Thursday, 7 June 2012

The O Men Book One / Spandex: Fast and Hard

The O Men Book One is the first of five books that will eventually collect and complete Martin Eden’s long running O Men series, with this volume collecting the first eight issues (that’s issues 1 to 7 and 0).  Spandex was my first exposure to Martin’s work, so I had never read any of these comics before, but it turns out that Martin was a talented storyteller even when he started out in the late-1990s.  His art and lettering have improved a bit since these issues were originally released, but this is still nicely drawn – the way he draws faces always reminds me a lot of the art of the Luna brothers but there is also a touch of Love and Rockets here, and he always drew lovely hair – and his superb sense of page, character and costume design was present from day one.

The O Men are a group of British super heroes, put together by Doctor O from the remains of his previous team, the Psi-Squad, to tackle some of their old enemies, who have escaped from a maximum security women’s prison.  And that’s just the first of the two story arcs collected in this volume.  In the second story arc, the team try and enjoy a quite night out and end up tackling a villain called Frenzy, who feeds on people’s anger and brings out the worst in people.  These comics wear their influences proudly, and I was reminded a lot of Vertigo books from the 1990s as I read this – Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and even early issues of Sandman – but it is still very much its own thing, and mature in the best sense of the word – not full of sex and violence for the sake of it, but confronting real issues in a mature way.

I enjoyed reading this a lot and was hooked by the time I got to the end of the first page.  I can’t wait for book two.

Speaking of Spandex, Titan Books have just released a hardcover collection of the first three issues.  This book has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention, and not just because it features Britain’s first gay superhero team, but because it’s a really bloody good superhero comic.  It’s a shame that it doesn’t collect more than three issues (although issue four was the first part of a four part story, so I can see why it doesn’t) but there is plenty of reading here (and some special features) and unlike in your average comic by Brian Michael Bendis, stuff actually happens (there may be a whole generation out there by now who aren’t used to things actually happening in a 20-page superhero comic).  Despite being another ‘mature’ title, and slightly rude in places, this is very reminiscent of those classic Claremont / Byrne issues of the X-Men, and as those were the comics that got me hooked in the first place, that’s no bad thing at all.  And the series actually gets better after issue three, so book two (come on, Titan!) will be even better.

Cost: O Men book one is available direct from Martin for £8.00 including postage, which is a bargain.  Spandex book one is a little pricey at £14.99 (that’s Titan Books for you) but it’s available cheaper online.  I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon and only paid £7.50 including postage (I've just checked and it's still £7.50).  Mind you, it must be quite easy to keep your prices low when you are dodging corporation tax (which hasn’t stopped me ordering from them, but I do feel dirty every time I buy something from them now).    


  1. I remember 'O Men' getting rave in reviews in Comics International back in the day and have always been intrigued by it. If I find myself with a spare £8 at the end of the month I may well get a copy of this, sounds like a good deal too.

    On another note since last time I've read Pogo (you asked how I got on with it) and enjoyed it a lot. Here's some thoughts about it I post on the 2000ad message board (I'm just being lazy and copy and pasting here - sorry!)

    "Just finished reading 'Pogo - the complete syndicated comic strips: Volume 1' and its everything you think it should be... well almost. Its so close to being what I'd hoped but not quite, not yet.

    First things first its bloody gorgeous. Walt Kelly is one of the great cartoonists and no mistake. Second things second its seminal. There are so many bits, be it the strips over all style, to individual panels that are clearly an influence on so much other material that I love. There's even a couple of characters that I'm convinced (though very possibly completely wrongly) that influenced Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and Ginger from Mitchell and Webb. So much seems to stem from this, stuff I love.

    Its also laugh out load funny at times and though it dances with being twee and cute, it always just about managers to avoid tipping over the edge (well the odd Sunday strip aside). The thing is my concern when approaching this was that I wouldn't have the necessary references to get the political stuff the strip is famous for. In these first couple of years though there's not a great deal of it here. When it is the strip is actually at its strongest and while there are notes on the history and figures that are being parodied, I choose only to read them afterwards, hoping that a good strip would carry by itself, without having to constantly look back at these for detail. They do, the figures are easily identified on general terms and hilarious. Superb satire.

    The thing is will this still carry when the politics gets more and more important to the series? I'll have to wait for the next volume to see. I'll certainly be getting it as this is fantastic stuff, really fantastic. I just hope it can get even better!

    If you like your comics history this is a must."

  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Pogo book, Colin. The copy I ordered from Forbidden Planet (.com) back in February still hasn't turned up so I think I will cancel the order and get a copy from elsewhere. I actually know very little about Pogo, and didn't realise it was a heavily political strip.

    The O Men book is well worth getting, and a bargain at eight quid.