Dirty Old Tank Girl (Tank Girl Omnibus)
“Dirty Old Tank Girl by Alan Martin is good clean fun, apart from the swearing, violence, and brief nudity. For fans of the cult film, the collection is a great re-introduction to the classic character.”
A Mad Max-style road race to save a friend in a coma. A spiritual walkabout by a group of pacifists not shy about using deadly martial arts on their enemies. These are the one-line summaries for the two stories included in Dirty Old Tank Girl by Alan Martin. The 1995 film starring Lori Petty as Tank Girl remains a pop cultural touchstone but has a decidedly American feel. These two stories feel more British, at least a Great Britain home to the comedic anarchy of The Young Ones, Red Dwarf, and Hot Fuzz.
Comprised of Tank Girl: Skidmarks (2010) and Tank Girl: Carioca (2012), it shows the eponymous Tank Girl with her crew of loyal stalwarts. Tank Girl, her mutant kangaroo boyfriend Booga, Jet Girl, and Barney are all here in their vulgarity laced glory. (Skidmarks originally appeared in a 12-issue run in Judge Dredd magazine.)
Skidmarks, the first story, follows Tank Girl's participation in a road race called the Watermelon Run. She's racing because her best pal, Barney, suffered serious brain damage during a skateboarding accident. As Tank Girl narrates, “The only man who can save her is a Japanese brain-surgeon who charges more money than any of us have ever seen.” In the post-apocalyptic dystopia of the Tank Girl Universe, the mercenary price-gouging is immoral and horrific. For those familiar with the United States healthcare system, predatory pricing and chainsawing the finances of the vulnerable is a typical Tuesday. Later developments in the story include human brains in jars, vehicular combat, and a Wild West shootout.
Rufus Dayglo's art crackles with brilliant intensity. He can show action and movement with a few lines of ink. Christian Krank, the colorist, makes the panels pop with intense whites and browns (this being the Australian outback). Pinks, reds, and greens shine, highlighting punk haircuts, watermelons, and vehicle paint jobs. It is no coincidence the character design seems oddly similar to a Gorillaz music video. After 1995, Tank Girl co-creator Jamie Hewlett went on to create the band Gorillaz with Blur’s Damon Albarn.
The second story, Carioca, is drawn by Mick McMahon. Unlike the flat bold coloration of Skidmarks, McMahon's work is more sculptural. Tank Girl looks radically different, the linework reminiscent more of Egon Schiele than contemporary comics. Everything has an angular aggressiveness to it. But this aggressiveness fits Martin's story, an acidic satire of pacifist cults and game shows tinged with a happy streak of youthful nostalgia.
Carioca follows the story of Tank Girl and Booga playing Quiz Bingo, hosted by Charlie Happy. Charlie ends up tricking Tank Girl out of her prize: $300, a trip to Animal-Bongo-Land, and “the matching his ’n’ hers mountain bikes.” Hoodwinked by Charlie's shenanigans, Tank Girl vows revenge. Minor spoilers: Tank Girl and the gang kill Charlie in a bit of cartoonish ultra-violence. Her revenge complete, Tank Girl doesn't feel vindicated. She feels bored and empty. Thereafter, she embraces the pacifist philosophy of Carioca, named after the music club where her crew hung out in the good old days.
Nostalgia, song lyrics, and soul-searching combine with a rather more violent form of pacifism. Tank Girl and company find themselves embroiled in battles with the assassins sent by Charlie Happy's drunken power-mad widow. Martial arts battles and unexpected reversals occur during Tank Girl's personal introspection. Meanwhile, Jet Girl finds herself the heir to a giant mansion bequeathed to her by her great uncle Ivan. Two black-and-white shorts round off the collection.
Dirty Old Tank Girl by Alan Martin is good clean fun, apart from the swearing, violence, and brief nudity. For fans of the cult film, the collection is a great re-introduction to the classic character. Tank Girl, behaving like the monster love child of Bugs Bunny and Iron Man, possesses an anarchic personality and mechanical genius. She's loyal to her friends and triumphs over her enemies. This installment of the Tank Girl franchise shows just how resilient the franchise is under radically different narratives and art styles.