The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 143 | Empowered, Deluxe Edition Hardcover, Vol. 2 review

Leaving Proof 143 | Empowered, Deluxe Edition Hardcover, Vol. 2 review
Published on Saturday, August 25, 2012 by
The second hardcover collection of Adam Warren’s Empowered made it to comics shop and bookstore shelves earlier this month. Read our full review of the gargantuan 650+ page volume right here!

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Unusual-but-credible approach combining superhero action, satire, and excellent “cheesecake”-style art.
  • Great depth of characterization and a growing emphasis on continuity-driven stories.
  • Numerous, in-depth, exclusive behind-the-scenes extras provide valuable insight into Warren’s creative process.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: August 2012
  • Story, Art, and Lettering by: Adam Warren
  • Linguistic assistance by: Tomoko Saito and Mark Miyake
  • Yaoi art by: Emily Warren and Jo Chen
  • Cover colors by: Joe Welt Jens for GURUeFX
  • Empowered logo by: Eugene Wang
  • Format: 656 page black and white hardcover with full-color interior sections. Collects material from Empowered, Vols. 4–6, originally published by Dark Horse Books in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
  • List Price: $59.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Recommended age range: Ages 16+
  • Availability: On sale now

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Full Review

Not familiar with Adam Warren’s Empowered? Get caught up by reading the following pieces from us before going on to read the review:

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In my February 2012 review of Empowered, Deluxe Edition Hardcover, Vol. 1, I called into question the ultimate prudence of Warren’s approach to the portrayal of the eponymous female superhero. There is a very fine line between parody and exploitation, and I openly wondered if Warren hadn’t inadvertently crossed that demarcation at least a few times in the stories compiled in that collection. I’m quite happy to say that those concerns are largely irrelevant in the second hardcover collection of the popular graphic novel series. The changes in Warren’s approach to Empowered‘s writing and themes might seem like drastic, overnight developments to those just getting into the title via the hardcover collections, but the evolution of his work into a more credible superhero parody/”cheesecake” art hybrid actually occurred organically and deliberately over the span of two years and some 900+ pages spread out over the series’ first four graphic novel volumes. Empowered isn’t just a “sexy superhero comedy” anymore, it’s a fleshed out and internally consistent (and still sexy) superhero action-comedy with strong satirical overtones.

One of the biggest changes readers will be likely to notice when it comes to the writing is the book’s greater emphasis on continuity-driven stories. The occasional one-off gag strip still shows up, but there is clearly a lot more attention paid to on-going plot and persistent character development in the stories from volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the original graphic novel series. The underscoring of characterization also introduces another welcome—if more subtle—change: Warren’s addressing of certain “hot button” issues, such as female body image problems and the emotionally-stunted portrayal of women in superhero comics, is significantly less transparent this time around and the result is a much more enjoyable, immersive, and compelling reading experience compared to that provided by the previous hardcover volume. The depth of the characterization is considerable especially in light of the book’s satirical underpinnings, a genre that normally relies on heavy-handed and one-dimensional caricatures to drive points across to the reader at the cost of more naturalistic character development and interaction.

The art, as readers have come to expect from Warren, is excellent. The visual storytelling is wildly dynamic but easy-to-follow and Warren has a flair for packing detail in each black-and-white panel without making it appear cluttered. Part of this stems from his mastery of line-widths and implied lighting but most of it is due to Warren’s excellent knack for panel composition: The subject of each panel is almost always positioned in such a way that the reader’s eye is naturally drawn to it, and all the background and foreground details as well as the dialogue-balloon placement serve the purpose of highlighting the panel subject.

The volume is packed with numerous, in-depth, exclusive behind-the-scenes extras that provide valuable and entertaining insight into Warren’s creative process. Long-time readers who already have their copies of Empowered, vols. 4–6 might want to sell or donate those books to make space for the deluxe edition hardcover on their bookshelves.

The deluxe nature of this book (and the sticker price that comes with it) makes it a draw primarily for the dyed-in-the-wool Adam Warren and Empowered fan. Be that as it may, newer readers who want to take the plunge into the graphic novel series should strongly consider picking up the deluxe Empowered hardcover collections—they sell for only a little more than the individual graphic novels taken together, and the  exclusive behind-the-scenes features as well as the assured long-term durability of the hardcover format should make up for the remaining difference in cost. Highly recommended.

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