Written, Illustrated and Published by: Martin Eden
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
You know, sometimes when you get a good comic…you kind of have to sit with it a bit…think about it…mull it over. Several months ago Martin Eden sent me a copy of his Spandex special out of the blue. I’d been planning to pick it up anyway and I offered to pay for it but Eden very generously sent me a review copy free of charge. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how much cred a review from Part-Time Fanboy is going to get you, being that we’re such a small site but the first thing I want to do is thank Martin Eden for sending me a review copy…it says a lot when someone has enough value in your opinion to send you free stuff.
The second thing I must do is apologize for getting to this review out so late. One of the reasons it’s tardy is that, well, the book arrived in the mail right around the beginning of the holidays and, as we all know, the holidays are a bit of shit storm time for people with kids. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s…since becoming a parent those last three to four months of the year meld into one crazy blur and sometimes things slip through the cracks. But the biggest reason that this review is late is because, well, again, I just had to sit with this book for a while…needed to process it a bit…let it sink in. That’s not because it was bad at all, quite the opposite actually. This Spandex Special is another notch in Mr. Eden’s belt for sure. I think it had to do with the fact that this was supposedly the final issue of Eden’s homosexual superhero team and I had to really delve into my feelings about how this somewhat final chapter played out in the Spandex saga.
As I’ve said before on this site and on the podcast, I really have loved every single bit of Spandex since I came across it. I thought it was a fun, cheeky, subversive take on the superhero genre. It displayed its love for 80’s superhero comics boldly on its sleeve while still having the courage to play out of the bounds set by the genre. At first glance the series seemed to be a bit of a lark, but as it went on it got a bit deeper and darker but without really sacrificing the light heartedness that so many superhero books have slaughtered in an attempt to make them “cool” or “relevant”. It was one of the indie books that I’d wished would come out more often whenever I got my hands on a new issue and I was a bit bummed when the series was supposed to wrap up with issue seven. I, for one, would have liked to see the series go on…but that’s life. You have to enjoy the good stuff when you can.
So when Eden announced that he’d be releasing one, final, special to top the series off I was obviously pretty happy that we’d be getting another chapter in the story called Spandex but I was also a bit confused. Issue seven seemed to be the perfect end point for the comic. Much like the finale of season four of Breaking Bad, I felt that if issue seven had been the final nail in the coffin for Spandex I would have been okay with that. Book seven had a sense of finality to it that I thought was appropriate for the book and I honestly didn’t know what more Martin Eden would want to add to the narrative…unless it was to have a new adventure to actually solidify the newer team that pulled together at the end of that “final” comic.
Much of what’s made Spandex a great read all along is present in this special issue. It’s fun, sassy, and dramatic. The art is light, breezy, and colorful. The storytelling is solid. Everything that I love about Spandex is here in full force…plus there’s some guest artists that contribute some artistic bits that make the whole package worthwhile. The only problem I’m having with this Spandex Special is that, well, without spoiling everything…it just ends up being a big re-set button for the whole series. What I loved about Spandex, and about the whole last arc of the series, was its ability to take risks with its story. Using both dramatic and humor filled elements Spandex stood apart from the crowd. Much of the final issues of the comic series dealt with just tearing the story apart and laying all of its elements bare. The moments leading up to and through issue seven were somewhat jarring for fans of the series and of Martin’s work. Spandex went to a bit of dark place for a bit there and in that there was a great moment of rebirth and possibility. The last issue of Spandex was the work of creator who wasn’t afraid to just blow up everything he’d built and say it was time to start anew.
So it’s a bit unfortunate that with this somewhat truly final edition of the print Spandex universe Martin Eden decides to pull a complete one hundred and eighty degree u-turn to reboot the whole series. For a while after I’d read the special I was a bit bummed by the way this chapter turned out but then I had to remember that Eden’s creativity really does spring from his love of ’80’s comics. While it may not have been what I wanted to see in an issue of Spandex the creator of the book was remaining true to his inspirations. So, in a way, what ultimately brought me down about the book also ended up being what I finally enjoyed about it. While I do believe much of Spandex is wholly original much of it does owe a debt to the Marvel and DC comics that came before it and if there’s one thing that comic fans have all learned in the past thirty or so years it’s that nothing is forever. In the end I have to applaud Martin for taking his comic in another completely unexpected direction and making another somewhat subtle nod to the comics of yesteryear.
In bringing the status quo back Eden has, in his own way, made a comment about the nature of superheroes and the need for them to never really change all that much. Superhero teams never really go away these days so I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to be any different in a book that is so heavily influenced by the big two’s glory days. In any case, Eden remains true to his talent and keeps it all entertaining and fun-filled and I do have to admit that it was fun to see much of the original Spandex squad back together again by the end of this issue. Despite my feelings about the way the comic played out I’ll concede that by the end of this special I was feeling warm and fuzzy again about this fantastic creator owned comic.
In the end, I must re-iterate that I think Martin Eden is one heck of a talented comic book creator. While this may actually be the end for the print adventures of the world’s first gay superhero team it seems that Mr. Eden is intent to continue his comic work with other projects (one of which may be an online Spandex comic) which makes me happy. He’s a creator that deserves wider recognition and I hope to be following his stuff for years to come.