yeah… Captain Havoc (worst character in the series) doubts Empowered’s story about the truth behind who attacked the Capey Awards. In fact the Cape Community News doubts her story but they can’t get details. As all this develops Empowered runs into the father of one of the villains who ran into Wily Pete, and died horribly, who is trying to get the Super-Homeys to take in the villain. I should note as the series went forward the chapters mostly grew in size compared to the first two volumes so if I list less chapters I like its because there are less chapters in the book.
Favorite Stories: “When Titans Fornicate” is one thats a bit of a tough reread because Caged Demonwolf’s dialogue can be a bit much with the sentence structure and large words. In short Demonwolf spins the story of Thugboy and Empowereds current amorous activities to Ninjette. Its been established that Ninjette hs a crush on Thugboy but also pretty much worships her best friend so she enjoys their relationship greatly. Interesting that this one calls back to Emps “Sexy librarian” look and Thugboys old Spartan 3000 outfit when he was doing minion work. Its cute and fun.
“I Know How Much You Love Blonds” More Sistah Spooky and Mindfuck. Its a cute chapter and a depressing chapter. Jumps around and we learn a bit about Mindfuck and we see a bit of their break up.
“Upon My Back, the Monky of Worry”/”Say I Deserve This” So Super-Homeys (except Emp because Havoc doesn’t trust her) go to storm Wily Pete’s while Emp chills with her new friend Mindfuck up in the d10. Things don’t go well. … Easily the most depressing ending to a volume and one of the most depressing Empowered story all around and God Damn-I don’t cry for sad stories but if I did I would be overflowing with tears for this bitch. Volume 5 ending had more punch, still does, then most comics/movies/tv and whatever else. God… I love this story and hate it. Upon My Back is the direct lead into the final story so I included it because its important.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 6
Summary and Opinion: Like I said, I got back and forth with 5 and 6. This one focus’ on the aftermath of Wily Pete delivering an ass kicking to the Super-Homeys as well as presenting the BEST TWISTS ON SUPERHERO DEATHS IN ANY FUCKING COMIC! This one only had 6 chapters and delivered hard. It also gives a face to a villain mentioned a few times in volume 1-DEATH MONGER and God damn he is evil.
Favorite Stories: “Don’t Let Them Bury Me; I’m Not (Quite) Dead” Not all superheroes really die. Established int he first chapter are bargain superheroes. Heroes who gain their powers through a type of bargain so after they die their powers actually keep them alive. Basically they are basically the living dead but functioning. Several of them crash the Super-Homeys pad while most are out on a meeting. Turns out a group of them are scared of Daeth monger who enslaves the superdead and recently took the corpse of Phallak who knew which dead superhumans were still kicking. Empowered and Maid Man invite them in to watch the big screen and hang out. Plus we learn how Emp got her super suit, Sort of. This chapter is just a great twist on the dead superhero/superhero zombie trope and with so many great nuggets.
“A Very Long and Very Uncomfortable Eternity” Death Monger has hit the Super-Homeys based and kidnapped Hardkore. Now Emp, Ninjette, Maid Man, a distraught Sistah Spooky and a couple dead superheroes have to take on one of the baddest villains around. Hell yeah! After the tragic and sad ending to volume 5 volume 6 ends with a big W for Empowered. Though the chapter wouldn’t be totally a happy ending with Ninjette getting news from a fellow clan ninja that the clan she last encountered is coming for revenge and a odd flashback that raises more questions about Emps supersuit. Which I haven’t spoken too much about because you need to find out.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 7
Summary and Opinion: Volume 7 is focused mostly on Ninjette. Picking up from her battle with the ninja clan in volume 3’s ending and the news from Oyuki-Chan who is a ninja from her old clan indebted to her. This volume does two different things. There is a slight non-linear approach as it shows the preparation and early scenes of the big ninja battle through out before dropping right into the final fight in the end. There is also a couple sequences that show what the character wants to do/say versus what they actually do/say. volume 7 is an incredibly strong volume and while its not my favorite, it has my favorite chapter of the series.
Favorite Stories: “Excessively Talkative” Is a chapter that jumps a bit around. Most of it takes place during one of Super-Homeys karaoke night where Capt. Havoc is still pissed and makes mention of the mystery asteroid seen in volume 5 and mentions the Vorpal sword and alludes to business in San Antonio. Sistah Spooky talks to Ninjette where she admits that her pain of losing Mindfuck almost lead to her killing Empowered and Ninjette suppresses the desire to kill her (though we see how she’d do it). Sistah Pooky is also embracing the mental echo of Mindfuck that was left inside her head. Also Emp invites the super dead to hang out, cementing their friendship. Plus lots, lots more including a section of the big final fight. This is a strong chapter with lots of clues, character moments, and great moments.
