Review: Tank Girl's post-apocalyptic anarchy might be too historical to be hysterical

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

It's hard to assess Titan Books' first two reprint volumes of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin's late 1980s and early 1990s Tank Girl comics, Tank Girl One (Remastered) and Tank Girl Two (Remastered) , as things in and of themselves. Is Tank Girl the same foul-mouthed, vicious-in-a-cute-way, really violent, booze-swilling, mutant-kangaroo-snogging, antisocial, tank-driving force of perversion and anarchy she's always been? Yep!

What makes these volumes "Remastered" is the publication of Tank Girl's napalm-y adventures in chronological order, the inclusion of variant covers and extra bits of Hewlett's art. The two volumes together collect Tank Girl's appearances from October 1988 to December 1992. So if you like Tank Girl, and your originals from back in the day got ruined when your drunk roommate used them to mop spilled Top Ramen broth off the end table you stole from the student union lounge, these reprints are wicked worth the price of $14.95 each.

A little Tank Girl goes a long way. Hewlett's and Martin's work here is as dense and cluttered as the floor of a Brixton squat. It might be best not to read these volumes straight through, as there's so much stuff on each page that it can get a little overwhelming.

What makes these volumes hard to assess in and of themselves is the distilled late-1980s Cold War zeitgeist that smokes off their pages, as intense as the late-1950s/ early-1960s Cold War paranoia to be found in those old Mars Attacks! trading cards. The only thing that comes close to the intensity of the late-1980s anti-Thatcherite rampage-rage to be found on these pages might be the late 1960s anarchist/revolutionary fervor found in Spain Rodriguez's Trashman comix from The East Village Other (may it rest in peace).

Yeah, Tank Girl is goofy and funny, full of nutty William S. Burroughs-like surrealism and tossings of Molotov cocktails through the fourth wall. But there's a genuine vibe of anti-authoritarianism here, as when Tank Girl and her pals Jet Girl and Sub Girl and Booga the mutant kangaroo blow the crap out of the Australian countryside, that can be seen as a mini-echo of that which led to the 1990 poll tax riots.

The post-apocalyptic feel of these early Tank Girl adventures drives home the extent to which sociopolitical alienation cropped up in comics in a way that was revolutionary for the medium (no matter what one's politics may be). Think of Alan Moore's D.R. and Quinch, Axel Pressbutton (written under Moore's pseudonym, Curt Vile), V for Vendetta and Watchmen. Then of course there was the tack that late-1970s character Judge Dredd took along with the whole slew of characters in 2000 A.D.

In North America, some of this alienation showed up in the Hernandez Brothers' Love and Rockets, in Chester Brown's Yummy Fur and in Dean Motter's Mr. X. All are defined by a sense of how "the center cannot hold," but there's a particular kind of chaos (in terms of storylines and style and disregard for structure) in these pages of Tank Girl that's overwhelming at times. It's great as a comic book. As a historical artifact, it's amazing in its immediacy and in terms of its visceral punch to the sternum ... even as it makes you chuckle and kinda wish you had a souped-up tank of your own. Lager, anyone?