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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Tank Girl Forever (Paperback)


Writer: Alan Martin
Artist: Brett Parson
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £13.99, US $16.99
Age: Mature readers
ISBN: 978 1 78773 030 4
104 pages
Publication Date: 25 February 2020

“With great responsibility comes great outfits…” The misadventures of the notorious Tank Girl continue in the second chapter of her first-ever ongoing comic series. After a strange light appears from the sky, Tank Girl wakes up to find that she’s a fully-fledged superhero. But like all superheroes, she comes face to face with her deadly nemesis – in this case, the Bad Seed aka Barney! Creator Alan Martin and outstanding artist Brett Parson present Tank Girl’s greatest crusade yet – an epic tale of superpowers, surströmming and secrets from the past…

The world called out for a true superhero! Unfortunately, it got the wrong number, and Tank Girl answered!

This graphic novel collects the second four-part story from Tank Girl’s anarchic ongoing comic-book series, as our heroine finds herself caught up in a world of superhero silliness and four-colour, four-letter fisticuffs. Fans of American comics will appreciate the theme of this adventure, in which Tank Girl and chums are transformed into costumed heroes with amazing abilities – except for Barney, who for some reason has gone off the rails and become a supervillain called the Bad Seed (Nick Cave, by the way, is nowhere to be seen). She really is having a barney!

The opening of the first episode calls back to the unscrupulous Marsofu company from the previous tale, Action Alley. However, this is a red herring, as the plot immediately takes a very different turn, and we are presented with the mystery of why Tank Girl and co have suddenly gained superpowers. If you’ve ever wondered what the gang would have looked like if they’d been created during the Silver Age of comics, now you can find out!

Artist Brett Parson continues to develop his trademark ‘aged comic book’ look, all browning pages and misaligned colours. He also captures some classic American comic hero poses and Jack Kirby-style energy blasts. However, I don’t think Stan Lee’s creations ever had sound effects as silly as “Clicky!”, “Mega Dumpff!”, “Rim! Rimm! Rimm!”, “Chunder!” or “Kerplunk!”, and the Fantastic Four never said things like “Give it up, you crazy tw*t!” or “Masticate on this, mystery bitch!” Could this be the start of a brand new superhero cinematic universe? No. No, absolutely not!

The second and third chapters partly take the form of a Secret Origins story, flashing back to 13 years ago, when Barney was spending an awful lot of time with a new friend called Joanie – much to the concern of Tank Girl and Jet Girl. Joanie has been putting Barney’s safety at risk by encouraging her to participate in Extremely Stupid Sports. Come to think of it, maybe it was Joanie’s influence that led to Barney taking part in the dangerous Watermelon Run in Skidmarks. Now the spirit of the long-dead Joanie has returned…

Though we are introduced to the costumed versions of Tank Girl, Jet Girl and Sub Girl at a fairly early stage in the proceedings, writer Alan Martin keeps us waiting a while for the entrance of Booga the Boy Wonder – who arrives in the nick of time.

Meanwhile, Zulu Dobson and Camp Koala discover evidence of a meteor strike – which immediately had me thinking that there must be a Smallville-type connection to the emergence of the main characters’ superpowers. Dobson’s mention of tektite is a bit of real science, though he should more accurately refer to the impactor as a meteorite rather than a meteor or an asteroid. Before long, Camp goes all weird, experiencing nightmarish blood-drenched visions similar to those in Barney’s head… but then, he’s usually pretty weird at the best of times!

As rendered by Parson, with smaller ears and looking a bit cuddlier than Jamie Hewlett used to make him, Camp Koala puts me in mind of the Leigh Francis character the Bear. As he enjoys an issue of Comic Reader’s Wives, I almost expected his ‘tail’ to pop out! As written by Martin (from a story co-developed with his comic reader’s wife, Lou), the koala doesn’t seem to be gay any more – so perhaps we should start calling him Butch Koala, or at least Bi Koala! The stuffed marsupial isn’t the only ‘mascot’ from Tank Girl’s early days to reappear in this adventure, either…

Following some outrageous sausage-based innuendo at a barbecue during the third episode, things turn rather serious as the saga approaches its climax.

They also get downright weird. Some panels are inexplicably left black and white. Others appear to have been coloured in by a small child. One page looks like it’s been torn out – I do hope that wasn’t a vital part of the resolution, guys! I missed the third issue when Tank Girl Forever was originally published in monthly instalments. Even now, having read the whole thing, I’m still not clear about how the protagonists acquired their abilities. What was the source of the strange light from the sky?

The title of this graphic novel seems ironic in view of the way the story concludes. Could this be the end for a beloved character? I might have thought so if Sub Girl hadn’t already faced and survived a similar ordeal. Further hope is offered by the final page, which references imagery from the endings of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Snow White. What do I mean? I’m being deliberately vague to avoid spoiling things for you. Or, as the comically unhelpful recap at the start of the final chapter puts it: “No… Sorry… I can’t be arsed to explain…”

Despite this tale’s darker moments, there’s still plenty to entertain comic readers (and their wives).

The book also includes Parson’s costume designs for the main characters and shows the development of an interior page and the monthly comic covers, from rough sketches to fully inked, coloured and lettered art, for you to Marvel at.


Richard McGinlay

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