Tag #1 (ADVANCE)


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Tag #1 (ADVANCE)


  • Words: Keith Giffen
  • Art: Kody Chamberlain
  • Inks: Kody Chamberlain
  • Colors: Kody Chamberlain
  • Story Title: Tag
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jun 1, 2006

It’s hard out here for a zombie. Just ask Mitch, who’s slowly becoming one.

I’ve often wondered if there’s a connection between the proliferation of zombie stories in comics and the post-9/11 world we live in. There’s always been a critique of mass consumer culture at the heart of this sub-genre of horror, but zombie stories since 2001 have been about something else, something more. Now they’re about the pervasive feeling that things are out of control whether we realize it or not, about a deeper anxiety of identity, of who or what controls what we are as individuals. And while thinking about this, I’ve also wondered about what the inner life of the zombie must be like. Is there still some person trapped inside who cannot get out, forced by some death-instinct in overdrive to trudge in packs and eat brains? Or are zombies truly mindless, walking corpses devoid of any aspects of personhood we would recognize as human? Someone should write a story about that, I’ve thought, finding it odd that few if any zombie stories focus on the zombies themselves as opposed to their prey. Well, writer Keith Giffen and artist Kody Chamberlain have, their new comic Tag telling the story of Mitch, who, during a public break-up with Izumi, gets "tagged" by a seriously decomposed man. The man immediately "freshens" up and runs off, but Mitch is headed for the hospital, where his doctors are completely baffled by his condition. He’s not digging the scene at all, so he splits, and Izumi eventually finds him in his apartment obsessively drawing pictures. Mitch doesn’t breathe, or rather he doesn’t have to breathe, but Izumi is more taken aback by the rotten smell. Though the authorities are on Mitch’s trail, he and Izumi take to his computer, entering search words until they come across a web-page that may hold the key to what he’s becoming.

Tag is yet another Keith Giffen written story that I actually liked. If this becomes a pattern I may have to reevaluate my take on him as a writer. I’m also reevaluating my previous thorough disdain for zombie stories, having read several like The Walking Dead, Dead West, and others that are as engrossing as they are thought-provoking. It’s too soon to put Tag in that class, but the premise has a ton of promise and possibilities, and the first issue is a tight, entertaining read. Mitch is a bastard, and not a lovable one. Giffen, however, really gets in inside his head, his first person narration and actions revealing Mitch to be the kind of guy who might’ve sleepwalked through life on attitude and wisecracks, might’ve treated people as though they weren’t truly people, might not have appreciated the life he had. Not quite a metaphorical zombie perhaps, but every zombie was a regular guy or gal once, and this seems to be at the heart of Giffen’s approach to the character. It works, and works even better in the interplay between the "new" Mitch and an Izumi he never thought existed, a woman who’s deeper and more thoughtful than he ever considered. Their chemistry has an appeal that should carry the reader over to the second issue, but just in case more is needed, Giffen builds up to a great cliffhanger that poses more questions than it answers.

The artwork is rough and ragged, distinctly lacking polish, but works well with the story because of it. Artist Kody Chamberlain composes panels like Alex Maleev and figures like J. H. Willaims, and uses the same sort of loose, scratchy linework associated with both to create a dark, foreboding mood. He also does a great job on coloring, balancing his heavy use of blacks with swaths of watercolor to create a film or residue that tells the reader that little if anything in this story is going to turn out well. And like Giffen’s script, Chamberlain’s artwork reveals Izumi to be the diamond in all this rough. She’s lithe and beautiful, with a certain sadness about her that matches strength. I’m already a big fan of the character, and one day I expect I’ll be a big fan of the artist, as well.

Zombie fans will love Tag, and those with Boom! Studios titles on their pull list should consider adding one more to it.

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