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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Tank Girl
Carioca (Hardback)


Author: Alan Martin
Artist: Mike McMahon
Titan Books
RRP: £14.99, US $19.95, Can $23.95
ISBN: 978 0 85768 743 2
Available 26 October 2012

What’s that smell? Everyone’s favourite potty-mouthed, kangaroo-baiting, angry outback outlaw is back! When game-show presenter Charlie Happy takes a dislike to Tank Girl and her marsupial boyfriend Booga, denying them prizes of his-and-hers mountain bikes, thoughts of bloody revenge cloud our heroine’s mind. But the aftermath is startling, and a drunken revelation brings about Tank Girl’s own martial-arts philosophy - Carioca! This book is the bible of that philosophy, the gospel according to Tank Girl, and it is destined to become a religious-cult classic...!

Tank Girl goes a bit Kill Bill in this graphic novel, in terms of both her vendetta and the sprawling nature of Alan Martin’s script.

The story starts out as a fairly straightforward revenge plot, as our heroine is most heinously wronged on national television by Charlie Happy, a game-show host for whom she hitherto had the utmost respect. Tank Girl assembles a posse, including old favourites such as Jet Girl and Barney, and new characters such as the walking databank Andy Answers, in order to destroy Charlie. However, after wreaking bloody (very bloody - guts everywhere) vengeance, Tank Girl has an epiphany and creates a new religious cult, named Carioca, after a beloved nightclub. This new philosophy renounces violence - except when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, violence becomes very necessary when the gang is targeted by various assassins hired by U-Leen Happy, Charlie’s embittered widow.

This is a longer story than usual, which might partly explain its meandering plot. It comprises six episodes, which were previously published across three double-size issues in 2011. Had the Charlie and U-Leen Happy storyline not been sidetracked by the Carioca strand, this could have been a tighter four-parter - but then it would have needed a new title, and we would have been denied the inclusion of the bitter lemming, one of my favourite characters in the book!

There is an autobiographical element to the narrative, as is revealed by the author’s introduction and hinted at by the poems that separate the chapters. As well as exorcising his hatred for those who abuse their authority, be they teachers or bosses or game-show presenters, he also honours the Carioca Club, the venue where he met many of his Deadline collaborators in his youth.

Current events have slightly coloured a few of Martin’s phrases. On a couple of occasions, Tank Girl refers to people as plebs, a term that has recently been popularised by the “plebgate” storm that blew up around Conservative politician Andrew Mitchell. Current affairs in a Tank Girl review - who’d have thought it? There is also a fleeting reference to Jim’ll Fix It, which isn’t as innocent as it once was.

Mike (erroneously referred to as Mick on the back cover) McMahon is a surprising choice of artist for the story, but in many ways his style befits Tank Girl’s world. Perhaps best known for his work on 2000 AD strips such as Judge Dredd and Sláine, McMahon’s outlines are stylised, his characters grotesque, their physical attributes exaggerated and distorted. His backgrounds are more basic, but the whole thing is vividly coloured, his use of shading giving a good sense of light and perspective. All of the above could equally be said of McMahon’s illustrious Tank Girl predecessors Jamie Hewlett and Rufus Dayglo. However, the essential sex appeal of Tank Girl is missing, despite some low-cut tops and one topless image of Jet Girl. The villainous characters - of which there are plenty, including the bizarrely named assassins Electric Les, Token and the Man Who Ate a Donkey - are far more successful, and his Booga is very good.

A rather unusual Tank Girl adventure, then, but her battle with the Happy family should still keep her fans happy.


Richard McGinlay

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