Review: Spandex #1 - #6 / Author: Martin Eden / Illustrator: Martin Eden / Release Date: Out Now (Trade Paperback Vol. 1 May 25th)
Coming at a time when the Justice League is finding its feet all over again, and coverage of The Avengers is reaching saturation point, the world is in desperate need of heroes. Enter Spandex, Brighton's very own answer to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And very extraordinary they are too.
Spandex is a supergroup with a difference; they're the world's first group of LGBT superheroes. It may sound like a gimmicky premise, but Martin Eden's colourful creation is so much more than that. It partners genuinely interesting and exciting superhero frolics with cute, amusing and intelligent character work to build a series of comics reminiscent of (a more bawdy) Keith Giffen's run on Justice League International crossed with the surreal comedy superheroes of Mystery Men. Clever, funny, sexy and gripping, Spandex is a lot of fun.
The team is introduced in a story entitled 'Attack of the 50ft Lesbian' (the giantess's Sapphic status is cheekily identified by her wearing a KD Lang t-shirt), a nifty introduction to the group individually and as a working unit. Aside from the swearing and sexual content, the action wouldn't be out of place in a Marvel or DC comic. Led by the noble Liberty, Spandex consists of Diva, Butch, Glitter, Indigo, Mr. Muscles, Neon and Prowler. Rather than opting for the usual Justice League clones, Spandex builds a roster of unique and memorable individuals. As a nifty counterpoint to the action, Eden follows the heroes in their downtime too, investing us as much in the characters' inner turmoil as their action exploits. The characters are no more defined by their sexuality than they are their superpowers. Spandex and its heroes feel like a labour of love. It's evident that Eden cares about his characters and that makes the feeling contagious; following the emotionless Michael Bay-esque antics of the New 52 Justice League, it's nice to actually care about a team of superheroes again.
There are six issues of Spandex so far, each one eminently readable. Best of the lot is issue 3, which sees the world stricken by a global crisis in which the afflicted are turned into black and white emotionless zombies. The six issues assert an incredible amount of versatility, effortlessly switching between one-off action beats ('Pink Ninjas') and longer, complex character-driven arcs ('OMFG'). It's very well written, although one's enjoyment of Spandex will vary depending on one's tolerance for swearing and high camp. “Oh my fucking stars and garters” might be my favourite line in a comic book since “you think this letter on my head stands for France?”. It might not always be big or clever, but it's consistently funny. The most irritating thing about Spandex is that I have to wait until Autumn for the conclusion of Issue Six's shocking cliffhanger.
Spandex may not be to all tastes – it's crude, unashamedly silly and the art could prove divisive - but I personally loved every panel. There are valid reasons for not enjoying the series, but don't blindly dismiss Spandex offhand because the characters' sexual preferences don't gel with your own. Those who get sniffy for this reason are likely the same sort loudly railing against Mass Effect 3 (not because of the rubbish ending – the other thing) and gay marriage in Archie comics. If you choose not to pick up Spandex on the basis of its characters' sexualities, be warned: you may be depriving yourself of a lot of fun.
Variety is the spice of life. And Spandex is very spicy.