‘Tank Girl’ Review: The Power of Carioca Harnessed

tank-girl-the-giftingTank Girl has been in print for about as long as I’ve been alive. The post-apocalyptic feminine-yet-macho woman in a tank cropped up initially where most dream girls emerge: pop-punk songs. TG’s creators, Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, attended art school and spent their good ol’ days together at the Carioca, a place where bands and friends could share a “fun, creative, and virtually ego-free zone.” The recent 6-issue endeavor associates Tank Girl with the reckless abandon the Caricoa inspired within its dwellers. The intensity of live music, gradually moving creative people toward each other, is how Tank Girl came to be a notable woman in comics.

Besides the movie and the new TG volume, I have had absolutely no exposure to the evolving world of Tank Girl and her gang. There are a few returning characters to Carioca: Booga (TG’s devoted mutant kangaroo boyfriend), Boat Girl, and Jet Girl. Their new adventure begins with Booga and TG as game show contestants on the popular show, “Quiz Bingo.” The “quizmaster” Charlie Happy, denies TG fabulous prizes when she answers a question incorrectly, even though her answer is correct. It isn’t until a review of the tape when Tank Girl hears Charlie Happy muttering obscenities about her, calling her a “stupid bitch” and telling her to go “fuck off” back to her “shitty town” that TG flies off the handle and declares that Charlie Happy must die. She sets elaborate plans in motion and expertly calculates his grisly murder, with the help of her comrades. After killing Charlie Happy in a public square (in which she quarters his body with an axe), TG and the gang retreat to the desert to drink and celebrate for eradicating such an evil presence from the world. At the end of a bloody day, she iterates to them: “The sun is setting on a big day, my friends. We’ve caused chaos and carnage on a grand scale. But I can’t help thinking that this is the start of something new…something different…something unexpected.” When TG dedicates herself to turning a new leaf, harnessing the spiritual power of the Carioca by unearthing her humanity, she finds herself in situations where her hard-wired inclinations to use violence conflict with her newfangled pacifist persona.

It’s a problematic dichotomy. Hell, there are numerous problematic aspects of Tank Girl’s world. The cover illustration puts more focus on the automatic weapons than the characters holding them. To give TG credit where it’s due, the variation of artistic expression is what made her an icon. Though I don’t care for McMahon’s cartoony style in these issues, there have been other artists who have fleshed out Tank Girl’s unique character with stunning realism. The militaristic art direction gives post-apocalyptic Australia authentic character. But in a world where a gallon of gas is worth more than human life, you wonder how Tank Girl stays so mobile. It must be her uncompromising attitude that gets her places.

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