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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Tank Girl
Dirty Old Tank Girl (Paperback)


Writer: Alan Martin
Artists: Rufus Dayglo and Mick McMahon
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £21.99, US $24.99
Age: 17+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 982 2
264 pages
Publication Date: 19 March 2019

Soap your filthy face down with this 264-page chunk of scum-scrubbing Tank Girl glory! Collecting two full graphic novels – Skidmarks and CariocaDirty Old Tank Girl dives into an illegal, no-holds-barred cross-country road race, before pummelling your fragile brainstem with a potent mix of reality TV, cults, and the most violent pacifists you’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. All this and more, in a world of wonder that fits in your pocket…!

Talk about dirty tricks! This anthology edition has a rather misleading cover. It sports an excellent and undeniably sexy illustration by Tank Girl’s current artist extraordinaire Brett Parson (it was originally used on the front of #2 of 21st Century Tank Girl). However, the strips inside the book are by different artists altogether. Perhaps the publishers chose the picture because it shows our heroine and her pals having a shower – which is exactly what you need when you’re a dirty old Tank Girl…!

Rufus Dayglo fulfils the art duties on Skidmarks and a couple of back-up strips – and he does so very nicely indeed. Why none of his wonderful images were selected for the front cover is beyond me. His work bears an uncanny resemblance to that of his illustrious predecessor Jamie Hewlett (the monkey-like mouths, the devious eyes, the flailing arms, etc) without descending to churning out mere carbon copies.

Mick (more commonly known as Mike) McMahon is the artist on Carioca – a surprising choice, perhaps, but in many ways his style befits Tank Girl’s world. Best known for his work on 2000 AD strips such as Judge Dredd and Sláine, McMahon’s outlines are stylised, his characters grotesque, their physical proportions exaggerated and distorted. His backgrounds are more basic, but the whole thing is vividly coloured, his use of shading giving a good sense of light and perspective. All of the above could equally be said of Hewlett and Dayglo’s work. However, the essential sex appeal of the strip is lacking, despite some low-cut tops and one topless image of Jet Girl. The villainous characters – of which there are plenty, including the bizarrely named assassins Electric Les, Token and the Man Who Ate a Donkey – are far more successful, and McMahon’s Booga is very good.

Skidmarks began its life in 2008 as a ten-part series in Judge Dredd Megazine. A year later it was reissued as a four-issue American comic, with colours by Christian Krank, plus foul language that had been considered too strong for the Megazine, together with the black-and-white bonus strips Tank Girl Land and I Am So Far Above You Now – which have been shunted to the back of this volume.

The story is as barmy as ever, featuring a wacky race that is clearly inspired by The Cannonball Run. There’s even a womanising bloke with a ’tache called Burt. Other familiar faces from fiction and reality include Dee Dee Ramone, the A-Team (the TV version, natch) and a sports correspondent who looks remarkably like… (can you tell who it is yet…?) Rolf Harris. The latter allusion has lost much of its innocence post-Operation Yewtree, as has a fleeting reference to Jim’ll Fix It in Carioca. Writer Alan Martin also throws in a soupçon of Star Wars for good measure, in the form of an incomprehensible, subtitled bounty hunter called Downy Macaw.

This is the point at which the creative team added the accident-prone character of Barney to the Tank Girl universe. Her skateboard-induced head injury is the reason why Tank Girl has to take part in the Watermelon Run, a once-in-every-20-years, haul-arse race across endless desert and tortuous mountain passes, and it is her bowel problems that lead to disaster in I Am So Far Above You Now. Skidmarks includes a couple of flashbacks to the girls’ earlier days at school and during an ill-fated bank robbery. Jet Girl also plays substantial roles in both of these strips.

One downside of reading all ten chapters of Skidmarks in one sitting is that reminders given about Tank Girl’s motivation for entering the race do get rather repetitive.

After that, Tank Girl goes all Kill Bill in Carioca, in terms of both her vendetta and the sprawling nature of Alan Martin’s script. The story starts out as a fairly straightforward revenge plot, as our heroine is rudely snubbed on national television by Charlie Happy, a game-show host for whom she hitherto had the utmost respect. Tank Girl assembles a posse, including established characters such as Jet Girl and Barney, and new ones such as the walking databank Andy Answers, in order to destroy Charlie. However, after wreaking bloody (very bloody – there are guts everywhere) vengeance, Tank Girl has an epiphany and creates a new religious cult, named Carioca, after a beloved nightclub. This new philosophy renounces violence… except when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, it becomes very necessary when the gang is targeted by various assassins hired by U-Leen Happy, Charlie’s embittered widow.

There’s an autobiographical element to the narrative, as is revealed by the author’s introduction and is hinted at by the poems that separate the chapters. As well as exorcising his hatred for those who abuse their authority, be they teachers or bosses or game-show presenters, Martin also honours the Carioca Club, the venue where he met many of his Deadline collaborators in his youth.

Carioca is a longer story than usual, which might partly explain its meandering plot. It comprises six episodes, which were originally published across three double-size issues in 2011. Had the Happy family storyline not been sidetracked by the Carioca strand, this could have been a tighter four-parter – but then it would have needed a new title, and we would have been denied the inclusion of the bitter lemming, one of my favourite characters in the book!

Aside from a few quibbles about the pacing, this shiny new reprint of dirty old Tank Girl tales should appeal to any fans who don’t already own them – or whose existing copies have just got too grubby.


Richard McGinlay

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