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Great but maddening
on 10 April 2003
We love heroines in comic books - there's something special about them. That's cos there's precious few of them. Sure, many an author has introduced important female characters into a story, but they're often the love interest, the driver, the sidekick, of the lass holding the gauze for when the male hero gets a gash.
Tank Girl turns this rule on its head, presenting us with a tough, no-nonsense, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, kangaroo-shagging, tank-driving take-no-s**t b**ch. She's shaven-headed and doesn't wear that many clothes either. All in all, not your average female hero. That's what makes her so charming.
However, the comic strip itself is a tougher proposition than you might imagine. This first volume is definitely essential for any British comic fan, but having read it (and you must) you may be left thinking: 'do I want to get them all?'
While the stories are bright, brash and gleefully stick two fingers up at the establishment, they can become a mite tiresome. While the stories are inter-connected, the narravtive of them collected together meanders more than Tank Girl when she's drunk as a skunk. The artwork, too, is often brilliant but feels overstuffed, like the writing.
This is why Tank Girl is so great in some respects: it's dynamic, off-the-cuff, brash and entertaining. But only in sporadic bursts. Taken in small doses, it's out of this world but Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett have freely admitted they made it up as they went along and in a couple of hours. What we are left with is a pretty odd beast, not just in terms of story and character, but in form also. It's all over the place.
In the end, it's a wonderful mess, that doesn't know what it wants to be and is glad about it. But it's all style in the end and not for kiddies either. Still, you simply cannot go without experiencing it: it's a taste of the brillantly disorganised, going against the grain of controlled, precise, structured narratives and characterisation, and altough very, very funny, tough stuff with it.