Review: Empowered Unchained

This week, Dark Horse released a collection of specials from Adam Warren’s series Empowered, about a super-heroine known less for her successes and more for her failures, namely her propensity to get tied up by super-villains. Adam Warren has built a entire world of super-heroes around this characters exploits, some by dipping into archetypes and some taking ideas and giving them a humorous twist. The book is definitely for mature readers, Dark Horse recommends ages 16 and up, so be warned that some content is very mature, of a sexual nature, although no explicit nudity is shown and several curse words are censored.


Writer:Adam Warren
Penciller: Adam Warren
Artists: Emily Warren, Ryan Kinnaird, John Staton, Takeshi Miyazawa, Brandon Graham
Colorists: Emily Warren, Ryan Kinnaird, Brandon Graham, GURU eFX
Cover Artist: Adam Warren, Rob Porter
$19.99 / Age range: 16+

With every Empowered Special collected under one vast roof, Empowered Unchained sprays a shrapnel salvo of sizzling superhero satire, written by the almighty Adam Warren and illustrated by Warren and comicdom’s most feared makers of pictures heroic! Featuring grave-robbing supervillains! Broom-swinging vigilantes! Slutty cyberangels! Animal crimebots! Boozy ninja! Angry spaceships! And more!

Empowered looks like one of those books that’s all-cheesecake, with an excuse to draw scantily clad super-heroines in demeaning poses. Adam Warren does try to work some context into all of that, and in the process makes Empowered an admirable character that I’m rooting for generally in life, although it’s obvious that the deck is stacked against her.

This collection features stories drawn by other artists, giving us a different take on the Empowered characters, which is refreshing. In this issue, we really get a good sense of Ninjette and Empowered, and a previously unexplored character named Maidman. In my opinion, the best of the stories is Ninjette’s tale, which gives a detailed origin along with giving us some admirable views of Empowered through Ninjette’s eyes. It’s definitely one of the best friendships I’ve seen in comics since Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew. The other great story in this issue is the Maidman story which weaves into a literal tale of the cross-dressing vigilante using a television interview as part of his war on criminals, and shows how well Adam Warren can weave a super-hero plot.

The choice of artists works well with Adam Warren’s style with two exceptions, and their stories are so strong that after the second or third page, you don’t even care anymore. Emily Warren’s Maidman story is so good that the difference in art styles is not an issue, and the same should be said for Brandon Graham’s story “Internal Medicine” which makes use of his style. Both stories have pages that act as bracers by Adam Warren, which help ground the stories in his Empowered world so they don’t seem disposable.

If you like tongue-in-cheek cheesecake, irreverent humor, and strongly made parodies of the super-hero genre, than you should probably already be picking up Empowered. If you get easily offended by cheesecake, fetishist imagery involving female characters, and overt sexuality in comics, then don’t bother, it’s not the book for you.