Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Empowered Volume 6 (2010)

Yay! For the first time in several years, I'm finally all caught up with Empowered volumes! Of course, that volume shipped late last year, with ever widening gaps between editions, and I actually started reading this a few months ago? Well, not boded.

The last volume was excellent, and I began reading this one in hopes of a nice opening chapter or two during a study break. Thirty-eight pages later (43 if you count the prologue,) I thought I was at least done with the aftermath of the death and destruction of the previous epic. Emp caught her usual unfair amount of shit, Major Havok was even more loathsome than usual, Sistah Spooky is emotionally devastated, and the dead walk the fucking Earth. Well, that was intense in an unexpected and not entirely desirable way. So hey, how about another fourteen pages of Emp and her boyfriend fighting about her near deadly last adventure, to really wring the soap opera out of the preceding events? Argh! But wait, there's more! Twenty-five pages of funerals, extended consequences, grim foreshadowing, emotional tumult, and two guest pages of yaoi porn by Jo Chen and Emily Warren.

It isn't until page 91 that there's a serious attempt to progress into new territory, which still amounts to Marvel Zombies/Blackest Night on Empverse terms. It isn't as much of a retread as that might sound, since a lot of the undead characters are pretty cool "fresh" faces, plus Emp's low key secret origin gets thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, the next chapter spends thirty-two pages satisfying the bondage fiends with unfunny funny sexcapades. In a volume that was already sour, overwrought, random and atonal, it feels completely out of place.

As has become the standard, the final chapter is an extended epic that attempts to draw all the loose strands together for a rousing finish. It only half succeeds. The premise is solid, but it all feels rushed and poorly thought out. Instead of startlingly well orchestrated callbacks, references to earlier chapters seem forced or obvious. I felt like a boss villain with potential kind of got thrown under the bus. Emp gets a moment of glory that doesn't feel earned, in part because it doesn't fully make sense, and seems to be generated out of contrivance. The book does end with a bit of "ohhh, shit" foreshadowing, but not necessarily the one folks were expected to get. I'm almost dreading a return visit from a group of villains I'd hoped would stay gone indefinitely, but I'm hoping Thugboy supplies a twist in the near future.

I hate to get on Adam Warren's case. When it's good, Empowered is one of the best books on the market, and even off volumes like this one display one of the most fertile imaginations since Jack Kirby. Part of the problem is that Warren sets the bar so high. The other part is that when he's not bringing it, you're staring down a couple hundred pages of sloppily unmet expectations and fatiguing indulgence.

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