Book Review: Spandex: Fast and Hard
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Titan Books
· Martin Eden
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 17, 2012
When I first saw the write-up on Martin Eden's gay superhero team, Spandex, I'll admit to being bemused. The whole thing smacked of parody, potentially insensitive. And I've had such an overabundance of diversity training I tend to react as programmed to this kind of thing. I mean, how seriously am I supposed to take a rainbow-colored team with heroes like Prowler, who can absorb the ability of any gay person in the area; or Liberty the transvestite group leader; or a really strong lesbian with a shaved head in green overalls, codenamed "Butch."
Initially, my fears seemed to be confirmed. The Brighton-based super-team answers the call to take down an attack of a 50 foot lesbian (identified as a lesbian because she wears a k.d. lang t-shirt). We later learn the giant is a member of an all-lesbian team, "Les Girls," whose leader, the green-skinned feline-like Pussy, is carrying on a secret affair with Butch.
And then we lose a member. Mr. Muscle suffers a horrific fate after a date with teammate Glitter (in a scene where the readers learn the two were formerly a dynamic duo of "Bearman and Twinkle," a not-so-subtle nod that would make Fred wertham say, "See, I told you so!"), and the search is on for a replacement member who wears yellow. There's apparently some important, mystic reason why all seven major colors of the rainbow must be represented in Spandex, and Liberty, with his/her superpower of super gaydar, manipulates her fellow heroes however she must to make sure this plan comes to pass -- even if it means having to battle a one-man army of multiplying pink ninjas to the death.
As the series progresses, it's not only interesting to see the characters grow, but also to witness writer/artist Martin Eden's talents evolve. By the time the group tackles the androgynous Nadir, saving the entire world from a gray, dismal existence of reliving your worst moments, the team has an almost completely different style of rendering -- more fleshed out, less flat and two-dimensional.
Spandex is not for the easily offended -- whether you're gay, straight, or somewhere else on the spectrum of preference and orientation. There are several sex scenes and sometimes characters just act a little too stereotypically catty. However, it's also not something to be taken lightly or to be judged too hastily. When Eden decides to include a message, the storyline exceeds a reader's expectations.