Toe Tag Riot is what you would get if you took equal parts The Blues Brothers, SLC Punk and The Walking Dead and threw them into an extremely hip blender. Dickie, Paulie, Annie and Evie are all in the most diverse punk band you’ve ever seen. There are two lesbians, an African American woman, and an amputee. The issue flashes back and forth between Toe Tag Riot showing up to play a show at CBGB•OMFUG in 2004--truly living the dream of a punk band. But when the band steps onstage, they become zombies. They are under a mysterious curse that takes effect every night when they take the stage, but this issue doesn’t let the reader know where that came from. Instead, we get to flash back to 2002 and 2003 and see how Paulie got the band together, starting with Dickie, then moving on to Annie and Evie. Each time the band’s curse takes effect, they get more and more like zombies and less and less like people, so it’s only a matter of time before someone in the band loses themselves to the curse...
This issue has a killer hook at the end. I sometimes talk about not knowing where a series is going to go at the end of a first issue, or having no idea what the conflict of the book is going to be; this one lays it out there in a full splash that doesn’t leave any room for questions. The road to this final image is paved with some awkward jokes, and a lot of hipster nonsense (a vegan zombie, for instance), but it’s still a lot of fun. Miner’s obviously been thinking about this band and this comic for a long time, because his sense of their personalities and the way their history flows seems extremely natural. There are some parts that clunk a bit as obvious exposition, but overall, it’s an easy read.
The artwork on Toe Tag Riot is an interesting mix of smooth watercolors and a splotchy effects. It’s a colorful way to tell the story, and it doesn’t fall prey to that trap of “this is an indie comic about punk, so it has to be super scratchy and in stark black and white.” It gives the book its own kind of flavor and helps build up the energy of a punk rock show without sacrificing readability or a sense of mise-en-scene. Sean Van Gorman and John Rauch are doing really compelling work, and I can’t wait to see more.
Out of all the stuff I liked about this issue, the part I had the most fun with was the upending of some of the zombie tropes and the punk rock tropes. Sure, one of the band members is a vegan, and they all have stereotypical punk haircuts and outfits; but there’s a scene where one of them uses punk rock safety pins to reattach a part of his body. It’s the kind of inspired thing that could launch an entire comic book, and it seems that it has.
Have fun and don’t get fucked up in the mosh, gang.
Writer: Matt Miner Artist: Sean Von Gorman Publisher: Black Mask Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/26/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital