Toe Tag Riot is the story of a punk rock band cursed into being zombified every time they play. They travel across the country on tour but also in an effort to find the woman who cursed them and get it reversed. Along the way they take down any bigotry they encounter – and they encounter a lot. There are anti-gay and misogynist story lines that are true to life, but Toe Tag Riot also introduces the idea of the zombie representing the “other.”
I don’t know anything about punk rock and have nursed a fear of zombies my whole life. So, of course, when the opportunity arose to review the first four issues of Toe Tag Riot, I took it. To get in the mood a friend supplied me with a few punk rock bands and I ended up listening to a sampling while reading. I recommend trying out Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols by Sex Pistols, The Captain’s Birthday Party (Live At the Roundhouse) by The Damned, and Let’s Submerge – The Anthology by X-Ray Spex. The hectic music really brings this comic – full of bar fights and stage antics – to life.
One of the best things about Toe Tag Riot is how it’s firmly based in real issues. On the list of those being taken down are Hobby Lobby, Nazi skinheads, Bros, One Million Moms and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. (The WBC even “kindly” gave positive support by tweeting about the book’s Kickstarter.) Using zombies a representative of the “other” is also a creative way to be inclusive – theoretically, we could all end up in that situation in this world. And including everyone in the space of “being different” is a clever way to ingratiate audiences with a story about acceptance, both of self and of others.
Matt Miner’s work is fantastic, and the story is very fun and told with heart. Mostly this comes from the fabulous characters, who in the short time are introduced both by their faults and their passions. For example, take Dickie Tagz faux pas about women and homosexuals – all while fighting for their rights. Then there is Paulie, the vegetarian who struggles with eating human flesh. And of course the glorious couple – Evie and Annie Maul. Their love story is easily the highlight of an already great book.
The darkness and decay associated with the undead and dingy bars perfectly portrayed in the artwork. The pencil work of Sean Von Gorman can get a little chaotic at times, but it really lends itself to the overall punk tone of the piece. Along the same lines, Jon Rauch’s coloring is as gritty as you would expect from a comic that spends a lot of time with gore and punk rock. Together, Von Gorman and Rauch form an artistic one-two punch.
Toe Tag Riot might not be a zombie book for those who enjoy zombie books, but I’m not the best judge as this was my first. However, it is a book for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast. It’s a fun, feel good story about acceptance all wrapped up in a punk rock zombie package.