That lovable miscreant Tank Girl and her band of ethically-challenged companions are back for another round (or three) of frenetically violent shenanigans, courtesy of writer/co-creator Alan Martin and artist Brett Parson. King Tank Girl collects all five issues of the long-running series’ most recent, blood-soaked volume. In the main story, King Tank Girl, our title character’s pursuit of a long-desired action figure brings her crew (Jet Girl, Sub Girl, the clinically-insane Barney, Tank Girl’s kangaroo boyfriend Booga, ex-lover Stevie, and various talking stuffed animals) to Jolly Olde England. Following a violent outburst, she manages to obtain the sword Excalibur and become the new king, as you do. As it turns out, she’s not exactly fit to rule and soon finds herself at odds with Booga, when the morally-superior marsupial attempts to usurp her power. Royal hijinks, political unrest, and lots of bloodshed to follow.
Meanwhile, in the first of several backup stories, “Barney Don’t Surf” features the motley crew attempting to evade a bounty hunter and end up time-traveling to a beach in the 1960s where they befriend the Kook Patrol, a group of goofballs straight out of an Archie spinoff. Next, “Third Day Commandos” explores the Tank Girl’s early years, as she, Sub Girl, and Jet Girl each provide a different account of how they all met. “Tank Girl 66” finds the group engaging in a seemingly deadly race to determine who’s responsible for making tea. Other tales feature Tank Girl telling a restless Booga a delightfully unhinged bedtime story, Barney’s brief trip through a possibly magical wardrobe, and a Christmas flashback, all of which ultimately tie into the series’ current status quo, which I won’t spoil here.
It’s clear from page one that writer Alan Martin is having a blast with the characters he helped create. His dialogue is both snappy and off-the-cuff, full of vulgar English slurs and bizarre futuristic slang that could only exist in an apocalyptic landscape. Artist Brett Parson absolutely delivers with every panel, nailing the unique personalities of the cast with an animated array of expressions that is just beautiful. His style is kinetic and cartoony and perfectly suited for Tank Girl’s crazy world, which is equal parts “Looney Tunes” and “Mad Max.” And despite its blood-soaked origins, the Tank Girl creative team demonstrates a respectable level of restraint when it comes to violence, keeping it zany and over-the-top without ever feeling gratuitous. I also have to give a shoutout to Parson for his wonderful, MOTU-inspired designs for the Rangers of the Universe toy line that serve as the catalyst for the main story – they are absolute perfection.
In addition to the various stories, this collection provides a wealth of fun bonus material, including a collection of cut-out chess pieces inspired by the main story and a brilliantly cheesy comic featuring the Kook Patrol. Reading the series as a complete trade is occasionally off-putting since the longer stories are all presented in their original, serialized format but without clear transitions between issues. The interludes to Tank Girl’s modern-day setting are also a bit jarring since there’s no recap or reference to the previous volume, apart from an editorial note. These chapters, however brief, result in a seemingly random break from an otherwise standalone Tank Girl story, that would be perfectly accessible to new readers.