Monday, 1 February 2016

21ST CENTURY TANK GIRL - REVIEW


Let me just start by saying that from a young age (probably too young) I have been a fan of Tank Girl, the Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin creation that took over the pages of Deadline magazine in the late '80s. Back then, she was a shaven-haired anarchic bounty hunter roaming the wastes of Australia in what is now, in retrospect, a blatant rip-off of Mad Max. As a seven year old, I was drawn to the mad diatribes and the untypical fashions, and the sudden and desperate need to own a tank, but my love for the comic soon transpired to just be a love for the artwork of Hewlett (yeah, I would watch CD:UK every weekend just to see his murals). After the loose cohesion of the first few issues, the comics would soon go completely bat shit crazy, and I found myself growing up and developing different interests.

While I have been checking in with the series intermittently over the years, 2015 saw the release of "a whole new take", according to publishers Titan comics, of Tank Girl: 21st Century Tank Girl. Funded through Kickstarter, this new addition saw the much publicised reunion of Martin and Hewlett, as well as other comic artists like Philip Bond and Brett Parsons, among others. While new artists were brought in to radically redraw the character (like Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, who drew 2013's Solid State Tank Girl), Martin continues on as the writer, "standing alone, screaming, battling thin air" as he states in the introduction.


While this is billed as a "whole new take" on Tank Girl, unfortunately it remains mostly the same. The stories are incoherent and nonsensical, the jokes are juvenile, and there is the same references towards the seventies and the Beat Generation as there was in the previous comics. There is even a half page wasted to shit dad-jokes. In short, there has been no real attempt here to update Tank Girl and bring her and her cronies into the 21st century (apart from Hewlett's phallic space ship in Space is Ace). It is very disheartening to try and rediscover something you once loved and realise it hasn't got better, but just stagnated instead.

While I can't say that I enjoy every artist in this anthology, for the most part the artwork is good. There is nod's through out to the original style of Hewlett's work in the late '80s/early 90's, with a horror vacui of graffiti and references, this, mixed in with the ramblings of the comics script, can be little headache inducing. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the book are the full page illustrations, or "pin ups" as the publishers describe them, which really allow you to look at the characters. As it usually is, and as all the cosplayers will contest, most of the fun in Tank Girl is in her design.


By the end of 21st Century Tank Girl, I realised that the world of Tank Girl was vacant and inconsequential. While there is, in a world of canon's and multiverses, a certain freedom in having a manic and free flowing narrative, I find myself caring less and less about her character, and her uniqueness is becoming rapidly flat and boring. Tank Girl could do with a maybe a complete re-imagining, with a new writer bringing in different ideas (and maybe a female creator in there somewhere), in her next outing.

Unless you read Tank Girl purely for the artwork, 21st Century Tank Girl is probably only worth borrowing from the library and photocopying. "Whimsy and cretinous", as Alan Martin described the comic in Orbital in Conversation, is wearing pretty thin.

3/10

Layla

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