Tony Fyler says Respect the Tank.
21st Century Tank Girl #1 is pretty much what you’d expect from Tank Girl – loud, brash, fun (or at least almost fun) and full of punk-girl-in-a-tank attitude.
Is it a little juvenile? To be sure; there are a handful of dubious dick jokes and a couple of vaguely over-obvious pussy gags too (Y’know, some days you wake up and realise you’re going to write a sentence you never thought you’d write). More than that, there’s little sense of what poncy editorial types call ‘light and shade’ about the three stories here, little sense of any genuine peril coming anywhere close to Tank Girl, so her punky, spunky fuck-you-all attitude comes off as a little wasted – she’s like a filthy-brained Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. With a tank. That means that while the whole thing is inevitably quite jolly and funny, it seems to lack much in the way of consequence, and so ultimately comes off a little lightweight.
That’s a sense perversely heightened by the second story, ‘Easy.’ Perversely because it’s a story told entirely in action and sound effects, and because it’s the closest to traditional Tank Girl – Girl, with tank, takes on dickwad guys, also with tanks, wins the day. Thing go ‘Boom,’ really rather a lot. While it’s actually a brave-ish move from writer Alan Martin to tell this story entirely without dialogue, it ends up feeling oddly atonal and shrugworthy, and given what is a comparatively muddy pallet to the artwork from Warwick Johnson-Cadwell in this story, it offers little in the way of incentive to stare at it for long enough to even appreciate the story.
The other two short stories here have a greater tonal consistency – and the tone is rampant piss-take. Panel one of story one, ‘Space Is Ace,’ shows you the territory we’re in – ‘Space: the final front ear…This is the voyage of the Starship Ballbag, its five year mission to explore hairy new worlds, to seek out new under-parts and encrusted unmentionables…Actually, that’s total bollocks, that’s not our mission at all.’
And we’re off, with this new Tank Girl kicking her way through a revolution, technically destroying a society and a planet, just to win a vintage rally and a Jeep. But at least there’s a degree of accidental revolution and popular uprising along the way, meaning at least some people think she’s a hero. Notsomuch the cruel grey overlords she essentially explodes, but hey – omelettes, eggs, yadda yadda yadda. The art in the first story, from Jamie Hewlett, has a very concise quality, and yet manages to pack a lot of action and storytelling into not a very great deal of space, so props are due to Hewlett and Martin for delivering a bit of a belter in terms of concise, funny-enough if inconsequential story to launch the character of 21st century Tank Girl into this series.
Story three is technically the most engaging and fun – there’s less in the way of schoolboy humour, and more in the way of feeding people to a vicious zombie psychopath in The Runny Man, a rampant piss-ripper of the Schwarzeneger movie that turns capital punishment into kickass gameshow (don’t tell the teens, but it’s probably a big part of where The Hunger Games came from). This is the Schwarzeneger movie with a Tank Girl vibe – as in the original, there can be only one survivor (wait, surely that was another movie?), and Tank Girl is determined to be ‘It.’ While it still has all the funnies, there’s a darker, more 2000 AD edge to this story – spiky death-chasms, spinal rippage, testicle munching, all that good happy stuff is here – and it’s really here, separated from her usual gang, that this 21st Century Tank Girl really comes into her own as a character that might have the potential to anchor a long-running comic-book series. Brett Parson’s art carries that darker comic edge through into the visuals and delivers the tone the story needs to succeed.
There is technically a fourth story, Tank Girl’s Sundrenched Martian Superholiday, but both in concept and delivery, it feels like filler, being for the most part chunky paragraphs of narrative with single-image pages, leaving the reader feeling like there are really three stories and… that thing.
One to check out then? Meh. Maybe in years to come, 21st Century Tank Girl will be a legendary series and we’ll all be checking out her adventures every issue. For now, the first issue feels like a concept grasping for a coherent style and tone, and only partially succeeding. More comic badassery like The Runny Man would feel like an instinctive way to go. What would be even better would be getting more female writers and artists in – 21st Century Tank Girl could, with just a little prodding be a perfect property to launch or expand the careers of real 21st riot girl writers and artists with something funny and edgy to say.
21st Century Tank Girl #1 is released Wednesday June 10th.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk