(Black Mask Studios, 2014)
Created by Matt Miner and Sean Von Gorman
Written by Matt Miner
Pencils and Inks by Sean Von Gorman
Colors by Savanna Ganucheau
Lettered by Sean Von Gorman
Confrontation has never been a place where I’ve felt comfortable. Who knows the roots? If my sister is reading this she’ll laugh and nod and say “Yup, that’s our family…”(Test here to see if she really reads these like she says she does…) Perhaps it is some form of latent Catholic guilt, rising up within at the sound of a raised voice, or maybe it’s the years of PBS and the constant, pressing need for people to be nice to each other, pushed on my adolescent mind by adults with little felt people on their hands. Whatever the cause, I’m aware of it, and I know that it’s part of me. I sometimes will go out of my way to pave over a bad situation, just so we can get past it and rolling along as usual. So when I read Toe Tag Riot, I always feel a little uncomfortable.
It’s interesting to have an introspective look at yourself when reading a comic book. I know it doesn’t happen on a regular Batman story. (At least not yet.) But I find that whenever I pick up a Matt Miner comic, I’m sure that there will be some sort of squirmy feeling that will be in the pit of my stomach by the end of it, and the reason is simply this. Matt Miner doesn’t have an issue with confrontation.
Toe Tag Riot #2 released on Christmas Eve. I’m sure that the religious groups that have protested the book (including the ever present and always controversial Westboro Baptist Chruch) will decry with great vehemence and righteous anger. If you haven’t read the first issue, I’ll catch you up here. A band called Toe Tag Riot is the hottest thing on the market. During each and every performance they become zombies onstage and usually, as happens with the undead and musicians, have a powerful hunger after the show, which ends in chewed up bits of roadies and fans and the passing skinhead. This issue explains the transformation a bit, and furthers the bands’ quest.
Sean Von Gorman (Pawn Shop) has again filled this book with some amazing art, and if he did these drawings in the real world, on paper as opposed to digital, he may have drained the entire eastern seaboard of red hue. This is a bloody one folks, as a zombie book should be. This is gorier than I’ve seen from him yet, but it works in the story.
The main question for me is, has this book become more of a way to shoot back at religious zealots, or is this still a story about a zombie band? The first issue had a quote from WBC, and Miner did the best thing with it by putting it on the cover. As Kevin Smith once said, you can’t buy better publicity. I’m not sure what the major issue was with the first issue and the WBC, perhaps that there was a lesbian couple in the band, but the second issue seems like Miner deciding to do what he does best, to lay his beliefs out in the pages of his comics. He blasts major conservative Christian ideals and literally rips the guts out of some high-ranking members of that party. Does it add to the meat of the story? Does it make the characters progress forward, or is it just a way to take pot shots at a belief system that may seem ridiculous in today’s social climate? Only time will tell, but I praise Miner anyway, because he has the temerity, the strong belief in his own values, to put it out there no matter what. He’s come through in the past with books like Liberator and Occupy Comics, always with strong belief in the story and the idea behind it.
Toe Tag Riot #2 continues the tradition of Matt Miner comic books, giving me that queasy feeling deep in my stomach, aided by Sean Von Gorman’s artwork. That’s a good thing. Art should move us one way or the other, make us think, and while controversy and confrontation are not my milieu, I can read a Matt Miner comic book and feel like I’ve gotten a steady dose, then go drink half a glass of flat 7Up and ponder. We should all ponder more.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.