I'm just about to head out to the grand old world of oral surgery, where my gum will be cut open so that the remains of a shattered tooth can be chiseled out of my skull, only to be replaced by new bone to be injected in there in some kind of weird liquidized form or something. Not that I've been thinking about this too much or anything. But I tell you this to give you warning that I wouldn't be surprised if I end up happy with pain drugs for the next couple of days, so don't be too shocked if I happen to not have any reviews up until Sunday again. Then again, I may be fine and writing tomorrow. Who knows?
Being a child of the '90s in oh so many ways, I don't think it's exceptionally unexpected of me to admit that TANK GIRL: THE GIFTING #1 has been one of my more long-awaited books of the year to date (Really, it's this, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together and Laika as my holy trinity of books I have been eagerly awaiting since they were announced). Hell, even before I was a child of the '90s, I was a child of the '80s, going to the Glasgow Comic Art Convention and being scared of and in love with the Tank Girl lookalikes staffing the Deadline table at the same time. Not only was the idea of the long-lost Alan Martin coming back to the character that he co-created exciting, but I'm a big fan of Ashley Wood's artwork. So what could go wrong?
That's a pretty good question, as it turns out. The issue was, I think, just Okay, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's not that Alan Martin's writing has become any less irreverent or wrapped-up in its own pop-cultural world (More Monkees references from the man who introduced me to "Circle Sky"! Of course!) than it was in his heyday - It's also, refreshingly, free of the pastoral hippiness that marked the downfall of the character for me around the start of the '90s when she was still in Deadline - and Ash Wood's art is as beautiful and grubby as ever; his linework can be wonderfully cartoony and expressive at times, even if he's a little too fond of the zip-a-tone effects. But, for some reason, it doesn't work in the way that I'd been expecting. Maybe it's a fault of my expectations? I was, I admit, hoping for something that would be as adventurous and original as the character seemed when I first read her, almost twenty years ago, something that would be anarchistic and amusing and as contemporary and immediate as Hewlett and Martin were way back when, and that's possibly something that nothing could live up to.
Not that I'm the only one at fault, though - Martin's (enjoyably) stubborn attempt to keep to the format of the original stories has worked against the book as a whole, as the incredibly short, throwaway stories run up against each other without the tonal counterbalance that the other strips in Deadline used to provide; there's nothing more serious or more fulfilling in the book, and so every story seems even lighter and more throwaway. It's a shame, and something that makes me wish that there was some kind of modern equivalent to Deadline these days to act as the home to these strips, instead. Or maybe that's just nostalgia talking one more time, in the same way that it made me pick up the book in the first place...