A. C. Wise
Review By Kris
“Today they are twelve; they are together and strong, operating like a smoothly oiled machine. But they have all at various times been afraid and alone, less perfect they are now. And they will be again. Their numbers may fluctuate, members coming and going, but always they are this: The Glitter Squadron. And they are fabulous.” pp9
Ultra-fabulous really is the best word to describe this. It is something I did not know I needed in my life until I saw it. I had heard nothing about it until it came up in my feed and then I had to read it immediately.
This is not a book that is really like anything else, with one foot in superheroics, another in high camp and a third limb clutching character driven considerations of gender. And when I say high camp, it is so gloriously campy I expect it should have 60’s Batman style sound effects and a disco soundtrack1. But in the best way it does not descend into self-parody; it is a world that is absolutely believable, you never wonder why someone would live in The Glitter Mansion or fight evil in bunny ears or with a large bejewelled whip.
This is a series of stories of a diverse team (predominantly but not exclusively Trans women) of fabulously dressed heroes who fight crazily over-the-top threats interspersed with related cocktail recipes which also give us a deeper understanding of the characters. In the hands of a lesser skilled artist than Wise it could be a complete mess but instead it is a kaleidoscopic glory.
One of the reasons why this works so well is that it has such a focus on character, with most of the pieces concentrating on one or two of the squad members, so they all get a good focus. At the same time it is willing to go into the darker periods of their lives in the middle of all the campy fun, we see that even the most badass of them have more tender sides and go through hard times. This does not lessen them at all though, instead makes us see how fabulous they are all around.
The cast could also easily feel very one-note (as many failed comic-book attempts to create a new superhero teams are a testament to) but they are all differentiated extremely well. We have Bunny, the former lifeguard turned leader described perfectly as:
“Looks beautiful but it will sneak up on you and kick your ass before you even have a chance to compliment its dazzling smile.”pp42
Esmeralda, Bunny’s first rescue, who travels into the land of the dead to rescue her uncle. Starlight is a young former Roller-Girl who still goes back every week to visit her Mama. Cece, The Velvet Underground Drag Queen who thinks of herself as an old Hollywood hero. Ruby and Sapphire, two former circus folk who work together in synchronicity. Penny, their weapons expert who loves big f***ing guns, has a black belt in every martial art but doesn’t like to be seen as too girly. And then M, a leather-clad non-binary person who is a complete mystery to their team-mates.
Whilst we go into the more intimate moments with prejudice, family, marriage, and children all discussed, this never becomes overly dark and depressing. The whole reading experience is so joyful as are the Ultra-Fabulous Glitter Squadron themselves, who are all just looking for excuses to have fun. And yes it is ridiculous, at one point they convince henchman to turn to their side as villains’ pay sucks and they have no health plan. Whilst, at another point they team up with The G-String Men. But is an essential part of the wonderfulness of the adventure.
Joyful, campy, tender and so much fun, it needs to be read to be believed. It is something you won’t realise you need until you have experienced it and once you have you will wonder how you went so long without it.
1. Although Glitter and Gold by Jem and The Holograms currently works as a very good stand in.