Empowered^2

GN 17. Empowered Vol. 2 by Adam Warren. 203 p. Published September 2007.

The first volume of Empowered introduced us to “Empowered,” our trouble-prone heroine, her ex-henchman boyfriend Thugboy, and best-friend Ninjette. These three are joined by the “Caged Demonwolf,” a cosmic beast of destruction trapped in some alien-tech bondage gear, and The “Superhomeys” – the group of superheroes that routinely save Emp.

In Volume 2, we join Emp as she continues down the brave path of accident-prone heroine. And while some Superhomeys are coming to recognize her bravery, the majority of Heroes and Villains remain stubborn in their despise. Eventually both Demonwolf and Ninjette are fed up, and Ninjette dons Emp’s Supersuit in an effort to boost her reputation.

Meanwhile, Thugboy continues to sweat as dreams of his past threaten the happy life he’s found with Emp. Oblivious to Thugboy’s distress, Emp continues to dive in the line of fire. In the final chapter, “Fruity Flakes,” we learn a bit more about why Emp chose the superhero’s path after personal tragedy.

This second volume of Empowered shows Warren’s gift for taking a throw-away erotica character and developing a deep and lovable character. This volume develops Empowered and her world into an intriguing parallel of super-heroism. Embracing her (many) flaws, Emp exhibits a level of innocence and bravery rare among the Superhero genre. At the same time, her emotional investment in everything she does has gathered around her a cadre of reliable and dedicated friends who look up to her.

As with the first volume, this book is marked for Explicit Content.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Empowered

GN 13. Empowered Vol. 1 by Adam Warren. 246 p. Published March 2007.

The first volume of Empowered introduces “Empowered”, a superhero crippled by the fact that her power-granting super-suit is not only extremely revealing, but very damage prone. When whole, Emp’s suit gives her the strength of ten men. Tear it a little, and she’s rendered harmless. This happens far more often than anyone is happy about. But Emp keeps going, fighting crime and the occasional eccentric villain (and typically ending up as their hostage).

but just when Emp is getting sick of being ridiculed as the super-failure of the city, she makes a few friends to help her get by; a former henchman and a ninja assassin. With witty comments by the demon lord caged in her living room to add flavor, Emp’s social life begins to fuel her professional drive.

By the end of Empowered, Warren’s unique satire of the superhero genre becomes a witty and insightful account of heroism. From the conception as a scantily clad throw-away character, Empowered catalogs the creation and evolution of an amazing character. Coupled with Warren’s manga-inspired artwork (many consider this OEL Manga and it is found in the manga section), this first volume provides a stunningly raw vision to entrance the reader.

Oh, but a warning: every volume of this series is rated for Mature Content. With out-of-frame sex acts and conversations that frequently stray into similar realms, this one isn’t for your children.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Dramacon

GN 8. Dramacon, Volumes 1-3 by Svetlana Chmakova. Published October 2005.

I decided to review all three volumes of Dramacon at once.

In Volume 1, we meet Christie, the writer half of amateur comic Wary City. She, along with her artist and boyfriend Derek, are attending their first anime convention. Inundated with hotel problems, artist alley bugs, and general con madness, the pair are at each other’s throats. Christie storms away from their artist alley table to cool down and finds herself lost in the press of people. Panicking, she runs into Matt, a cosplayer and con regular, who helps her calm down and recenter herself. Her attraction to Matt is sudden and somewhat overpowering, but Christie reigns herself in and returns to her table in artist’s alley. But it turns out Matt’s sister has a table next to Christie’s and he is always nearby.

As the convention progresses, Christie makes a number of friends, including Matt’s sister and Lida, a premier manga creator, and discovers a few secrets along the way. Finally getting used to the con atmosphere, Christie must now focus on her conflicting emotions between Derek and Matt. But as things get heated, Christie is confronted with a situation beyond her worst nightmares that will change everything.

Volume 2 returns us to the same convention 1 year after the events of Volume 1. Christie, along with her new artist Bethany, returns to Yatta-Con and the artist’s alley. Now a veritable veteran, Christie feels herself falling into stride and helps Bethany overcome her con-shock. With the convention gearing up, Christie runs into two people she never thought she would – Lida, the manga creator and Emily, Matt’s new girlfriend. Shocked by Matt’s new relationship, Christie decides to check her emotions at the door and focus on promoting her comic. Meanwhile, Bethany is confronted by fans and deserters alike, forcing her to defend the artwork she has trouble believing in herself. But Lida comes to her rescue, and helps defuse a bad situation.

Christie and Bethany both progress through the con, challenging themselves both personally and professionally. Christie, Emily, and Matt are forced to confront their emotions while Bethany must come to terms with pursuing her art while attending college. The convention ends with no one happy and everyone having a lot to consider.

The 3rd volume begins with everyone happy. Now con-veterans, both Christie and Bethany settle into stride. Bethany’s artwork was chosen for the official convention shirt, bringing additional business. This volume jumps into the romance early on, with both Bethany and Christie pursuing their respective interests. Christie and Matt finally get together, but with Emily still around, things become awkward. Bethany becomes the focus for much of this issue, as her contention with her family over her career pursuits leads to a tragic turn of events.

Chmakova imbues all three volumes with bracing wit and lovable characters. Her satirical depiction of anime conventions is spot on, providing an entertaining read for anyone who has ever attended. Chmakova uses similar plot structure in each volume, with shocking twists providing a counterpoint that draws reality back into the convention atmosphere. The artwork is clear and enhances the plot line with its own amazing sense of humor. While each volume has a weakness, the overall story of Dramacon is enjoyable, even if some contend that it isn’t manga because it’s OEL.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews of Dramacon: Borderline Hikimori, Graphic Novels for Librarians, It Can’t All be About Manga