Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Tank Girl Carioca!

Tank Girl
. You know her. She lives in a tank. She has a bandaid on her cheek, occasional missiles for tits, and she’s banging a kangaroo! Always a perfect blend of comical violence and irreverent humour, it pains me that a genius creation like Tank Girl is probably not as well read as fish-fancier Aquaman. Folks, we are lucky to have her, and she deserves our love, so let’s take every opportunity to enjoy her when we can!

Thanks to our friends at Titan Books we can enjoy her right now, in her most recent adventure Tank Girl: Carioca written by co-creator Alan C. Martin with art by Nick McMahon. This hardcover collects all six issues in one convenient, foul-mouthed, blood-spattered volume.

To find out what I thought of it... join me after the jump!

Carioca is the story of what goes down after Tank Girl and her kangaroo boyfriend Booga suspiciously fail to win matching his and hers mountain bikes on a popular television game show and then discover that, to add insult to injury, the host had been calling her disparaging names. Tank Girl plots an overly elaborate and grisly revenge but finds that her resulting victory leaves her cold and questioning her very existence. Perhaps it is time for a whole new way of life? So Tank Girl rallies up her friends and starts her very own peaceful “religion” entitled “Carioca”. But how long can this radical change of lifestyle last?

Tank Girl is such a breath of fresh air. There’s absolutely nothing pretentious about her - or this book - and it has an infectious kinetic energy from start to finish. It’s breezy, and incredibly funny, filled with an abstract, anarchic lunacy that doesn’t care who it offends. But as brash and destructive as these characters can consistently be, there’s no doubt that their hearts are in the right place. Tank Girl has 100% conviction in everything she does and her frequent awfulness is so sincere that you can’t help but take her side. Writer Martin always manages to make his irreverent outlaws authentically endearing and I think that’s a rare feat that needs to be commended.

While I’ve always loved original Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett’s work, Judge Dredd veteran McMahon has a distinctive, exaggerated style that marries well with the chaotic nature of the text. He comfortably makes these characters his own and continually pushes them to their limits. I love how he stages the bizarre action, especially as Tank Girl’s intentionally convoluted plan comes to fruition.

I feel like many of the better ideas occur in the earlier issues, and I’m not entirely sure if all the threads come together in a completely satisfying way - it really all boils down to a series of messy fights - but Carioca as a whole is so gratifying on a pure entertainment level, that I can easily forgive the sometimes stream-of-consciousness nature of the plot. In fact, to a large degree, this looseness is central to Carioca’s charm. In Tank Girl’s world anything can happen and probably does. It’s easier just to roll with it.

We live in a time where mainstream comics are struggling to appear shocking, or edgy, despite being stifled at times by their corporate masters. Most of these mainstream works, to me at least, feel somewhat rigid and safe, their attempts to be “adult” making them seem all the more juvenile. Tank Girl, however, is free of such concerns. She can cuss, or kill, or get her boobs out, and yet it never feels forced or manipulative at all. Martin’s work feels effortless to me, like he’s trying to please no one but himself, and it’s because he’s having so much fun along the way that we can’t help but join him. Tank Girl is the real deal and it comes from a real place. And that’s difficult to fake.

Carioca is a hilarious alternative to dark, gritty mainstream fare. You can find out more about it here at Titan’s site.

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