“Deflowered and Dispassionate” is my favorite single chapter of Empowered and one of its saddest and most depressing. In this chapter a drunk Ninjette soaks in the tub with a drink in her hand as she reflects on her past to the Caged Demonwolf. How her Clan leader father sought to marry her off as Ninjette was looked at purely as breeding stock. Ninjette ends up throwing herself a prince of another ninja clan and loses her virginity. Her father ends up killing the boy viciously and putting the two clans at war, then alludes to him beating her. A story she tells Demonwolf she’s never told anyone, including Emp. What makes the story is the change in Demonwolf who tells her, in very plain English (without his trademark giant words, use of actual pronouns, and dynamic presence) that she’s told him that story before. He begins to tell her about his immortality and how he can view his life nonlinear (shifting to look in his past, present and future concurrently) and how she’s effected him. He talks about Ninjette’s beauty and seeing her at different parts of her life up until her death. Its a beautiful tribute to Ninjette who I greatly worry about. Honestly I am nervous about a lot of Emps supporting cast.
“Of Vocabulary Words and Fucked-Up One-Manship” starts with Ninjette proving to Emp that part of her powers problem is psychological. Starting as a arm wrestling match she uses words to illicit degrading memories in Empowered to beat her. Then we get a bit more into her background, as she talks about how strong Emp is for being able to deal with getting tied up and degrades and starts to break down Emps image of her self confidence. Its a great bonding chapter.
EMPOWERED VOLUME 8
Summary and Opinion: This story is the finale of the Sistah Spooky/Demon contract plotline. Early in the series we learn Spooky got her powers selling her soul for super hotness (like her blond classmates) but the powers were an accident by her demon contractor. In volume 6 he reached out claiming that he had Mindfuck in hell with him and wanted to renegotiate. Sistah Spooky decides to go to hell and face off, and Empowereds coming along for the ride. This features the longest story int he whole series. How long? Over a hundred pages. There is actually only 2 stories in this over 200 page volume. Since I’m talking the last story I want to say I am a huge fan of the super dead heroes training Empowered. Its a very good book but… Its been a whirlwind of dark, depressing and there was not that much laughs in this one.
Favorite Stories: “I Never Looked Into Your Eyes, I Never Heard Your Voice” has Sistah Spooky resigning from the team and then faking Emps kidnapping to help her retrieve the Vorpal Sword from the asteroid established in volume 5. Turns out the sword was an alien weapon on loan that the old generation of heroes used a bit too often in big fights and last time out cause the catastrophe on San Antonio when the cape killing was happening (Thugboy witnessed this). Those heroes retired and the current generation rose. Emp talks Spooky into letting her go with her and the two do battle with a helldemon. Its a big chapter, big action and drama. I’m not gonna say much more other than I hope the next book is a little more upbeat. The meta-text at the end suggests it will be. Lets hope so.
Summary and Opinion: This upcoming collection (out in April) of Empowered One Shots is not necessary for the overall narrative but does enhance the experience, provides cool stories, and throws in some teases for the future. So buy it because you still need it. Especially a must have for hardcore Empowered fans. There are six stories with guest art from Emily Warren (no relation to Adam), Ryan Kinnaird, John Staton, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Brandon Graham.
Favorite Stories: “Ten Questions With the Maid Man” is delightful. Maid Man is on a superhero talk show answering questions and Empowered is employing a ‘look its Maid Man!’ distraction technique to beat up bad guys. This one shot dropped after volume six so while Maid Man had become a supporting character this one shot was the first story really dedicated to him. Emily Warren brings her style to Maid Man and its bright and cute. If Warren’s manga-esque style leans to 80s anime Emily’s is inspired by shojo. Warren handles the Emp section’s with the same dynamite he always brings. I really dug this one and love how supporting Maid Man is of Emps career.
“Nine Beers With Ninjette” is the bets of the one shots and one of the best Emp stories overall. You don’t get anything new but it greatly expands the overall narrative of volume 7 which focused on Ninjette as well as putting more focus on the beauty of her friendship with Emp. Warren only handle the art on the four pages, a prologue of Emp reflecting on Ninjettes coolness and then jumps to Miyazawa’s penciled pages. Miyazawa I enjoyed on his few Runaways issues but this is my favorite thing he has done. His rendition of Ninjette might just be better than Warrens. The story follows Ninjette putting memories and emotions to each beer. She reflect on bonding with Emp or the memories of her alcoholic and abusive father. Its dark and beautiful. Warren’s script and Miyazawas art is a win-win.