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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

The Power of Tank Girl


Writer: Alan Martin
Artists: Rufus Dayglo and Ashley Wood
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: £19.99, US $24.99, Can $27.95
Age: 15+
ISBN: 978 1 78276 064 1
288 pages
Publication Date: 30 September 2014

A steaming 288-page lump of Tank Girl nastiness! Collecting three graphic novels, The Power of Tank Girl presents an all-out blitzkrieg on the senses. Never before has so much dense naughtiness been crammed into such a perfectly portable pocket-size book. We join Tank Girl, her marsupial hubby Booga, and their pals Barney, Jet Girl and Jackie (AKA Boat Girl) as they find themselves the victims of the worst run of bad luck ever, with an army, the cops, the Australian Mafia, a loan shark, and even some enraged hotel guests on their tails! Hold onto this – this is your bible for the apocalypse...

This book compiles the content of three volumes from 2007 to 2010 – The Gifting, Visions of Booga and The Royal Escape – each of which were themselves previously released as four-issue series of comics by IDW Publishing. The order listed above is not, however, the sequence in which the stories are presented here. Instead, the collection kicks off with the most recent adventure, The Royal Escape, which is perhaps not the best place to begin…

Tank Girl and her team find themselves stranded on the outskirts of a city they have just destroyed – for some reason – as an immense and vengeful army approaches…

I’m glad this is an anthology. If I had picked up the opening chapter of The Royal Escape as an individual comic book, I might have worried that I had missed an issue. It is never explained why or how Tank Girl and her chums ended up in a battle against an army. As Barney remarks at the end of the story, “Would someone please remind me… what were we fighting for again?” Regular readers of Tank Girl’s exploits will know to chalk this up to the strip’s usual brand of anarchic madness – though even by those standards this story is strange, with Jet Girl, Tank Girl, Jackie and Barney each possessing a different coloured egg which gives them certain abilities, and Barney discovering a Terracotta Army created in her image. As you do. I’m guessing there’s some Eastern mysticism in there somewhere, though I haven’t a clue where royalty comes into it.

One peculiarity of the plot can be explained by the order in which the stories are presented. Jackie is featured in The Royal Escape as though the reader already knows who she is (though she was a new one on me). She is then introduced to Tank Girl by Barney in the shorter strip Bad Camouflage, which had originally been published three years earlier. Still, this is just the kind of wacky timeline that you get in the (similarly violent) Pulp Fiction, and it doesn’t feel too out of the place here, either, since the other main story in this volume features an overt flashback to Tank Girl and Booga’s earlier days…

The tank has been lost in a bet and the Mafia are after Booga and Tank Girl. Their only hope seems to lie on the other side of the country, with Booga’s long-lost little brother…

Visions of Booga is more successful as a story. There is still the requisite amount of sexiness, violence and profanity, but even the loopy central premise – in which an old hippy tome, Book of Hipster Gold, influences events whenever it is read – makes a bizarre kind of sense. However, I’m not sure that I particularly care for the idea of Barney getting her hands on a better tank than Tank Girl’s – which happens in both of the main stories in this anthology. If this were a television show, I would be worried at this point that the main cast member was about to be written out!

Shorter tales taken from The Gifting are distributed throughout the book, though mainly they have been sent to the back (like the naughty children who feature in the strip The Kids From 23A). Their shorter duration arguably recaptures the unpredictable nature of the earliest Tank Girl strips from Deadline magazine, in a way that the more sprawling four-parters do not. They include The Funsters Will Play (a Monkees spoof in which Tank Girl gatecrashes a gig in a typically violent manner), the aforementioned Bad Camouflage, The Dogshit in Barney’s Handbag (the title of which speaks for itself), XZ-38 (in which Booga sets his sights on acquiring an antique Buck Rogers ray gun) and The Innocent Die First (in which Booga’s attitude towards hotel guests makes Basil Fawlty seem positively polite by comparison). These little quickies tend not to linger long in the mind, but they made me laugh out loud a few times, which the longer stories seldom do.

The artwork chores are fulfilled mostly by Rufus “I can’t believe it’s not Jamie Hewlett” Dayglo, with Ashley Wood filling in on several of the shorter strips. Wood’s style is scratchier than Dayglo’s, and his versions of the female characters look rather different (but no less valid) than those of other artists, but good old Booga looks the same no matter who is drawing him. All the strips are presented in colour (by Christian Krank and Ashley Wood), though it’s a decidedly muted scheme, often resembling duotone, and again the recalling the earlier (black and white) Deadline days.

The Power of Tank Girl – hardly a force from above, but there’s plenty in here to keep Tank Girl fans entertained for hours.


Richard McGinlay

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