If what you want from a comic is a logical, heartfelt story with meaning and depth…then probably don’t read Tank Girl. That’s not unreasonable; it’s a comic born out of punk and street art cultures and has always been faintly ridiculous. The newest incarnation is no different, with writer Alan Martin back at the steering wheel and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell’s childishly simplistic artwork adding to the general juvenile feel of the comic (and that is not an insult – Tank Girl should be juvenile). So we start in a pretty normal setting, with a depressed Tank Girl accompanying Booga to get his ham radio fixed; it’s kind of unusual to see TG so glum as she says she just wants to sit around and feel sorry for herself, and her sentences trail off into “blah blah blah” when she begins to reminisce.
She soon cheers up though when she bumps into Crofty, an old friend who was expelled from school for setting fire to the principal. The Britishisms are great in their dialogue, with phrases like “Blow me, it’s Crofty, my old mate!” and Crofty’s over-the-top polite responses (calling Booga his strange, furry, marsupial friend is polite, right?). The problem with the radio: someone’s been taking things a little too literally, and put a piece of ham in the back of the machine. Of course. Booga rightly assumes that it is the work of Miss Barney Farnsbarns, their live-in nutjob and summons her. The text has already been littered with swear words by the way, dropped into the most seemingly innocent of places, and there’s no sign of it ending. As they wait for Barney to come down with Jet Girl, Booga peruses the back of the store and electrocutes himself on 1920s radio.
As he lies unconscious in the back room, Tank Girl greets Barney and Jet Girl out front and sends Barney to find Booga. Coming across his lifeless body, the store owner Crofty diagnoses a neurological embolism brought on by the waves from radio equipment. They hurry him out of the room, and now is where it gets really strange. A la Inner Space, Crofty wants to shrink the girls down to enter Booga’s bloodstream and fix his brain, in a contraption called The Significant Triode (or The Sausage, as the girls call it). He plans on shrinking the Triode with the use of what he refers to as V.O.M.I.T. – Volume Organising Mutationally Integreated Technology. The ladies step on board and VOM down to the size of an amoeba, when Crofty injects them into Booga’s blood stream. The inside of Booga is totally psychedelic, pink and purple squiggly organs floating around and the girls get changed into the only clothes they can find – sixties swimwear!
Looking much more Charlie’s Angels now, the girls narrowly avoid some of Booga’s internal “soft furnishings” but end up veering in the wrong direction, toward Booga’s nether regions. It’s not long before they come across a hovering orb that they assume at first to be a moon but is, of course, a testicle. Too distracted by the irresistable force of Booga’s bollock, the girls forget to look out for the other one and end up crashing right into the big, fancy ball which shuts itself behind them. So I know I said that the things get strange with the Significant Triode – now they get kind of disturbing.
On exploring the gonad, they discovered a microscopic foetus hanging from threads. Deciding that they can’t leave it and that it’ll be funny, they sever the cords holding the baby in place, triggering the knacker to implode – although it takes them a while to notice as they crowd around the baby and plan on getting it booties and a hat knitted by a granny. It’s really surreal but kind of sweet when TG announces “We are now its mothers” but soon they must return to the Sausage and shoot toward Booga’s head. What appears to Barney to be a black hole is actually…Booga’s brain! The battle has only just begun.
The last few pages are an adorably simple story of a big fight between TG and her crew and Dick Strangeballs and his army of mutants. The funniest part for me was the excessive using of swearwords and the wonderful sound effects of “Gatly-Gatly-Gatly” on the Gatling gun. They take most of the mutants out, and Dick runs off to watch You’ve Been Framed. Don’t try to look for sense, you shall find none here.
Solid State Tank Girl has been criticised by many people largely for its very different artwork. WJC doesn’t seem to try to make his characters look attractive or appealing, and I think that’s really refreshing to see. Everyone has this childish roughness about them, with weird shaped heads and almost cubist clothing. The feel of the writing is the same as ever but this artwork heralds a decidely different style for the comics, moving more from the graffiti look of Jamie Hewlett to what I see as a more anarchistic and absurdist form. It’s only going to be a four part run, so it’s probably worth keeping an eye on, especially if you love the spirit of punk in Tank Girl comics.
First published on the Travelling Man blog