These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Willy Petewas a man once and is now a fire elemental. But he still has a man's appetites and satisfies them with rape and killing, which, in his case, are one and the same, thanks to his constantly superheated body. And, as we later learn, through cannibalism. Because all normal food is incinerated on contact with him, he resorts to eating superheroes/villains. The worst part is that he doesn't even need to eat'; he just does it because he likes the taste. Oh, and he still manages to top himself at the end of volume five via instant death of ten supers, followed by throwing as much fire as he could through the portal they came through without even knowing what was on the other end, thereby forcing Emp and Mindfuck into a Sadistic Choice from hell?
Now that he's actually been shown as something other than a vaguely defined "heavy hitter" of a supervillain, Deathmonger. Killing Superheroes in the world of Empowered is bad enough. But then Volume 6 tells us that the only reason he kills them is to see if they're one of the few who come back to life after getting killed. If they do, he enslaves them with his superscience and necrotech to serve him however he wants. Forever. The worst part is, he leaves most of them fully conscious of what has happened, but unable to do anything to help themselves. There's really no other category for someone who decapitates a still presumably conscious hero, turns where his head was into a mobile command center, then forces him to use his indestructible severed skull as a weapon. To top that, though, he did it again to said hero's sister who came to try and rescue him. For extra evil, it's implied that Deathmonger doesn't even need them conscious to control them. If there's enough of them left to be aware, he seems to just prefer them conscious. For such a lighthearted series, Empowered sure manages to get a lot of brutal villains.
Ninjette's father. In the span of 'Jette's lifetime, he has beat her senseless on several occasions under the pretense of training, repeatedly undermined her self esteem and made it so she was unnaturally weary of forming interpersonal relationships. When he betrothed his daughter to a Dirty Old Man of an allied clan, Ninjette tried to lose her virginity (the deal was for a virgin bride) but her clan was too frightened of her father to take her up on the offer. Instead, she slept with her childhood friend who was prince of an allied clan. Her father's reaction was to slaughter his bodyguard, castrate the prince and stuff that in his mouth before ripping his head off, fully knowing there'd be a war. He then proceeded to beat his daughter so she couldn't participate. Or piss without blood. Or eat solid food. To top it off, he's been shown as raping a genin around his daughter's age and is hellbent on dragging his runaway daughter back to the clan without hands or feet to serve as a broodmare.
Crack Ship: The author himself has stated that he didn't expect the relationship between Ninjette and the Caged Demonwolf to become so... supportive.
Fan Disservice: Don't even get started on the Ninjette bondage at the end of Volume 3... Let's just say that the Fetish Fuel is pretty effectively killed by the fact that she's in very real danger. We like Ninjette. We want her to keep her limbs.
Fetish Retardant: Getting tied up in serious situations makes bondage a SERIOUS turn-off for Emp and ThugBoy.
Hurt/Comfort Fic: "Not Always Perfect." Generally a large part of Thugboy and Emp's relationship.
Iron Woobie: Emp takes all the horrible luck and daily humiliation brought about by her unreliable supersuit. She cries, moans, bitches, gets scared... and then she will get back up again, because she is a hero.
Les Yay: Ninjette towards Empowered. And Three-Drink Bisexual Emp towards Ninjette, or Maternal Instinct Emp towards Ninjette. Also, Sistah Spooky and Mindf██k, though those two actually HAD been together.
Most blatant example yet is when Emp is kidnapped by a brother/sister team. The sister strips her, though that's par for the course there. When she gawks at her paipan, gropes her boobs, slaps Emp on the arse, climbs into the trunk with her (to make sure she doesn't get out. Suuure), then starts caressing her and says that she's her favourite, we're heading straight past Les Yay and on to Les Could It Be Any More Obvious.
Worth remembering, though, that Emp was essentially being kidnapped and forced into that situation pretty much from the very start. While it's pretty obvious what was on her kidnapper's mind, Emp herself never expresses her feelings on the matter, making it difficult to draw any conclusions.
One-sided, unwritten-rules-breaking Les Yay counts. *cough*Noncon*cough*
As with most things, this happens in-universe as well. Apparently there's a fairly sizable Empowered x Sistah Spooky fanbase (apparently for the exact reasons there'd be one out-of-universe: antagonism = hot sex). Empowered is quite annoyed at discovering said fiction, and has to use the "Well that's different!" defense when it's pointed out that she's an ardent fan of slashfic involving male heroes.
Moe: Empowered. Part of what attracted ThugBoy to her in their first encounter.
OT3: The series keeps dancing on the edge of making the three main characters (Emp, ThugBoy, and Ninjette) into an outright threesome. Emp is a three-drink bisexual who hits on Ninjette when drunk, Ninjette is barely able to hide her attraction to ThugBoy ("Aieee! Me canoe be swampin"!). Not sure if Ninjette has ever shown any attraction to Emp or ThugBoy to Ninjette, but it wouldn't take much prompting. Anyone's guess if this ends up as a love triangle or a ménage à trois... but the Demonwolf definitely has an opinion on how it SHOULD BE.
