Toe Tags featuring George A. Romero #1 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: The Death of Death: Part One

Written by: George Romero
Penciled by: Tommy Castillo
Inked by: Rodney Ramos
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Michael Wright
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

If you’ve read any of my reviews of The Walking Dead or the comic adaptation of Dawn of the Dead you’re probably aware that I’m a huge fan of the zombie films. My friend, Pat, introduced me to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead the summer following the eighth grade. For those keeping track that would be the year 1987! So, for more than 2/3 of my life, Dawn of the Dead has been at the top of my film-favorites list, zombie films in general have been a passion, and George Romero has been an idol.

Earlier this year, while out promoting 144 Anima, I had the opportunity to meet George Romero at the Pittsburgh Comicon. Mr. Romero was an absolute pleasure to talk to. He even told me, “I’m sorry for screwing up your life” when I related how long I’ve been a follower of his movies.

To top the exhilaration of finally meeting Mr. Romero, there was an even cooler stroke of zombie-goodness this year. A fourth film in Romero’s “Dead” series has finally received funding, and just this month, Land of the Dead went into production. That means, for the first time since 1985, there will be an all-new George Romero penned and directed zombie flick!

That brings us to Toe Tags. When I heard, last year, that George Romero would be the writer to launch a new anthology horror series for DC Comics, I was flabbergasted. If the first three paragraphs don’t tell you why, then you haven’t been paying attention. To top it all off, the 6-part launch is a zombie story! Woo-Hoo!

Yeah”¦not!

Almost nothing went right in this first issue. The debut of Toe Tags has left me severely underwhelmed, and more dreading than anticipating the second issue. I’m left saying, much like the 2004 New York Yankees, “It just can’t be possible!”

Oh, but it is!

Toe Tags #1 is a disturbingly brief read (it took me less than four minutes to finish the story) that make an outlay of $2.95 a complete rip-off. Little ground is covered in the first issue, other than to set-up who our cast members are. I like a premiere issue that introduces and doesn’t explain too much, but I also like it to be a bit more intelligible, and not so perfunctory.

We start overlooking the zombie ravaged Carnation City. There is a monologue by Damien Cross, by whose narration it becomes clear that he’s a “thinking zombie.” This transfers quickly to Damien’s love, Judy, who is surprised by an elephant storming into her hiding place. Judy knows the elephant (don’t we all know at least one), named Mr. Tembo, and together they ride off to find Damien, battling zombies along the way. Tembo brings Judy to Damien, who is indeed a zombie still capable of thought. The story closes with a flashback to three months prior, showing how Damien ended up as he is. Damien is friends with a zoologist named Hoffman, so the reasoning behind an elephant clomping around a US city makes a bit more sense. Still, I was left wanting a lot more!

Tommy Castillo does a nice job bringing to life the world ruled by zombies. Most of the pages are laid out well, and the action is clear. Unfortunately, the pages that feature the most action can be a bit confusing, with close-up gore shots that don’t add anything to the story. Even though I’m a fan of gore in comics and films, needless gore is totally unnecessary. And Toe Tags felt needlessly gory.

The thing that made George Romero’s zombie trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead) classics was that they didn’t focus on action, gore, and the ludicrousness of the situation. They were really morality tales told against the backdrop of the zombie holocaust. More attention was paid to the characters and their predicament rather then blood, guts, and melodrama. To this point, and I agree that 1/6 of the way through the story it’s unfair to lambaste Mr. Romero, that’s not the case. I sure hope things get better, and fast! I’m still onboard”¦for now.