Spandex: Fast and Hard. A Spoiler-free Comic Book Review.

Last week I found an exciting email in my inbox from Titan Books asking if I would like to review a new graphic novel hitting shelves next month. After I read the synopsis, I readily agreed.

Spandex: Fast and Hard is an indie title created by Brit artist Martin Eden and set in famous Brighton Beach, “gay capitol of the UK,” apparently (I’m a Yank, what do I know?). The series follows a group of seven super heroes, but these guys aren’t exactly what you’re used to seeing in the world of Marvel or DC. These heroes are a little bit queer. As in gay. Or bisexual. Mr. Eden is all-inclusive.

Fast and Hard collects the first 3 issues of Spandex in a hardback edition hitting shelves June 19. I think for most Americans this will be our first introduction to the title (it certainly was for me) and I believe indie comic fans and gay geeks alike will be interested. Think of it as Justice League meets Ghost World.

So how does it stack up in Josh’s overly-picky scrutiny? Hit the break to find out. 

Now I’ll openly admit that when I first cracked the book I was a little wary, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of characters. I’m a notorious hater of all things cliche and stereotypical when it comes to how homosexuality is presented in any form of media (If I have to see one more “fabulous” gay teen on tv, I’m going to Tim McVeigh the shit outta Hollywood). But while some cliches do exist within the book, I didn’t mind them so much. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek presentation and thankfully devoid of limp-wrist action.

What Eden does manage to bring  to the table is something most mainstream publishers are only starting to learn when it comes to gay characters: diversity.

You see, each of the seven heroes (Liberty, Glitter, Mr. Muscles, Diva, Prowler, Butch and Indigo) represents a different color of the classic ROY G BIV spectrum we learned as children. But more importantly, they each stand for a different sector of the gay community, whether it be bears, twinks, lesbians, drag queens or bisexuals (yes, I’m one of those guys that thinks bisexuality is about as real as south Alabama leprechauns, but I’ll let it slide). As silly as it sounds, I actually like the concept, though its necessity isn’t explained in the book. But remember this is only the first three issues and the following three are still only available through the creator’s website.

Now let’s get to the meat of things: The first issue, “Attack of the 50 ft. Lesbian,” introduces us to the world with, you guessed it, an attack from a 50 Foot Lesbian terrorizing Brighton’s new pier. Spandex, as they call themselves, must assemble and defeat the towering menace with their unique brand of powers. Now this issue is definitely over-the-top in its first few pages, but it’s that classic kind of comic book absurdity that prevents it from inducing eye rolls. And the humor is cheeky enough to make the reader go Haaaaaaaa a few times.

What I absolutely loved about the first issue were the 6 pages that followed the battle. With virtually no dialogue, Eden manages give us an intimate look at the heroes’ ordinary lives with only a few panels dedicated to each character. Within those pages I suddenly knew the kind of people I was dealing with. It’s a wonderful, endearing moment done with great execution.

And speaking of execution, just after the reader is getting acquainted with the characters, one of them is abruptly killed off. I won’t say who, but it was definitely the moment I liked the least. First off, we’re literally just meeting the character when he/she dies. I would have been more alright with this had the execution been better. The death scene is depicted on right-hand page with the buildup on the left. So the reader turns the page from a lovely moment and BAM, bitch in a puddle of blood. The moment lacked any intensity, eliciting more “dafuq” than shock and sadness. And there issue 1 ends.

Issue 2, “Pink Ninjas,” picks up shortly after and the team must overcome their grief while facing a mysterious ninja thief with an apparent propensity for the Queen’s corgis. It’s off to Japan for our heroes and tensions are high between a few of the members who had closer ties to their fallen comrade.

This was definitely my least favorite of the three stories, as some of the events are a little too ridiculous, e.g. the whole Neon/Pink Ninja thing. And yes, there’s even a beheading, which felt totally unnecessary and strange. Yeah, I get it. “They’re hardcore Japanese like that.” Sure, whatever. Plus,one of the big revelations at the end was just a little to convoluted for my taste.

What I did enjoy about the second issue was the last few pages. The author hints at the necessity of having seven heroes, but not why. I’m guess that will turn up in later volumes. As well, there’s a tender moment between two characters. And no, I’m not talking about the supposed lesbian and gay guy who humpify and bangulate on a whim (turncoats). I mean the other lesbian and gay guy. Yeah, them.

That brings us to the third and final volume in the book, “…If You Were the Last Person on Earth.” This is the one that made me believe that Martin Eden has something potentially great on his hands. The entire story takes a much darker and desolate tone as Earth has been taken over by a single alien entity bent on turning the world gray and devoid of any happiness.

This installment begins with a time jump which can leave the reader disoriented for a few pages. I had to read the beginning a few times before I realized that the people I was seeing were in fact members of Spandex, albeit with a few cosmetic differences due to the span of time between issues. But once that sunk in, it was smooth sailing.

Up to this point, I liked the characters in the book, but I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of any of them. That is, until Glitter, the group twink whom I was sure I would not like (I’m a cub/otter kinda guy. So sue me.), made me fall in love with him (the long hair and scruffy beard didn’t hurt either *swoon*). Faced with the loss of several of his teammates, Glitter somewhat takes on the role of leader, proving he is fiercely loyal and caring about his friends and fellow humans.

One of my favorite moments happens in the middle of the story between him and Neon when they share a very intimate moment when things are looking the most bleak. The artwork, while still simple, is fairly fantastic in its depiction and hits all the right emotions with the reader. There are a few other well done moments throughout this installment, but this was my favorite.

The ending is the weak point of this plot. For a villain that claims to have destroyed many a planet, he/she (the character is intentionally androgynous) doesn’t exactly put up that big of a fight. It was all so anticlimactic. I would like to have actually seen this spread out over another issue, giving the reader more time to become invested in the story. But I realize this is an independent title and thus the necessity to keep issues self-contained.

So what’s the final word?

I started out skeptical, thinking this could be the work of a real amateur. I mean, honestly, if I had seen someone post artwork for this on DeviantArt, I would have closed the browser. But as I read, the simplistic style grew on me. It’s one of the elements that makes Spandex unique, along with a cast of characters you’re very unlikely to have seen before. The plot may be a bit off-the-wall and the dialogue may not always flow well, but the final package is worth the read in the same way that the late Perry Moore’s Hero wasn’t terribly well-written, but was nevertheless a fantastic book.

Final score: a solid 3.5 (hey, you gotta work to get a good score outta me). For gaymers, geeks and nerds alike, I think it’s definitely worth a read, regardless of your orientation. And I certainly like it enough to read the remaining issues.

Spandex: Fast and Hard hits shelves June 19 in hardback edition and is available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Individual copies of issues 1 through 6 are also available in print and digital formats at the official Spandex website.

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One thought on “Spandex: Fast and Hard. A Spoiler-free Comic Book Review.

  1. Pingback: Critique! « Spandex

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