And for additional rampant speculation fuel, witness Volume 5 in which Ninjette encounters a fellow (female) ninja disguised as ThugBoy, who proceeds to passionately kiss her until detected. Ninjette then claims the disguise was obvious because the ninja "kisses like a girl". A) This is yet more evidence that Ninjette has some interest in ThugBoy and B) Saying someone kisses like a girl implies the speaker actually knows what it's like to kiss a girl! So... yeah.
Ninjette's done more than kiss a girl: a little earlier in that Vol. 5 story, we learn that Ninjette consummated a woman's marriage disguised as her new husband.
Oh, ThugBoy's attracted to Ninjette: seeing her drop her panties or having her cuddle up against him gets his elephant trumpeting.
And then there is 'Jette's flushed contemplation on how sexy Emp is. It seems all the linkages are there.
Willy Pete, a man-turned-fire-elemental, whose gig so far is forcing people to give him optical sex — reminder: his body is made of supernaturally hot fire. ("Willy Pete" is military slang for white phosphorus.) In Vol. 4 it turns out he likes to eat superheroes and supervillains, because normal human flesh incinerates the second it gets close to his mouth. Gah. What is optical sex you ask? Being skullfucked to death via the eye socket. BY A MAN ON FIRE. Oh, and by the way, he doesn't need to eat, he's just that sick.
Mindf██k's background. She was telepathically forced by her insane brother to use rusty kitchen shears to cut off her tongue. Then he made her gouge out her eyes. He would have given her nose and ears a trim too, if she hadn't been restrained. The worst part is that he thought he was helping. *shiver*
This is toyed with during the Downer Ending of vol. 5. No matter the circumstance, seeing someone telepathically forced to walk into a hole in the floor, despite being fully conscious and begging the telepath doing so to stop is viscerally terrifying. The fact that the "hole" in question was a single-use escape portal on a space station about to burn up on reentry (both the telepath and the victim were well aware remaining behind would be a death sentence for the former, which was why the latter was screaming and crying) did not help.
Earlier in that chapter, Mindf██k's description of the "encounter" between Willy Pete and the Superhomies who went to ambush him.
Mindf██k:Oh god... their thoughtstreams... raw agony... they're burning... they're DYING...! Divangelic... Vanity's already gone... Charity's dying... now Charity's gone too...! Homunculoid's gone... Katana's gone...
In vol. 4, dWarf! cuts up Wet Blanket and puts his flesh in the Superhomies' food. Sick.
Volume 6. The headless corpses of two giant super beings used as vehicles by a necromantic supervillain, who forces them to use their own skulls as weapons. Emp remembering nearly drowning in her own snot the first time she was gagged and then being buried alive. And a description of what may or may not be happening to Mindf██k's soul in Hell.
Spooky's ghastly, magically-inducedfake grin. Underneath, she's falling apart, but on the surface — happy* happyhappyhappyhappyAAAAGH.
Ninjette's story of how she lost her virginity in Vol 7 ends with her drunk father standing over her carrying her lover's head stuffed with the kid's own genitals. Her father mentions he slaughtered the boy's clan members to get to him and that they're currently at war against their closet allies.A war which Ninjette won't be participating due to not being able to walk, eat solid food or piss without blood after he's done with her.
Hollywood Pudgy: Somewhat subverted, considering Emp is drawn like most comic superheroines boob- and booty-wise, yet she still considers herself chubby as all get out. Lampshaded when another character dismisses this as "grenade-fishing for compliments".
The Scrappy: You won't find too many people who like Major Havoc.
Yup. And you can add Ninjette & Caged Demonwolf. The author himself has said he didn't expect her relationship with the Caged Demonwolf to develop so much. Example: He notices she's drinking more (pointing out that she's breaking her own rules of drinking) after a horribly close call and reassures her that her friends won't abandon her. Even if it's because he wants to see her in her tight shorts once more.
When Volume 7 hits, he takes a break from his usual speaking style to talk to her gently (which she won't remember because she's blackout drunk, and has happened before) about how his memories of her will live on past the end of the universe and into the next one.
Sistah Spooky may be a snide bitch, but she's an absolute wreck in v.6; it's hard to watch.
Anglerfish, who laments on the murder of his son (Kid Anglerfish), Katastrophe, and Baby Bird and how the Superhomeys didn't care just because they were villains.
Mindf██k, who essentially mindraped herself in order to force herself to be a good person. To make matters even more tragic, this contributes to her reasoning behind her Heroic Sacrifice: Empowered is a genuinely good person, whereas Mindf██k (in her mind) isn't because she had to force herself to be one.