by Matt Miner, Sean Von Gorman and John Rauch
Toe Tag Riot is the story of a punk rock band in the early 2000s that have a strange secret; their on-stage makeup and personas are not just an act. The crew have somehow been cursed and, without any control of their own, transform into and out of their zombie forms. In the first issue, readers get to see a bit of how the band came to be as well as some teases for what may lie ahead.
Set in the 2004 punk scene, the beginning of this first issue finds the band members pulling up to a gig at the famous CBGB’s club. For some readers, the inclusion of this image is a bittersweet moment of nostalgia. Miner uses narration cards to clue readers into the who’s who of the band before jumping through a series of flashbacks across the issue to show how Toe Tag Riot came together. Before forming this punk rock group, the individual band members were each a part of other acts that were underwhelming. From Dickie’s incredibly bland rock act, to the drummer-less outfit that Annie was playing in, the crew all seem to have improved their fortunes when they came together. But, somewhere along the line things have changed. Though it is subtle, Miner and Von Gorman do show that Evie has both arms before joining the band. That added to the vaguely mentioned curse leave a number of questions aimed at the year missing between the last flashback scene and the present.
The first issue of the book is mostly an introduction to the new series. Very quickly, Miner walks readers through the necessary background for each of the members, names them and brings readers up to speed with where they are. It is a pretty well condensed issue, in that regard, and finds a way to still include the present-day concert and fall out afterwards. Miner spends a bit of time addressing things like sexuality, neo-Nazism, and even includes lyrics for the band that take on the wealthy. Miner has no qualms about his stances and has made that clear in his other work and interviews. With Toe Tag Riot, the problem isn’t the views he holds but how they are communicated. Miner can be commended for feeling strongly enough about these issues to make sure that they are present in his work. But in this first issue, the delivery feels forced and preachy in a way that questions whether these are views of authentic and developed characters or simply the author’s views.
There are some well-created aspects to the book. The aforementioned missing year, the extent and effects of this curse, and how it will play out for a group of individuals who are putting themselves into crowded, heated spaces at every gig. A lot of fun exists within the premise of Toe Tag Riot. Sean Von Gorman’s art is simplified, and he uses pretty classic renditions of zombie creatures. The art keeps the book feeling light, even in its more gory moments. From a coloring stance, the greens of the zombies and the blank eyes mirror the rendering of the characters that Von Gorman has aimed for. John Rauch uses a blend in his coloring that gives the images an interesting texture throughout the issue. However, often times, the backgrounds are absent from a lot of detail, finding Rauch filling the panel with a lot of color, absent of much else.
Overall, there is a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see how the series develops going forward. As of now, the first issue of Toe Tag Riot falls short of what it could be.