Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ms. Empowered

It goes to show how tired and overworked I am that it took me two weeks from reading about Dr. Doom's recent out-of-character comments to Ms. Marvel specifically when revisted when John Byrne rewrote the dialogue for his blog, that I finally made the above connection. I've been reading and very much enjoying Adam Warren's "Empowered" series since I came across preview pages at CBR many months before release of the the first volume. The short story of her creation was the Warren came up with a generic super-heroine for a serious of BDSM commissions, developed sympathy for her plight, and began developing a personality and backstory for the character he shared with friends. Single images became short comic strips which snowballed into an actual narrative about a well-intentioned "super-chica." The ironically named "Empowered" suffers from a complete absence of self-esteem and an abusive circle of "Superhomeys," which leads her into one compromising situation after another in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and unappreciated potential. She's a sort of sexualized Charlie Brown, inescapably sympathetic and adorable while frustratingly incapable of moving beyond her circumstances. It's a great book about one of the best realized female personalities in comics, if you can get past the bondage, violence, exploitation and generally wretched souls to find the absurdist humor and biting social commentary.

Speaking of which, we return to Brian Michael Bendis' over-the-top dialogue and the impact on Ms. Marvel's ego, a situation consistently mined for humor in "Empowered," to examples given above. In light of his recent handling of Tigra, readers crying "misogyny" can be forgiven for missing what should have been an obvious swipe. Our heroine is a derivative super-wannabe viewed as a place-holder amongst her more popular crime fighting "betters." She has flowing blonde hair, a blue-black costume, and serious issues. She wears a less-than-concealing face mask, an angular yellow chest icon, and can't seem to avoid bearing more skin than in appropriate in her chosen field. How power levels are in no way consistent, ranging from awe-inspiring to virtually nonexistent, typically leading her to become battlefield fodder despite high aspirations. Quick-- did I just describe Ms. Marvel or Empowered? In the featured story, Carol Danvers is even in seriously tattered gear, an Empowered necessity. So what I'm saying ism amidst all this moral indignation, let's not forget to call a swipe a swipe, eh?

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