"Toe Tag Riot #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Matt Miner
Illustrated by Sean Von Gorman
2014, 36 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on November 26th, 2014
I don't think that I've ever listened to a musical act and thought "You know what would make this better? If the band was dead." Wait. I did think that about Justin Bieber. That's sort of the idea with Toe Tag Riot, a punk rock band that turns into zombies whenever they play their music. They're not the shuffling walkers you're used to. They're cursed to become undead and develop a hunger for human flesh but it does not prevent them from rocking the fuck out.
The comic opens in 2004 with the group playing a dream show at CBGB's. Along the way they get into a tussle with some skinheads and kick them out of the club. Despite their appearance, the band is all about peace and love for all. The drummer and bassist are a mixed-race lesbian couple, so they're basically a collection of everything that skinheads and groups like the Westboro Baptist Church hate. Speaking of WBC, they actually originally endorsed the comic before finding out it was LGBT positive. They quickly reversed their words and told creators Matt Miner and Sean Von Gorman to "repent before you split Hell wide open." That's probably the best press the book could have ever received.
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Toe Tag Riot bounces between the present (in this case 2004) and the past, before the band was cursed. The flashbacks show how the band gets together and each member is in a very different place, most notably the singer Dickie. In the present he's the strong front man for the group, but before that he was almost the type of guy that Toe Tag Riot would fight against, making misogynistic comments about the lesbian band members and being a general idiot.
Writer Matt Miner plays up the humor in the band's undead state during and after the show. They don't know how long they'll stay this way. It seems to wear off after some time, so they do what they can to get by and try not to eat people. Dickie rubs at his face and inadvertently rips off a big chunk of his skin off. The drummer, Evie Vee, has one arm in a nice homage to Def Leppard. The public thinks that this is all makeup, like KISS or something.
Sean Von Gorman's artwork matches up to Miner's story perfectly. He has a fun style that lends itself to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the plot. The zombified version of the band looks like something that would appear between music videos on MTV 25 years ago, real twisted but still playful. You can see each individual tooth in the mouths of the band members, like they're getting closer to becoming skeletons. There's a great panel where the bassist Annie is fighting the urge to eat human flesh. It shows an x-ray shot of her stomach, painted with a zombie face, screaming for food.
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Toe Tag Riot could have been a preachy book about tolerance, but it plays everything pretty light. When Dickie starts to lecture the skinheads at the show, the other members of the band start to roll their eyes, knowing that he's about to go on a tirade. Evie and Annie jump in to poke fun at the skinheads on their own, just by being who they are. This is a fun book with punk rock, zombies, and a great sense of humor. What more do you want?