Review: Empowered – Animal Style (One-Shot)

The thing that is absolutely brilliant about the Empoweredseries is that while it makes fun of the typical cheesecake female comic hero, it also relies on the trope… but then also completely decimates the trope at the same time. It’s like a fucking magic trick! Who the hell doesn’t like magic? People that are dead inside that’s who. In all seriousness though… what the fuck is up with Emp’s nose on the cover? I’m all about Warren’s style, but that is not very appealing. Otherwise it’s a great issue that you should just shut up and buy. The events of the issue are actually easy to sum up. Emp has taken a job as a night watchman at an alternate timeline superhero auto show that has come under attack by a group of… anthropomorphic animal bots. They’re goal is to steal cars in order to sell the high value material. Emp begins taking the unorganized team out one by one while trying to avoid detection. Pretty simple right? Too bad that’s not what’s happening in this story.

Really what’s happening is a case study in the efficiency of super heroics and gender inequality. Let me explain; while Emp is running around taking down the baddies, there are pages of her breaking the fourth wall as she talks about her Suprahuman Studies course from College. It’s a flashback in which she explains her different take on what she would do more efficiently to stop crime. We flash forward and see her college ideas being put to work. Instead of smashing one of the baddies with an entire car she removes the hood and smashes it over their head and then beats them with the axel. For the second one she just beats him with an engine block increasing her strength with each hit. It’s actually quite brilliant and shows Emp’s intelligence as the series pokes fun at the unrealistic nature of superhero battles.

As with every Empowered story, there is humor. The villains are fighting in leased suits and didn’t get the warranty. They’re constantly harassed by pop-ups offer the warranty and warning them when something is damaged outside of the warranty. The issue also ends in typically Emp fashion, in that she gets bound and gagged, but still saves the day even if luck plays a role in everything.

Empowered Special Animal Style CoverWhat struck me the most about this issue was the writing and in particular the flashbacks. Maybe it’s because I Haven’t read a lot of Empowered or maybe it’s that Warren has changed the intention of the series to be more of a commentary on the super hero genre, rather than a spoof that still deals with the characters on a personal level. The flashbacks were very intelligent and pointed out a factual problem with most female superheroes in comics. Granted it’s gotten better over the past year as more and more people have taken notice of how female characters are treated, but really it’s still there if you take a hard look at it. Warren does and his writing should be commended for it.

Other than the strange noses that Warren draws on the cover and in the flashbacks, the art is spectacular. John Staton handles the art duties on the main storyline and he draws a wide range of objects and characters. There’s Emp, the robot animal suits and the huge range of vehicles. Top that all off with a ton of action sequences that are both original and easy to follow and you have yourself one heck of a visual. The coloring is also fantastic and I’m enjoying colored Emp a lot, but still enjoy the black and white version as well.

At the end of the year we look at one-shots and decide what the best are. It’s always difficult because there are so many great one-shots throughout the year, but this book has taken my personal top pick. It’s humorous while still making commentary on a very important subject matter in the comic industry. It’s masterfully produced and with the writing and art working in perfect harmony. This is by far one of the best issues of 2013. If you’re familiar with Empowered then like me this was a no brainer to pick up, but if you’ve never tried the series out this is a great place to start.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist: Adam Warren

Artist: John Staton

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 6/5/13