Trading Up: Tank Girl: Carioca

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One of the most divertingly escapist comic reads this year.

When Tank Girl and her kangaroo beau Booga get the chance to become contestants on their favourite television programme QuizBingo! they can hardly have forseen that their hero, gameshow host Charlie Happy, would take a savage dislike to them and stitch up their chances of winning a pair of much sought after his-and-hers mountain bikes. But, as Charlie will soon discover, it’s best not to get on the wrong side of our outrageous Antipodean anti-heroine as Tank Girl, Booga and chums plot an elaborate revenge scheme on the hapless TV funnyman.

Honour satisfied, TG and pals party in style. But during their celebratory booze-up Tank Girl finds herself immersed in a spot of confidence-shaking introspection and an unshakeable feeling that their victory has been an ultimately hollow one. Renouncing her aggressive ways she forms a new spiritual movement of peace and non-violence known as “Carioca”. But her cult’s life of quiet contemplation is soon to be shaken up because Charlie’s wife U-Leen is out for retribution and she’s bringing some of the world’s deadliest (and oddest!) assassins with her…

Collecting the Titan miniseries, Tank Girl: Carioca is a little different in narrative approach than the usual Tank Girl fare in that it feels more structured and less of a slapstick stream-of-consciousness than some of its forebears. That’s not to say the usual violent humour isn’t there in spades – because it most assuredly is – but, if this even makes sense, the mayhem has a more carefully arranged impression to it.

The book is very much, to use a British footballing cliché, a game of two halves. The first segment is essentially Tank Girl meets Ocean’s 11 as the crew recruit some additional expert help and devise an intricate plan of vengeance involving cannonballs, fire engines, evisceration and a humongous Victoria jam sponge cake. In a biting introduction writer Alan Martin describes this part of the plot as his payback to every undeserving figure of authority who abuses their position of power as Charlie Happy does. And, if you can accept Charlie Happy as a substitute figure for every incompetent boss-from-hell, bullying schoolteacher, or petty, officious bureaucrat you have ever had to endure, then there’s something rather satisfying for the wannabe worms-that-turned amongst the readership in this section of the story.

The latter part of the book concentrates on the Carioca movement that Tank Girl and co adopt: a kind of quasi-mystical, pseudo-spiritual cult philosophy that we all know is doomed from the very beginning. The fun here is in sitting back and watching just how things will unravel, with Charlie’s wife and her cadre of assassins (the names The Exit Warrior, Electric Les, Token, Mallory Fuckface and The Man Who Ate a Donkey probably saying all you need to know about the characters…) providing much of the belly laughs.


Martin’s secondary purpose in these pages is to commemorate the long gone Carioca Club of his youth, hence the name of the sect and the lyrical introductions to each chapter. The author may well describe the entirety of the book as “self-indulgent” in his intro but if there was ever a character/comic for whom a spot of reckless self-indulgence was an integral part of its make-up then surely it’s Tank Girl?

For many, though, the big draw of this volume will be the visuals from the irreplaceable Mike McMahon. While McMahon has never been an unappreciated talent he has, arguably, been an underappreciated one; that much discussed blocky, angular style marking a truly individual artistic vision. In recent years it’s been most pleasing to see his contribution to British comics being re-evaluated and his status being elevated to that of one of the true greats of the industry in the U.K.

There’s no disappointment to be found in his interpretation of Tank Girl and company in Carioca. That same manic energy and caricatured physicality that his work always embodies is on abundant show here. McMahon’s art always lends itself well to the satirical and the ridiculous and there’s never a shortage of either in a Tank Girl strip. Whether it appeals to the Tank Girl purists is another matter but I found his distorted and eccentrically stylised layouts to be a perfect fit for her world.

A caper comic, a fond tribute to days long gone, and a cutting piece of social commentary all rolled up into one, Tank Girl: Carioca is by far one of the best entries in the character’s publishing history for some time. It's a collection that ramps up that element of wish-fulfilment and the anarchically indifferent, eff-you attitude that has always been such a major part of Tank Girl’s appeal, providing one of the most divertingly escapist comic reads this year.

Tank Girl: Carioca is published by Titan Books priced £14.99 in the U.K. and $19.95 in the U.S.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Nov 27, 2012 at 3:36am

    Mike McMahon! Yay! I still remember very fondly his Last American series from now defunct Epic Comics.

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