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Graphic Novel Review: Empowered Volume 2 by Adam Warren

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Post-modernism means never having to say you're sorry. Translation: you can basically get away with the most deplorable, un-reconstituted behaviour, as long as you do it under the guise of irony.

The '80s 'new man' part of me wants to be thoroughly appalled by Adam Warren's work, with its fun-filled depictions of hopelessly beautiful women and equally hunky men, losing their clothes in a 'Carry-On' style, frolicking sexily through their cosmic adventures. But there's another laissez-faire part of me that thinks, 'hey, it's just drawings'. How can anyone be offended or exploited by a few well-placed sweeps of line on paper? Surely no one screamed misogyny at Betty Boop?

But they did of course, and still do. Issues of misogyny in comics have always been around and are unlikely to go away. Comics, superhero comics in particular, have traditionally been aimed primarily at teenage boys, and there's very little on the planet hornier than a teenage boy, so it might be unsurprising that their depiction of women lack sophistication.

Nevertheless, comics today are meant to have grown up; they are an adult medium. Unfortunately there still seems to be a generous supply of scantily clad, ridiculously proportioned female forms on offer to the fanboys. Might this be that, despite the maturing of the medium, a significant proportion of the adults reading comics are the teenage boys who never grew up, forever hormonally challenged. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on the scantily clad, ridiculous proportioned muscle-men that the fanboys seem to like too.

You may say this is unfair upon the many serious creators working in comics today, Adam Warren included. You might argue that Adam Warren is not just a T&A artist, because he uses his writing to question his representations. With, say, J. Scott Campbell, or Frank Cho, it is easier to play the misogyny card, as they don't have the wit to justify their art. But ultimately, isn't a degrading image of a woman still a degrading image of a woman, even if you're making a joke about it?

I'm desperately trying not to have to answer that question in deciding if Adam Warren's latest release, the Empowered Volume 2 collection, is any good or not, but I just can't get away from it. Warren's art is very gorgeous, and I'd like to think you'd forgive a talent like his just about anything. His stories are funny, albeit in a knowing, nerdy way, and decent humour in comic books is actually a surprisingly rare thing these days.

But despite all this I still can't quite buy into this 'post-modernist' excuse for the nudity, bondage and degradation that is the core of his comedy. Didn't we do all that post-modernism crap back in the nineties? Ultimately, Empowered is just a one-joke comic, and the joke is probably (hopefully) a little anachronistic by now. Mr. Warren, please use your talents to draw something else.

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