I talked in a couple of posts about my enthusiasm for the first volume of Adam Warren’s Empowered.

I still enjoyed the second volume; Adam Warren’s manga-fetish art remains sexy; the gags are still funny (a 2nd-rate supervillain called the king of time who can’t actually control time, so instead hits people with clocks is a highlight); the characterization is still thoughtful and charming. Nonetheless, there are a couple of ominous trends. In particular, Warren keeps trying to explain stuff that really would maybe be better left unexplained. For instance, there’s a sequence where Empowered explains that her suit rips so easily, robbing her of her powers, because of her own lack of self-confidence; it’s a metaphor for her frayed ego, y’see.

Similarly, Warren seems to have a really unfortunate weakness for tragic backstories. Emp, we learn, had a dad who died of a brain tumor; Emp’s friend Ninjette has issues involving her childhood rejection by her ninja clan; Emp’s friend Thugboy also seems to be hiding some sort of tragic past which looks to be leading nowhere good. Part of what was delightful in the first volume was way Warren balanced treating the characters as gag punchlines and treating them as human beings. As the run goes on, he seems to be tipping more towards serious interpersonal drama, which would be okay if he was willing to actually take the time to do characterization rather than using the personal trauma shortcut.

I’m definitely still planning to get all of these, and I have hopes that things will improve again. But if this is the road we’re going down, I fear #1 may end up being my favorite of the series.

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