I know as much about ‘manga’ as I do about ‘bukake’. That is to say, very little beyond a general definition and a mild curiosity of why there is an interest in either. So, if Astro Boy, DragonBall Z, and Japanese kink porn is your thing, then my opinions or diagnosis may mean very little. After a small amount of research (on manga), I found it has quite a history in Japanese culture, with several subsets and genres. Apparently the term can simply be defined as “whimsical pictures”. This makes much sense, because I always found the artwork overtly whimsical. They always implied too much innocence for me. I couldn’t grasp a big doe-eyed hero or heroine overcoming an obstacle either physical or mental in that genetic state. While diving further into my manga mystery, however, I find that traditionally these comics focus on a featuring of intense emotional scars within their characters. Have I underestimated and misjudged the merits of the Pokemon phenomena? Perhaps, I should have looked into ‘redikomimanga comics which are aimed at an adult woman audience or even ‘seijin’ directed toward the adult male. Upon great stumbling luck I find, “Empowered: Deluxe Edition I”, by Adam Warren, an American who draws with manga influence in the seijin and redikomi style, heavy on the redikomi.
“Empowered” is the tale of Elissa Megan Powers, commonly referred to as Emp, a trial member of the crime fighting team the ‘Super Homeys’. Stay with me, I almost closed Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 after learning of this groups name myself. Emp’s abilities completely rely on her super-suit, a ‘hyper-membrane’ of unknown origin that fits her frame like tissue spandex, has almost symbiotic qualities of ever-changing, ever-varying powers and is easily destroyed and torn apart by her foes. The durability issue of the suit leaves, Emp, frequently at the disposal of her enemies, consistently tied up and ball-gagged ninety-percent naked, continually forced to be rescued. These repeated occurrences of inadequacy and bare skin do nothing for Emp’s low self-esteem and body issues, much less the value the Super Homey’s place on her membership in the clan. Allow me to add here that, Ms. Powers, has a body that would tempt a 13 year old boy into taking this comic into the restroom and letting the faucet run for a few minutes with the way she is drawn. He wouldn’t be combing his hair, and he wouldn’t be forced to use much imagination. So, why does Emp have body issues? I’ve stopped trying to completely understand women, so in this case study and all the rest I have decided to just accept. Emp, albet fragile, does have spirit in her desire to be useful and relevant to society regardless of her insecurities, however. She struggles on and finds a lover in a henchman of one of her enemies, and a friend in a female ninja from New Jersey. Through these bonds of friendship and sex, Emp’s suit and therefore abilities gain strength. The growing of Emp’s self-perception and the storyline are entwined like the super-suit and her own body. Once she becomes stronger as an individual, the frequency of her bondage declines.
“Empowered” may have the ability to grow on the reader. Adam Warren’s un-toned, grayscale artwork is sharp, an almost American blend of manga to an unfamiliar eye. It’s flashy, crisp, detailed and fast. While almost sophomoric in its nature of detailing the human body, it is no more fantastical than the fact that I can’t walk out my own front door without acknowledging a breast implant. The writing isn’t brainy, it’s witty, and Adam Warren’s dialogue does a fine job at poking fun at itself. The characters are diverse and uniquely humorous. “Empowered: Deluxe Edition 1” is lighthearted sexy fun, which apparently was born out of Warren’s previously hired assignment of drawing half naked subjugated manga chicks for who I have no idea. Making something out of what I understand for him to be nothing. For that, kudos. I’m going in for a second read. Hopefully, this time without the half chub.
Hugo Schoen

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