Birthing baby spaceships is not an easy thing to do.
Story: Adam Warren
Pencils: Brandon Graham / Adam Warren
What They Say:
At the Purple Paladin Memorial Hospital’s terrifying Suprahuman Treatment Wing, Dr. Big McLarge Huge recruits costumed crimefighter Empowered and her best friend Ninjette to save a five-mile-wide alien mothership’s parasite-infested babyship—if, that is, our heroines can even survive the elevator ride up to the operating room!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’ll admit that I’m a bad Empowered fan in that while I absolutely adore the characters, I’m incredibly far behind in it when it comes to the books themselves. So when a new one-shot came through, I figured it was a good way to get the taste again which should inspire me to pull out the books I need to read once more. Adam Warren has long been a writer/artist that I’ve liked, going back to his early days with Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis, so I was always glad to see when he started in on some original material like Empowered and has worked at it for years, especially in how he shares some of his commentary online through Twitter about it that makes it even more compelling to engage with. With this special, we get something of a treat though as he provides the bookends to the story in terms of artwork while writing the whole thing, but bringing in Brandon Graham to do the bulk of it and give us Empowered in color form.
Because of my disconnect, I have no idea if this figures into anything in the ongoing continuity, but the premise is a fun one. After we get the obligatory cute recap page at the start, we essentially learn that a large portion of the planet is in danger as Emp and Ninajette are being called in to help with some emergency xenosurgery. With a massive alien behemoth ship in orbit that will destroy a good chunk of the world should its baby die, there’s plenty of incentive to get it done right. Why Emp and Ninjette? Well, why not? The quirky fun comes when the pair make their way to the hospital where there are a hundred and fifty floors, but anything above forty is in extradimensional space that can’t be seen, and most of them are not fit for human existence. Naturally, Emp has to get off on the wrong floor at least once, otherwise weird otherworldly comedy would not ensue.
The surgery aspect is a fun thing since the babyship is essentially a Tardis in a way in that it has endless space inside it, but is just a bit bigger than two people side by side. As the babyship gets older, it kind of reverses its spatial aspect as the inside gets smaller and the outside bigger until it can threaten whole worlds like its parent is doing. With it having an infection and parasites inside, the girls get lowered into its interior and have to face the weird and creepy things that exist there, which does include the body mirroring parasites. It has some good off kilter humor to it as we see the girls interact with them and come up with a way to make everyone happy, and the physical comedy naturally hits some good points as well, including the obvious and expect costume shredding that happens.
The one-shot has a lot of appeal in that we once again the kind of quirky and fast paced script that Warren does so well. But the interesting part is seeing how Brandon Graham does in presenting his interpretation of the characters, which is mostly limited to Emp and Ninjette. I’m admittedly a huge fan of Warren’s style, but comics and characters offer endless adaptations and interpretations. Graham does decent here with it, but since Warren is so distinctive, he has to go in a different direction altogether. The color aspect alone is kind of jarring in some ways, but it gives it a very “comic-strip” kind of feeling that works for the story at hand. It also goes for a lot more long shots and establishing pieces that doesn’t give the movement and action the kind of energy that Warren’s work usually does. In a way, it simply doesn’t feel as frenetic, and that’s a difficult loss for the characters because for me, that’s a big part of the charm in that it has so much energy.
One-shots are definitely good ways at exploring different ways of doing things and working with other people to tell standalone tales that are fun. This Empowered one shot has a pretty fun little script about it in general, though it doesn’t have any real impact in the long run one suspects. The fun comes in watching the two leads explore the weird alien interior while also going with it as a flashback since the Warren drawn pieces that bookend it put it in that fashion. Brandon Graham does a good job here with what he has, but I kept coming back to the fact that his style just isn’t suited for Empowered and in his own way isn’t distinctive enough with what he does to really make a strong personal take on it. It’s a fun book, if light, that definitely has nudged me back to the trades that I need to get through.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 26th, 2014