Toe Tag Riot #1

by mahargen on November 26, 2014

Writer:  Matt Miner
Art:  Sean Von Gorman, John Rauch
I got really into punk music in high school.  All kinds, from the sugary pop-punk of Blink 182 to staples like Minor Threat and Black Flag.  Punk was also my gateway into indie comics.  Not indie like Image, but indie like “I drew this for my ‘zine and printed out a dozen copies to hand out at shows.”   There was something about the raw nature of punk rock that drew me to it.  This was in the mid-ninties, where the majority of my friends were into either into the emerging super polished and well produced “Boy Band” craze or the drugs and house music scene.  Nothing wrong with either of those, there’s a place for everything, but they didn’t speak to me on the same level as punk.  There was something about cramming a hundred people into the back room of a coffee shop and listening to multiple bands just play.  It clicked with me.
This brings us to Toe Tag Riot, from newcomer Black Mask Studios.  This debut issue captures a lot of those same feelings that I had in my youth.   The titular Toe Tag Riot is a basic punk band.  Guitar.  Bass. Drums.  Vocals.  A winning combination if there ever was one.  There’s profanity.  There’s a circle pit.  The setting and tone of the introduction to the characters as a band is natural and fluid.  It feels like a story straight out of the scene.  And then the zombie thing happens, and the story changes completely, while at the same time, not at all.  The characters find themselves with the unusual ability to change back and forth between the living and the living dead.  That in and of itself was probably the biggest surprise of this book for me.  It’s something I certainly wasn’t expecting.   The characters take it in stride, however, which makes the book that much more interesting.  In reality the star of the book is the little moments that Miner delivers.  The conversations as the band is coming together, their interactions with fans or celebrity cameos.  These add up.
Von Gorman’s art is decent throughout, but he really shines when the band comes together and the chaos ensues.  The majority of this installment was set up, so the artists weren’t given much to do until the end.  As the story builds up, I’m hoping we get to see the team really let go and give us some great zombie visuals.  I’ve been following both of these guys separately for a while now.  I enjoyed Von Gorman’s work on “Pawn Shop,” and can see his growth since that book was released.  The panel set ups are great and bring life to simple conversation.  That’s probably the best part about these style of books.  You get to see the creative team grow.
The book is raw and to the point, much like the music that inspires it.  What you see is what you get.  I mentioned earlier that there’s a place for everything.  Sometimes you want the Grant Morrison treatment on a story, sometimes you just want to see and zombie with a mohawk eat a bunch of Aryan tools.  This hit home with me, so I can’t recommend it enough.  Matt Miner is an emerging voice in comics and I look forward to seeing him grow.   

Matthew kinda misses ‘zines.  You guys remember ‘zines ?  Let’s talk about them on Twitter - @mahargen.

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