Review: Toe Tag Riot #1

Toe Tag Riot #1

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Written by: Matt Miner
Art by: Sean Von Gorman
Colors by: John Rauch
Letters by: Sean Von Gorman

Published by Black Mask Studios

Reviewed by Taylor Hoffman
Choosing a new comic can be a risk. Sometimes it can be absolutely terrifying to go outside of your comfort zone and try something different, especially if it’s from a publisher you’re unfamiliar with and you don’t know what to expect. Comics can be downright damn intimidating, so maybe you’re a bit afraid. Actually, all of these things are exactly why you should pick up Toe Tag Riot.
When branching out, it’s important to question, and it’s also important to take risks. Matt Miner and Sean Von Gorman did both in this absolutely engaging, hilarious, and thought-provoking comic. Let’s start off with some questions for you:

Do you like good writing?
Do you enjoy fantastic art?
Do you like thinking critically while still laughing?

Yes? Toe Tag Riot is for you.

Are you unsatisfied with the status quo?
Are you tired of getting pushed around by slobbery bigots at shows and on the streets?

Yes? Toe Tag Riot is for you.

Do you want a comic that represents actual diversity in sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, music, and zombie culture?

Yes? Toe Tag Riot is for you.

Are you sick of being stereotyped by the Westboro Baptist Church and other ultra conservative groups just because you happen to sometimes be a part-time zombie when you play music?

Yes? Toe Tag Riot is for you.

The basic rundown of the plot is quite simple, which lends itself to a myriad of fantastic possibilities. It’s like if Scott Pilgrim transported itself into Return of the Living Dead. It’s like if SLC, Punk and The Walking Dead had offspring that listened to The Casualties when they were younger, realized that they didn’t have to listen to awful music or their parents, and became a badass, autonomous individual with good taste. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before and exactly what I’ve always wanted to read. Yes, I have high hopes and, with this team, I don’t expect to be disappointed in the slightest.

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If you were lucky enough to see their Comic Con exclusive #0 in which our gangly band of grotesque punks literally tore a sexist scumbag to bits for verbally and sexually harassing a cosplayer, then I can assure you, it’s all that and more. Gore without bore and the blood and guts aren’t just for the shock value. It’s social commentary at its most hilariously brutal. Oh, issue one is just the beginning of a larger and completely gleeful satisfaction of witnessing racists and homophones get what they deserve. Even if you follow the creed of “violence begets violence,” to me, it’s a surprisingly insightful examination of revenge and retribution.

This first issue sets up for how Toe Tag Riot became a band and lays the groundwork for our increasingly rotting characters. Flashing back and forth between two years ago, one year ago, and now, there’s a rushed sense of development; fast and loose like the songs they scream. Already, each character in the crew has their own struggles with self-image and self-acceptance in both forms of flesh. Whether that’s fixing their faces with safety pins to literally keep it together or confronting internalized homophobia and micro aggressions, there’s a depth to this story that’s more complex than ‘let’s kill everybody who sucks!’ Dickie, Paulie, Evie, and Annie are a diverse group of 20-somethings that won’t tolerate the bullying.

cute zombie queers!

Cute queer couples adorn these pages, too, so what else do you want to hear? Okay, fine, I’ll continue:

The characters are really the most important part of this issue, and my reading drew me into examining one character in particular. The lead singer, Dick “Dickie” Tagz, is such a… well, a dick when we first meet him. At first he’s the “no homo” kind of nice guy who assumes that any gay guy wants to get with him and then makes casual misogynistic statements about and to lesbians; however, Dickie isn’t the villain of this story. Instead, we see him evolve from scum to a more enlightened person after interacting with his new found friends and bandmates. He gets called out for his ablest joke, and though he gets defensive and sarcastic about it, the point is made clear that it’s not just about being overly PC, it’s about respect.
There’s no shortage of making sure people check their privilege here, on and off stage. When performing, they all turn into zombies for some reason and it gives them quasi super powers to totally shred. Once some skinheads start fighting in the pit, it’s all out calling out the white-supremacist neo-nazi hypocrites. Furthermore, this three page scene is great tactical development; while the band kindly asks the jerks to leave, said jerks threaten violence. Oh, the power dynamics!

It is a zombie book, but not like you’ve probably seen before. The characters are sometimes zombies, but they’re still human with emotions and real-life consequences for their actions. The need for brains is still present, so we’ll see where that leads us in issue #2! The climax to this story will be in issue #4 as a showdown between our protagonists face off with the Westboro Baptist Church, yes, the same Church that misunderstood the comic’s kickstarted campaign and actually endorsed the book on their website thinking it was an anti-LGBT book. No, really, that happened, though they’ve since amended their statement to condemn Matt Miner and Sean Von Forman as “insincere pervs” and to hail the book so important that it will “split Hell wide open.”  Now it’s the “only comic on the shelves with a pull quote from the motherf***ing Westboro Baptist Church,” a fact that the creators revel in. Really, what more do you want?

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Oh, hey, Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy, The Damned Things, Earth Crisis) also makes a guest appearance!

Toe Tag Riot hits the shelves Wednesday 11/16/14 in store and on our website. There are several badass variants including our exclusive Black Cat Comics cover by the rad Anna Fitzpatrick and the Phantom Variant by the excellent Simon Fraser. Get them all.

Check out more from Matt Miner and Sean Von Gorman Liberator, and Liberator/Earth Crisis, and don’t forget Miner’s excellent new series Critical Hit!

braaaains

Toe Tag Riot #1 Exclusive Black Cat Variant!   Toe Tag Riot #1 Phantom Variant!

Click the pictures to buy it now!

Cover A: Tristan Jones, with Doug Garbark colors
Cover B: Rod Reis

Black Cat Variant: Anna Fitzpatrick

Phantom Variant: Simon Fraser

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