Considering the amount of time I've devoted to the titans of the comic industry Marvel and D.C. Although it's not as though I've made some painfully obvious favouritism towards one of the two, *cough* *cough* *DC* *cough*. But I thought I should give some attention to comics from the little, rather strange, brother of the comic heavy hitters Dark Horse. Known for comics such as Buffy, Star Wars and Angel. This is also on the heels of some of my feminist rants for Tarot Witch of the Black Rose, I can talk about a comic that uses female sexuality well. Empowered. It has the main female lead being tied and gaged as Tarot but does it in a way that doesn't make me want to hunt down the author and drop him in a room of blood thirsty feminists dressed in a shirt that reads 'If your here, whose cooking me dinner?' The reason for this is that the author Adam Warren has a distinctly tongue in cheek style of writing that only leaves me to wonder how many jokes he would have made about the phrase 'tounge in cheek'. The fact that the main character is continuously tied and gaged is a joke amongst her other superheros.
Elissa is the main character, and inspired by the death of her dad when she was a child she has become a super hero, through means unknown she has ascertained a super suit that allows her super strength as well as a few other powers. The skin tight suit however looses power if it is damaged in any way and while it can stand up to showers of bullets but can rip easily and often does. As such she is often rendered powerless and captured by, well, everybody. Unlike Tarot, please forgive me but this comparison will pop up a lot, she is not a self confident character, she is plagued by body images and insecurities. Elissa, nicknamed Empowered, or Emp for short, does not want to be wearing only the skin tight suit but cannot wear anything under or over it as that then negates the power of the suit or gives her visible pantie lines. Despite often being captured and humiliated, both by the villains, and her fellow superheros. Including the more goth looking Sistah Spooky, we find out this is because of her own past insecurities. Emp is always willing to stand up and fight again. She is someone who has a power that is very unreliable yet will still try to be the best hero she can be. Granted there is a point where you really must ask whether she is planning on changing career paths at some point. But she has had moment where it appears as though she may grow into the roll, as well as being seen actively training and trying to improve. This is another thing that sets her apart from Tarot who despite being continuously tied, gagged and milked (no, really) she never seems to learn anything new or even feel as though she has to do better. Emp is a student of the superhero. She has room to grow and the desire to do so.
Elissa has a strong support network, although not a first, her boyfriend and friend are introduced and play off each other like a real world relationship. Ignoring the super powers and super villains. When I look at the boyfriend I again feel myself wanting to make the Tarot comparison, John, the apparent gender swap of the Tarot books is weaker than Tarot and often finds himself in perilous situations. He however is rarely rescued by Tarot. Which is one of the entire points about the gender swap, if you are having a male in the traditional damsel in distress role than he needs to be saved by the female protagonist. But John is not, he is either saved by himself or random other characters, and more often than not is saving Tarot because Jim Balent, the author, has a fascination with trying to be the knight in shinning armour to big busted witches in bikinis' who keep shouting about how they can protect themselves but never can. Thugboy, Elissa's boyfriend, is shown to be able to protect himself. And when he gives emotional support to Elissa it is believable. The relationship between the two of them seems to be the right mix of respect for her skills and a manly desire to protect her.
The drawing is very reminiscent of Manga, not a problem for me as I was reading Manga long before I started reading comics. For fans of a more Western drawing style though shouldn't just dismiss it. A common criticism of Manga is that it over simplifies facial structures and uses a more, shall we say, cartoonish. Empowered is beautifully drawn, if you are not a fan of Manga you may have some difficulty getting into the art style but I would recommend that you do at lease give it a try.
All this may make you think Empowered is without its flaws and is some kind of feminist polemic. It is not. It is still an excuse to draw women in revealing clothes or nothing at all as well as playing to the bondage crowd. It is saved by the fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything other than this, as well as a healthy mix of humor. Some of the jokes can get a little repetitive, but that may be because I attempted to read more than one volume in a single sitting. I'm still on volume 2 and if my opinion changes I shall inform you but for the moment Empowered is an enjoyable mix of adult humour, beautiful art, a real self-awareness and just a lot of fun.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.