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Empowered & Sistah Spooky’s High School Hell #3- Review

Adam Warren lets other artists play with his creation, Empowered. Whenever a creator does so, we see how strong his stories are. I was drawn to this series when I saw Carla Speed McNeil attached to it. I didn’t delve into the first two issues, because life got in the way and all.

Empowered & Sistah Spooky’s High School Hell #3

Writer: Adam Warren
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
Colorist: Jenn Manley Lee
Cover Artist: Carla Speed McNeil

Publication Date: February 21, 2018
FC, 32 pages; Miniseries
Price: $3.99

Narrowly escaping death by music class singing competition, Empowered and Sistah Spooky hit a new low in their hellscape ordeal when they stumble into . . . THE LADIES’ ROOM! While a trapped Emp drowns in her own tears in a bathroom stall, can Spooky avoid being shattered–literally!–by a Hell-powered magic mirror?

* First Empowered comic book series in standard comics format.

* Carla Speed McNeil is the Eisner Award-winning creator of Finder.

I’ve written about Empowered before and how it strikes me as a meta take on modern comic books. This series doesn’t seem to be going as deep as that. It is an entertaining bit of development of one of Emp’s supporting cast. Sistah Spooky has shown hints of a history that is deeper and richer than anyone would expect. The story is extra strong in it’s simplicity, yet it retains the humor needed to keep this of having the feel of the core series. I enjoyed this issue entirely on it’s own and for the third part of mini-series, that is impressive.

The script doesn’t get as meta as the last volume of Empowered did, but this story seems to have a purpose of its own, so that’s not too much of a detriment. It’s like saying, “It was really good, but not life-changing.” I don’t expect Empowered to change something deep inside of me. I want it to entertain me, and this does so without offending me, which is more than I can say of the average comic book in shops today.

Carla Speed McNeil is an artists that can get me to notice any book. She can add detail without distracting from the main action. Her environments feel real, and that’s a challenge for most artists. She does all of this with a style that hearkens back to decades of influence. The only problem that I initially had was pushing Emp’s mask up to show her eyes the entire time. Upon a second reading, I realized this may have been to accommodate the crying scene that is so vital at the end of the book, so I don’t mind it so much. 

It looks as if Carla Speed McNeil is working from Adam Warren’s layouts, much like she did on the cover. It still looks like her work, but the pages retain that familiar feel of an Empowered story. That helps immensely, much more than some other efforts with guest artists. We can top all of this off with Jenn Manley Lee’s coloring. I’m so used to seeing these characters in black and white, it’s nice to see colors that enhance and don’t distract from the artwork. It’s especially refreshing when the artwork in question belongs came from Carla Speed McNeil.

Preview Pages:
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(Preview pages taken from Dark Horse’s website)

Final rating: 8.5 (out of 10) I expect so much out of this series after Empowered #9. I don’t fault this issue for not living up to those standards, but it has set the bar high. Regardless, this is an excellent comic.