Titan Comics: 21ST CENTURY TANK GIRL #2 Review
Tank Boy Tony explores a load of old bollocks.
The final panel of the second story of issue #2 of 21st Century Tank Girl has Jet Girl proclaim that Tank Girl’s adventure, as recounted to her, is less like ‘Journey to the Centre of the Tank’ than it is a ‘Journey to the Centre of a Load of Fucking Bollocks.’
It sucks to have to report this, but I’m pretty much with Jet Girl.
Tank Girl has never been the place to go for deep and meaningful. Always the place for blowing the bejesus out of things and occasional neck-breaking, but deep and meaningful, notsomuch.
Still, there’s a point in this comic where writer Alan Martin appears to have given up on narrative structure and point altogether, and where there’s a fusion of Tank Girl and Calvin and Hobbes in terms of the artwork. That would be the point at which the second story starts. The first story, Nanango ’71, written by Martin and drawn by Brett Parson, at least holds together, as Tank and Jet Girl and Booga, the talking kangaroo, find themselves driving a mint condition auto from 1971 across the desert, to deliver it to Bill Shakespeare (not that one). If you’re going to do that, it really helps if you don’t mess with psycho fake-hippies or hold up a bank on the way. Their adventures on their way to Shakespeare’s place are by no means high art, but they’re snigger-worthy fun with a Tarrantinogasm thrown in here and there to ramp up the violence factor.
The second story though – Journey to the Centre of the Tank – is where the graphics get angular, the lettering begins to slip, and the story goes to hell in a handcart. In the middle of a tank battle, Tank Girl’s forced to go into the depths of her tank, where she finds 70s British comedy team Little and Large, Tucker Jenkins and a whole host of other 70s British TV personalities and characters – Humpty from Play School’s in there, and so’s Tom Baker in full-on Fourth Doctor gear. All very nice, but there comes a point when cultural referencing and the throw-up of psychological flotsam wanders into the sphere of the cynical and that’s what happens here as any semblance of plot is replaced by ‘look, here’s a load of stuff you’ll remember if you’re British,’ rather than any kind of legitimate, in-story look at Tank Girl’s psyche through the crap she hoards in the tank. That’s why I’m with Jet Girl – who, incidentally, passes out in two stories in a row here. Load of bollocks.
The third story’s a quickie, and it acts almost like a poem about the coolness of looking old now everybody in the world who thinks they’re cool looks young. Again written by Martin, but this time drawn with spiky, edgy attitude by Jim Mahfood, it almost redeems the second story with its blunt brazen ‘fuck you and what you think’ lines, and when Tank Girl and Jet Girl go off to form a band called ‘Crabby Git and the Really Old Cockbags’ there’s a bit of you that wants to go off with them and grow old just as disgracefully as you possibly can.
But does the issue as a whole hang together in the way you need it to if you’re going to part with your hard-liberated money for it?
Welllll, technically, probably, yes – two thirds of it feel like proper ‘stick it up your ass if you don’t like me!’ Tank Girl, and the idea of what the second story’s trying to do is clear enough – rummage around in Tank Girl’s tank-cum-mind (yes, believe me, I’m aware…), pull out a load of nostalgic gibberish and nothing of any depth at all. It’s really just that the second story feels a bit like it runs out of idea half way through, but knows how it should end, and then throws anything it can into the middle section (that’s the middle of the middle story, in case you’re not keeping up), just to see it through to the point where it can legitimately earn your money again.
So, sure, overall, stick with it. I said back in issue #1 that what would be pretty kickass would be to have some young women involved in the writing or artwork. I’m happy to stand by that as there still seems to be an overtly male ‘this is what cool women are like’ vibe to the thing, meaning 21st Century Tank Girl has a whiff of sweaty gym-sock about it – or indeed a whiff of sweaty bollocks. Is it still cool enough to enjoy? Hell yes, especially the shortest of the three stories here. There’s just still that feeling that it could be way cooler if it were written with a genuinely female kickass voice.
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 day, he 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