‘That is some of the most twisted, fucked-up shit I’ve ever heard.’Well, that was chuck-another-wombat-on-the-barby bonkers.
Early in Two Girls, One Tank #4, you suspect it’s going to be an issue that’s mostly fisticuffs and mayhem as Tank Girl and Sub Girl beat lumps out of each other in the sub, while getting strafed to seven shades of bleeding shit by over a hundred gunships, as Jet Girl, Barney and Booga try to save their arses.
The second act takes the story of the last four issues off in a whole different direction. It’s a direction that makes precisely buggerall sense, and could be said to be guilty of retroactive history-building, slamming, as it does, a whole other life into Sub Girl’s history between the chunks of her past of which we’ve already learned. That new chunk, shown in sepia-tinted flashback, is the stuff of Stepford horror comedy, and it gives us the pathway to the point of this issue, as well as a kind of explanation for her freaked-out behaviour since she returned to the Tank Girl fold.
It also leads us on a chase and a bit of Kill Bill-style action, as prices are paid for crimes and intense fucked-uppedness in the past. And beyond that, when the gang are all together again, there’s an ending that channels the end of the Tenth Doctor’s time in Doctor Who so precisely it’s almost naughty. Horrible choices have to be made, and are, and an issue that started with such typical Tank Girl joie de vivre, and what should probably be thought of as joie de mourir, ends on a truly sombre note that delivers more than a healthy dose of ‘what-the-hell-did-I-just-read?’ that makes you demand at least another issue to process its consequences in the Tank Girl world. There’s a big fat ‘The End’ notice at…well, the end of this issue though, but it comes with an ellipsis (…), so we can still hope for an upturn in the fortunes of the Tank Girl gang. We’re especially led to hope because there’s a strand of storytelling as yet unfinished in regard to those hundred-and-some helicopter gunships, that could do with tying up. In fact, some big military guy expressly tells us, as he mourns the sharp shooting of Jet Girl and the gang, that ‘this isn’t over.’
We hope he’s right, because let’s say this – issue #4 starts with dangerous fun and ends up on a huge fat double cheeseburger of a bummer. While Tank Girl’s no stranger to bummers, it would feel wrong to end this storyline on this note, like a punch in the guts that makes you sit down hard. Whether writer Alan Martin decides to do that to his characters of course it up to him, but for a storyline that hit some real high notes, it feels depressingly realistic to bring us down like this with no final upsurge. Even when our heroes have as anarchistic an approach to morality as Tank Girl does – in fact arguably, especially when they have as anarchistic an approach to morality as Tank Girl does – we want to see them succeed, to beat the odds that conspire against them and give those odds a hearty single-fingered salute… or, y’know, blast their face off and leave them gooey. One of those things, we forget which. Either way, while there’s blasting aplenty here, it’s the Tank Girl posse that end up getting shafted, and that’s just not…right, somehow. So we’re hanging on to the hope of three little dots and a triumphant volte face to get us punching the air and anyone who gets in our way in one last issue of this story.
Artwise, Brett Parson has never been afraid to make with the red stuff, and here, there’s some solid punchy action and at least one up close and personal ker-blamm to deal with, while Jet Girl, Barney and Booga make airborne mincemeat of the irritating gunships that are just out to ruin everybody’s day. The sepia section gives us a kind of Stepford feel that looks properly Mad Men retro, plus the issue opens up with some underwater James Bond-age, and as we’ve mentioned, channels its Tenth Doctor finale pretty hard and strong, from the airborne gun battle to the partitioned box of death, and even to a line after one section of the box opens up. The colours are – and there’s no other way to say this – properly Australian, the skies on fire and the general tones lush with reds, browns and oranges. Oh and while we’re talking about Parson’s artwork, for all the generally punky style he brings to the Tank Girl comic-books, it’s worth checking out Page 21 for a reminder of his skills – there’s some reflection work there that not only looks like our understanding of reality, but also shows his skill as a visual compiler, putting the image together in his head and then delivering it to us in a way that heightens the emotion of an already tense moment.
Put simply, you’re going to need issue #4 of Two Girls, One Tank because you’re not going to believe it until you read it for yourself. You may need a beer or two after it, mind you. And then you can join the rest of us wondering if there’s an issue #5 to take the story onward and upward from the monumental downer on which this issue ends.
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