Tank Girl: Skidmarks (Titan Books)

Alan Martin and Jamie (Gorillaz) Hewlett’s smart-mouthed heroine returns for another wild ride.

 

128 pgs., color; $16.95
(W: Alan C. Martin; A: Rufus Dayglo)
 
One thing I have to say for Tank Girl: it’s a comic unlike any I have ever read. The eponymous heroine is a foul-mouthed, kick-ass punk babe who drives a tank through the post-Apocalyptic Australian landscape with the assistance by her boyfriend Booga, a mutant kangaroo. In the four issues collected in this volume, she’s taking part in the Watermelon Run, an illegal, no-holds-barred cross-continental race with a prize of 20 billion dollars, which is exactly what she needs to pay for a brain operation for a friend who was injured in an unfortunate skateboarding accident.
 
So if you’re still with me, rest assured that that summary might suggest more coherence in this comic than really exists. More accurately, that plot outline serves as a clothesline on which wild improvisations are hung and orderly forward movement is the least of anyone’s concerns. But Tank Girl is never less than entertaining and occasionally approaches demented genius, and I suspect that being freed of the inhibitions of a conventional linear plot have a great deal to do with that.
 
But back to the race. There’s no lack of smashups and beheadings and such because it’s totally legal, even expected, to make your way to the front by destroying the other competitors and their vehicles. Or as a shady character with more than a casual resemblance to Burt Reynolds puts it: “the only rule of this race is that there are no rules.” Addison DeWitt would have sighed at the dullness of the cliché and our girl has a similar response: “Seriously? That old cliché is the best they could come up with?” So now you see one reason I love Tank Girl: I was a kid who was always in trouble for questioning authority and although I’ve become somewhat better-behaved as an adult, I can still live out my smart-mouth fantasies vicariously through her.
 
Further attempting to summarize the action is useless: let’s just say that a lot of pop-culture-influenced characters pop up including a Charlie’s Angels-type trio called The Preventers and the punk rocker Dee Dee Ramone. We get some crucial back story in this collection also. First we learn how Barney (the friend who needs brain surgery) got into her predicament, then we go even further back to learn how she and Tank Girl became best mates in the first place (hint: it had something to do with mutual defense in the public school from hell).
 
Rufus Dayglo’s art is a great match to Alan Martin’s text: it’s loaded with life and color and makes the preposterous seem entirely plausible. There are a few excursions into monochrome land, but mostly the color palette is bright and loud (in fact, almost like a kid’s comic). The characters are drawn with very broad strokes and with jokey elements like spelled-out sound effects reminiscent of the 1960’s Batman television show (Voot! Smushah! Kaka Zoom!).
 
This is not a comic for the easily offended. The cover of the first issue includes the warning (or perhaps the boast) “Now with added swearing,” and if you think about what the title (“skid marks”) means in slang then you’ll see what I mean. But for persons of a certain turn of mind who value energy and invention over conventional plot development, it’s great fun. You can see a preview of Tank Girl: Skidmarks at Comic Book Resources and read Rufus Dayglo’s blog here. | Sarah Boslaugh

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