Tony Fyler may have finally found a way to let Spandex into his life.
Martin Eden, whose O Men volumes 1-3 are also available as part of Titan Comics’ #bestbritcomics season, went from black and white to almost ‘early computer game vivid’ colour when he launched his next superhero collective, Spandex – with the ‘twist,’ if such it is, that the superheroes of Spandex inhabit a much more LGBT world – leader Liberty is a drag queen, and most of the rest of the team are at least gay or lesbian, with a couple having moments of bisexual confusion too.
In principle, hoorah – this is something that’s needed doing for a long time. The question though is whether Spandex is actually any good as a comic-book, divorced from the right-on grooviness of its core concept?
Actually, yes, there’s merit here. While the front-and-centre storylines start out in issue #1 as purely comic and therefore rather slight, they’re certainly funny – in that first issue the team take on The Attack of the Fifty Foot Lesbian (which frankly needs to be a movie already), and in issue #2, they fly to Japan to defeat a squad of self-replicating Pink Ninjas.
As ya do…
Without giving too much away, the second issue also involves the fearsome, sharp-toothed terror that is Gayzilla, terrorising downtown Tokyo. See – funny stuff, but also, without having to dig too deep, you can find a social point about fear and the portrayal of people as monsters in a world where increasingly hard lines are taken by stupid people against the push towards equal rights across the sexuality-spectrum.
Anyone who’s read Eden’s O Men though will know he can’t resist the urge to complicate matters, and start bringing real, hard, personal issues into the picture for his superheroes to deal with. As in The O Men, that helps make the characters in Spandex feel more real than the quality of the artwork would sometimes otherwise allow – without spoilering you too far, by the end of issue #1, one of the Spandex team has been killed, on the presumed instruction of the lover of another team member (who happens also to be supervillain and leader of the Lez Girls, Pussy. Oh yes – subtlety is not really the tone we’re dealing with here).
That leads into the events of issue #2, with the team mourning their loss, and Liberty flying them to Japan to kick some Pink Ninja ass while recruiting a replacement Spandexer. Of the three issues in the #bestbritcomics celebration, issue #2 actually feels the slightest, despite a proper team-mate confrontation scene and an emotional beheading sequence. Perversely, the feeling of slightness comes from the additional content, of which there is a wealth – essentially, there’s a collection of fan-art at the end of the relatively rapid Pink Ninja mission, and much of it is excellent (indeed, much of it feels much more well-realised than Eden’s own art), but it still leaves you with the feeling of scrolling through a Pinterest account at the end of a quick snack of a story.
Issue #3 though – ohhhh, now issue #3’s a thing of beauty. Entirely divorced from the story-arcs of the first two issues, it introduces a new and creepy villain, Nadir, and shows the effect that villain has on the world, turning it utterly dull and grey, people all over the planet becoming soulless, colourless ‘zombies’ content to chat about nonsense and wear ties and sit in cubicles all day doing pointless, uninspiring work. Fairly straightforward metaphor, yes, but it’s rendered in a very effective way – the contrast between the greyness of everyone and everything who’s succumbed, and the tiny handful that haven’t, who are still drawn in colour, selling the point very well. The message of self-redemption in the way Nadir is defeated works too, staying just the right side of preachy and instead delivering a punch-the-air, take that moment.
Eden’s O Men volumes deliver dark, gritty, complex and interwoven story-arcs which occasionally fall down or don’t quite deliver the punch they promise. His Spandex volumes, by contrast, deliver a brighter, more colourful world in which the issues are more immediately accessible, and where he’s not afraid to leaven the darkness and the realism with some great comedy concepts. Of the first three volumes, the third is in a class above the other two, but each of them will repay repeated reading. Check out the Spandex range now, while the #bestbritcomics season continues.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk