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Graphic Novel Review
Sometimes people come back into your life. Sometimes they’re not meant to… Get ready for the first volume in a brand-new Tank Girl trilogy from series creator Alan Martin and artist extraordinaire Brett Parson! When Tank Girl’s tank mysteriously disappears and then turns up with a bogus Tank Girl in the driver’s seat, all hell breaks loose! But the new Tank Girl has a deep, dark, dirty secret… Expect a healthy dose of delirium and plenty of ball-crunching action in this high-octane cross-country skirmish that asks the question: is this world really big enough for two Tank Girls? Strap yourselves in, folks, because it’s gonna be one helluva ride…!
In complete contrast to the anthology format of last year’s 21st Century Tank Girl, Two Girls One Tank is one long story. And in contrast to much of Tank Girl’s previous adventures, there’s more of an emphasis on coherent plotting from writer Alan Martin rather than just weird stuff going on – which for this franchise is weird in itself!
Tank Girl’s beloved Panzer has been pilfered, so our heroine, together with her allies Booga and Barney, sets out on a scheme to acquire enough ready cash to buy an identical replacement. Meanwhile, the tank itself has come into the possession of high-class gallery owner Magnolia Jones, who soon finds herself falling under the vehicle’s spell and ends up reinventing herself in Tank Girl’s image… This is how we end up with two girls whose lives revolve around (yes, you guessed it) one tank.
It’s quite a big idea, this notion of the essence of Tank Girl somehow being transferred to another person via contact with the tank – or is the tank creating a new driver for itself in the absence of the old one? Is Tank Girl being set up to be replaced by a younger version? Such things happen sometimes to long-running comics characters – think of the multiple iterations of the Flash, Robin or Supergirl. Or is something else going on? What are those marks on Magnolia’s back and arms? Is she into bondage, or is there a more sinister secret in her past…?
Amid all of this plot (and even some pathos, would you believe), there are perhaps fewer laughs than might be expected from this series, though there’s the usual complement of boobs, booze, swearing and explosions, and I did smirk at a remark about being given a juicy tip! The creative team also lighten the load via the use of comical sound effects, such as “Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!”, “Knocky!”, “Brunch!” and “Lunch!”, a visit to a Westworld-style venue (except that instead of cowboys, this theme park is populated by mechanical 1980s rock stars) and a dialogue reference to Pulp Fiction: “This won’t be over until we’ve destroyed every last mother-scrubbing one of them!”
Thankfully, the artwork chores are handled by Brett Parson, who was easily my favourite contributor to 21st Century Tank Girl, owing to his particular blend of wackiness and sexiness. Not looking so good are the girls’ various victims throughout this graphic novel – mostly members of the army and police who are after them (including a pair of Dastardly and Muttley lookalikes) plus some others who just happen to get in the way. The body count is high, as lorries explode and the unfortunate Sheriff Wyngarde gets hideously shot to bits.
The story ends on an unusually downbeat note, following a tough fist-fight between the eponymous two girls (during which the c-word is uttered with intense rage), a grim flashback for one of them, and an incredibly gruesome gunshot to the head. Writer Alan Martin also appears to take some inspiration from the Doctor Who story The End of Time for the dreadful booth-based dilemma that is faced by Tank Girl at the climax of this tale. This is followed by a dramatic dialogue-free splash page, which captures a moment of stunned and silent disbelief.
Though all hope seems lost as the survivors walk away, heads bowed, from the scene, there is still a morsel of hope. As Tank Girl’s pal Jet Girl notes, “That water must’ve been near freezing.” (You’ve seen The Abyss, right?) And as Tank Girl’s adversary General Fletcher promises, “This isn’t finished.” This is the first book of a trilogy, after all…
Before I go, I should just mention the excellent lettering, which is produced not by a separate letterer, but by the artist, and is worthy of the great artist/letterer John Costanza himself. Brett Parson, ladies and gentlemen – one man, two jobs well done.
Two girls, one tank, eight out of ten.