Review: Spandex Special #1

Artist(s): Martin Eden.

The Spandex series might have reached its conclusion with its seventh issue, but author Martin Eden still had stories to tell, as he’d promised us one last comic. This Spandex Special fulfills his promise.

Some of the new team

Yay for naked, blue man!

At the end of the regular series, the original team had been almost entirely replaced by newcomers, though the roster was still all-queer. This 40-page story follows the new team as they battle The Brotherhood of Gays (Eden is never afraid of a bad (thus, good) joke), while former members look on and Eden makes more superhero in-jokes—as with the team having a battle cry for all occasions: “Spandex… Split!”, “Spandex… Socialize!”. A mix of lightness and more heavy duty has always been a strong point of Spandex, and Eden changes the ambiance from one panel to the next, as heroes face old and new threats, in the form of shape-shifters, possession, evil robots and trips to a dystopian future. I’ve loved trips to a dystopian future ever since I read the “Days of Future Past” storyline in X-Men when I was a teenager, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I won’t reveal what happens there, but let’s just say that Eden has mapped a long life for his team—though not an uneventful one.

This Special feels more like a coda to the main story than like a story in itself, but I had no problems with that. Eden shows a remarkable talent for juggling multiple ideas and characters while keeping it coherent (reminding me of Chris Claremont or Marv Wolfman on their classic runs on X-Men and Teen Titans–yes, I know, I’m showing my age here), especially in the way he gives the reader just enough information to have him hooked while keeping his cards close to his chest. He packs a lot in this Special and manages to pack even more as he plays at the end with the gimmick of “fake” covers: we get 17 covers for all-new issues, which likely won’t ever be published (#3783!), telling the fragmented and tantalizing story of what the future holds for the team, even giving us more hints relating to the main story in the Special.

Robo-Zombies! In Brighton!

With all the references to mainstream superhero comics Eden sprinkles throughout his pages, there’s one aspect of this Special I’m wondering about: what does ending a long storyline with the return of the original team signify? I doubt that it’s just a narrative choice–or if it is, it seems to me that it’s also influenced by the mainstream.  I tend to think of it as a meta-commentary on the desires of most superhero fans to keep the status quo in their favorite series, the status quo being usually whatever happened when one was a teenaged reader. Is Eden gently mocking this? Participating in it? Including himself in the fan community? I don’t have any answers, but it makes this Special even more interesting to me.

So, is this the end for Spandex? Not quite, according to Eden’s afterword. Among his many projects, he’s begun thinking of a webcomic set in the same continuity as Spandex. It seems to be ways off, but someday, we should meet again his many-colored characters.

You can head over to Martin Eden’s website to buy his self-published comics in print or as pdf, as well as to discover a gallery of cool fan art by other artists.

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