Posted by: Joe McCulloch on July 28, 2007
Come on, everyone! Up to my internet patio. It is a warm summer’s day, and we have gentle comics to flip through. Let’s laugh and yawn until butterflies land in our mouths, and we’ll just let them stay there. Because we are peace.
Tank Girl: The Gifting #2 (of 4): You know Tank Girl, right? Nasty young woman, drives a tank, kangaroo guy for a boyfriend? Now drawn by Ashley Wood? That last part leads to grand sights like this issue’s inside-front cover, depicting the kangaroo guy’s head (and nothing else) peering out dead-eyed from between Our Heroine’s legs, as she glances at the reader and declares “I wuv him.”
It’s the weird alchemy of Wood’s distinctive art and Alan Martin’s antic, gag-loaded writing that made the first issue of this thing such a compelling/creepy variant of the old Jamie Hewlett material – think the Bill Sienkiewicz of Elektra: Assassin illustrating a Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. script, and you’ll be partway there. And maybe intrigued! Starting this issue, Rufus Dayglo provides layouts for Wood’s finishes and colors, to little immediate effect beyond a small increase in ‘traditional’ cartoon exaggeration – Wood is utterly dominant, which means that, say, a panel of the kangaroo guy accidentally picking up a turd instead of a lost toy gun in the sewers is rendered with such stark drama that it’s funnier for being unsettling. A truly inappropriate Tank Girl!
Unfortunately, this issue’s 15-page lead story (part one of two, at that) only reinforced my view that Martin’s Tank Girl tales are better when they’re shorter; what might seem charmingly who-gives-a-shit at eight pages can easily turn irritatingly distracted at nearly twice that length. Better all around is the four-page second story (prose short and pinup also included for your $3.99), concerning how a vintage toy ray gun prompts awful terror and declarations like “you can take your wiffy stiffies and fuck off back to crappyland.” Just part of the series’ ongoing look at nostalgia, a good enough bet for… a Tank Girl revival. OKAY.
Multiple Warheads #1: Meanwhile, here is a another comic about a driven young woman cohabiting with an animal person, although this boyfriend is a werewolf, and only got that way after the girl sewed a wolf penis onto him for his birthday. At one point the idea was part of a porn comic, but this is a 48-page, $5.99 b&w debut issue from Oni, and the girl (Sexica) is an exotic organ smuggler who enjoys adventures we never see, and the wolf boy (Nikoli) is a tinkerer who dreams in fables, and the two rely on ingenuity and heart to escape their dead surroundings and visit the Impossible City. Youth! Love! Etc!
I haven’t read writer/artist Brandon Graham’s prior release, the Tokyopop original King City, so this is the first I’ve gotten close to his unique blend of vintage underground flourishes (the term “hup” features prominently), whimsical technologies, loopy puns, and airy manga visions of cities. If you love Marc Bell comics and scanlations of delicate Afternoon or IKKI shorts in equal measure, buckle up for Heaven. Graham puts all of his energy toward creating fascinatingly odd, lived-in environments, speckled with detail so obscure that it can only hope to resonate off in Ideaspace or somewhere – and it kinda does!
The lived-in feel also extends to some nice, intimate work done with the lead duo, the kind of we-know-each-other interactions that run the risk of appearing as shallow characterization (or worse – a nerdy male author stand-in having private time with his special Sexica), if not tackled with care. Graham doesn’t have much trouble with that, though the obligatory wistful narration veers close to preciousness; I could have gone for even more silent outdoor life to digest. But what’s here is VERY GOOD.