Alan Martin & Mike McMahon - Tank Girl: Carioca (4 stars)

Alan Martin & Mike McMahon - Tank Girl: Carioca

McMahon's art perfectly suits the ongoing tales of the post-apocalyptic riot girl

Since artist Jamie Hewlett handed over stewardship of Tank Girl to co-creator and writer Alan Martin (following Hewlett’s move away from cartooning to pursue his Gorillaz multimedia pop project with Damon Albarn), the anarcho-absurdist comic strip has been well served by a series of guest illustrators, among them Philip Bond, Ashley Wood and Jim Mahfood. Impressive and varied though those artists’ visual styles are, none of them suit the punk rock, sci-fi satire of Tank Girl as well as Hewlett’s idiosyncratic, much imitated but never bettered brand of spikey, cartoony illustration.

The news, then, that fellow 2000AD comic alumni (though one originating from an earlier period in the groundbreaking British sci-fi title’s four-decade history, and, apparently, a big influence of Hewlett himself) Mike McMahon was going to provide the illustrations for Martin’s latest Tank Girl romp generated a good deal of excitement. Best known as the artist that gave Judge Dredd his ‘big boots’ look, McMahon’s fabulously scrappy angular illustrations make Hewlett’s well-defined panel content look like Laura Ashley wallpaper. A perfect match, in other words, for the adventures of the titular post-apocalyptic riot girl.

McMahon doesn’t disappoint. His drawing style, which has become more refined over the years, evolving from scratchy and textured into blocky, edgy, vivid and flat, is fast approaching perfection. That alone makes Carioca worth reading. It must be said Tank Girl doesn’t quite pack the same punch it did a quarter of a century after the strip first appeared (in Deadline magazine in 1988). But Martin’s plot-lite, surrealist, meta-fictional cut-up of pop culture references and psychedelic gags (here revolving around the heavy ordinance-driving thugette embracing a new martial arts philosophy/religion) is as fun, for those who like his thing, as it ever was.

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