A six-hour car ride from Brighton to the North is a great time to catch up reading comics. My treat for this journey was the recently published collection of tales about Brighton based super-team, Spandex, the UK’s only all-gay superhero team.
Spandex: Fast and Hard is a collection of the first three issues of a self-published comic from writer and artist Martin Eden, collected by Titan Books. At 96 pages it’s quite short for a trade, but with three self-contained stories the book feels fulfilling in its storytelling.
The team of Diva, Prowler, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles and their leader Liberty, with their costumes forming the colours of the rainbow flag, make a diverse range of personalities and powers – and who all just happen to be gay.
The first issue, ‘Attack of the 50 ft Lesbian’, does a great job of introducing the team, some of the series villains and a little about the personal lives of our new heroes. Having lived in Brighton, it was rather nice to occasionally see a glimpse of a city I know appearing in the panels, but the location of the story is fairly arbitrary as far as the plot is concerned. Nevertheless, that kind of grounding isn’t something British fans see much of.
It took until around halfway through issue two, ‘Pink Ninjas’, before I was truly hooked. The shocking finale to the first chapter builds to some emotional and physical action in the second issue that becomes very compelling reading. The story deals with not only the team chasing a criminal, but also dealing with some conflicts among Spandex.
The final story ‘…If You Were the Last Person on Earth’ is a darker tale, focusing on society’s loss of humanity at the hands of a terrifying villain, Nadir. Eden creates quite a dark story in comparison to the first two issues, but it draws you into the life of Glitter in a way that is poignant and engaging.
Spandex is certainly a comic for ‘mature readers’: with sexual content, nudity, relationships, colourful language and the odd decapitation. It’s unashamed in its portrayal of the heroes on the team in a way that most comics featuring heterosexual characters wouldn’t dream of – and it’s incredibly refreshing.
The blend of superheroic action and character drama may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially those that seek superheroes for pure escapism, but for anyone looking for a little more depth to the characters this comic will serve you well.
After reading the whole book on the journey home I found that there wasn’t a team member I didn’t like. No matter how flawed, they all have at least one redeeming feature.
The art of the book is simplified and not too much to my usual taste, but suits the plot. Eden’s panel pacing and organisation starts off okay but improves steadily through to the end of the third story, which is paced very, very well.
There are hints of a bigger plot developing all the way through the book and lots of references to society and, dare I say it, pop culture. As Eden suggests in the author notes, if you look past the obviously outrageous elements of the plot you can feel that the adventures are rooted deeply in real life events. It all adds to an interesting and likeable story.
There are also a few ‘Spandex Shorts’ at the end of the book that are just enough to whet your appetite for your next issue.
Fast and Hard has moments when it feels like satire, but it would be deeply unfair to lump this story in with the questionably political agendas of Marvel and DC during the recent marriage of Northstar in Astonishing X-Men #51 and the controversy over the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Regardless of your thoughts on the politics of gay superheroes, Spandex somehow manages to stand on its own – probably because its just a really good comic.
Although the comic is very clearly gay-centric – with its team featuring three gay men, an equal complement of lesbian women, and their transvestite leader – it is not a comic that you need to be gay to appreciate. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be gained, whatever your sexuality.
Spandex is a perfect first run for the series. The main flaw in the title is that it is simply too short! The soapy drama is as addictive as the super-action, and more issues can’t arrive soon enough.
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