Josh Wilding Reviews: SPANDEX: FAST AND HARD By Martin Eden
Spandex: Fast and Hard goes on sale in the UK tomorrow and on Tuesday in the US from Titan Books. You can read my review of Martin Eden's graphic novel, which tells the story of the world's first all-gay superhero team, right here.
Prowler, Liberty, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles, Diva — all superpowered, all British, and the first all gay super-hero team there ever was! Created by independent creator Martin Eden, Spandex charts the highs and lows of a group of Brighton-based heroes, doing battle with 50-foot lesbians, a group of deadly pink ninjas, as well as their own complicated love lives! Packed with pop culture references, nods to classic comics and chock-full of humour and drama, Spandex is a super-hero book like no other! This is the very first collection of Martin Eden’s award-nominated comic and collects Spandex #1-3, plus bonus material!
If the reaction from some comic book fans to the announcement of Northstar and Kyle's wedding in the pages of Marvel's Astonishing X-Men #51 is anything to go by, Spandex won't appeal to everyone. And that's a damn shame. The hardcover contains the first three issues of the series and writer/artist Martin Eden does a fantastic job of creating some genuinely interesting characters. The fact that the entire team is gay obviously plays a prominent part in the series, and this (along with the UK setting) makes for a refreshing change. These are characters who are open with their sexuality and it makes them all the more interesting and ultimately feels far less forced and contrived than their mainstream counterparts (Teen Titans member Bunker anyone?).
The first two issues are fantastic. The second suffers from a slightly bizarre sub-plot about Ninjas, but that reaches a satisfying enough conclusion and there's going on elsewhere to make them both a solid read. While there's plenty of spectacle in the form of the team taking on a fifty foot lesbian and some great plot twists, Spandex truly excels when it comes to character work. Whether it's seeing how Liberty manipulates the team or a scene which sees two team members (of the opposite sex) sleeping together, a fantastic story begins to take shape despite a few minor hiccups along the way.
Unfortunately, the third chapter skips forward in time and tells a very strange story which kills the momentum which began in the first two. It still makes for a good read and seems to hold a fairly meaningful message, but it feels as if it comes out of nowhere. It's a story which feels as if it would have been better off told in a much later issue, after we've had time to get to know the characters a little better. It's somewhat frustrating that the plot threads weaved throughout the first two issues (those mentioned above and the introduction of the villainous "Lez Girls" team for example) are suddenly dropped.
Spandex is full of brilliant characters. There's more to all of them than meets the eye, whether it's Diva's big secret (she's described by Eden as a lesbian Wonder Woman) or twist as to who really lies behind Liberty's mask. The art may not appeal to everyone, but this simplistic style works wonderfully here. As you might have guessed, it's aimed at a mature audience, but there's nothing explicit enough to put off any prudes. I can't pretend that this is a book I would have bought myself, but I'm glad I ended up being sent a copy to review because I now eagerly anticipate continuing the adventures of these characters in the next volume.
A throuroughly entertaining and enjoyable read, Spandex is a comic which deserves to reach a wide audience. Whether you're gay or straight is completely irrelevant - it's just a damn good book.
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