Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Everybody Loves Tank Girl!

Everybody loves Tank Girl, right? She's way better than that Raymond guy anyway. She's raucous, stylish, unpredictable and has her own unique sense of social justice. Plus she drives a tank in post-apocalyptic Australia and has sex with a kangaroo. So dammit, I'm going to stand up and be counted. I love Tank Girl too!

Not too long ago I had a great time re-immersing with her off-kilter, foul-mouthed and vengeful adventures in the fantastic Tank Girl Carioca. Now, co-creator Alan C. Martin hooks up with artist Jim Mahfood (who I know from Kevin Smith's Clerks comic book series) to unleash Everybody Loves Tank Girl, a hardcover collection of short sharp comics that explore and expose the many filthy facets of Tank Girl's world. And thanks to our good friends at Titan Books, I have a copy!

Let me tell you all about it... after the jump!

Martin is consistently hilarious and subversive and never falters in this eclectic mash of comic mayhem, covering such broad subjects as unlikely baby sitting, Justin Bieber, the perpetually peeing Wee-Wee gang, and The Sixteenth Annual Australian Swearing Competition - which really does sound like it should be an actual event. There are also a few pages of illustrated pose which do a good job of spreading Martin's world view. Which is something I wonder throughout the book - is there only a narrow gap between Martin's ideals and Tank Girl's? After reading the manifesto at the beginning about how we, as humans, have "fucked up royally" and "we are all fucking idiots" I kind of wonder. But relax. A cosmic ray is on its way which is going to make everything a whole lot better.

Artist Mahfood has grown a lot since Clerks (which I still loved), and approaches Tank Girl with more style and vigour than I have previously seen from him. There's a wild looseness to his work that perfectly captures the energy of these bizarre tales. His style gives you the impression that the work was  churned out quickly and enthusiastically but there's actually a lot of detail and thought behind it. Martin and Mahfood are a brilliant pairing and appear to be constantly pushing each each other forward. There's also an extra section at the back featuring some stunning and never-before-printed Mahfood sketch pages.

Everybody Loves Tank Girl is as brash and confronting, but always funny and stylish. The characters are not aways the smartest, but the book always feels smart. And I commend Martin for always achieving that balance. In fact returning to this world again - and being so impressed by it again - makes me really feel like Tank Girl deserves a much greater public profile. It kills me that it was, in effect, crippled by a mediocre movie - much like Judge Dredd before it, although at least that one was redeemed by last year's brilliant Dredd. Martin even satirises the whole Tank Girl film debacle in one of the included stories in which the characters finally wrest free their film rights and attempt to make a fitting and more faithful sequel of their own. Needless to say, the results are dreadful. Maybe Tank Girl is ultimately unfilmable. Although I'd like to see someone try.

Okay... I guess I can see how this might confuse people.
At just under a hundred pages, Everybody Loves Tank Girl isn't exactly an exhaustive collection but is probably just about right for anyone who has the attention span of the main characters. And the quality never dips. This is another strong recommendation and makes me keen to track down the earlier work. Tank Girl is leagues ahead of far more popular books, and it needs to be supported. If we live in a world where Aquaman sells better, then Martin is right. We ARE royally fucked!

You can pick up this - and more Tank Girl - at Titan's site.

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