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Trading Up: Everybody Loves Tank Girl

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Mahfood’s busy and frenetic panels are full of detail that rewards a careful viewing/re-reading, and there’s always an energy to his work that lends itself perfectly to the frantic, ferocious slapstick that is such an integral part of Tank Girl’s appeal.

Titan’s latest Tank Girl compilation takes a different tack from the recent preceding volumes by returning the character to her rapid fire, high impact roots in a series of fast-paced vignette strips rather than the longer, more involved story arcs of books like Tank Girl: Carioca. Collecting the Everybody Loves Tank Girl limited series by Alan Martin and Jim Mahfood, the titular strip is the only continuing entry throughout a hardcover that combines short stories, pin-up style pages and gag features.  

The headlining serial sees the unlikely development of Tank Girl acting as babysitter for stroppy, war-obsessed child Feldman Haim while being pursued by the ultra-violent Arty Farty Gang in a typically surreal chase caper. Elsewhere we’re treated to the likes of Tank Girl, Booga and entourage enjoying a rather gross gourmet experience (gerbil excrement-based dish anyone?), entering the Sixteenth Annual Australian Swearing Competition, causing death by frozen urine, and taking on the notorious Wee-Wee Brothers in a shoot-out.

From that brief description of the tone of the stories presented here you'll get a good grasp of the unrepentantly over-the-top, unashamed self-indulgence in these pages. While Tank Girl has never exactly embraced the most sophisticated of humour this collection is noticeably more scatological and crude in its comedic delivery. No mean feat given the usual excesses of a Tank Girl offering! Largely shorn of the social or pop cultural commentary of recent books, though, (however superficial it may have been) Everybody Loves Tank Girl is something of a hit or miss affair. It’s perhaps one for the established TG fans rather than an entry point for unconverted readers.

To its advantage the constant staccato procession of short strips does ensure that the reader moves quickly on from those that fail to hit the mark to others that may be more memorable in their approach, but there’s something of a scattershot sketch show impression to the book. The text-based, stream-of-consciousness features that punctuate the longer strips, in particular, being of varying effectiveness and some of the individual character spotlights tailing off with no real punchline pay-off. That said, when Everybody Loves Tank Girl does make a cutting point it does it in style. ‘Thunderfoot and Lightfart’, chronicling the making of a second Tank Girl movie includes the barbed line “It’s all part of modern film making. If we don’t take the original idea and totally fuck it sideways, then we’re not doing a proper job”; a sentiment I’m sure we can all have some sympathy with...

Jim Mahfood’s art is a huge draw though and, like Mike McMahon in Tank Girl: Carioca, his style proves to be an ideal fit for Tank Girl’s world. His busy and frenetic panels are full of detail that rewards a careful viewing/re-reading, and there’s always an energy to Mahfood’s work that lends itself perfectly to the frantic, ferocious slapstick that is such an integral part of the comic’s appeal.

After the triumph of Tank Girl: Carioca and the complex, twisting, high-octane silliness of Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising, Everybody Loves Tank Girl is perhaps a little more of an erratic and less satisfying read but it’s not without its moments of earthy wit. A pub-and-a-pint comic it may well be but Jim Mahfood’s crazily crammed visuals are worth the price of entry alone.

Everybody Loves Tank Girl is available from Titan Books priced £14.99 and $19.95 in the U.S.

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