[an error occurred while processing this directive] Celebrating Five Years of Pushing Comix Forward [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] The Secret Voice
By Zack Soto
Published by AdHouse Books; $4.95 USD

Not since the debuts of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's Street Angel and Salgood Sam's Revolver have I experienced a debut that feels so much like a shot across the bow of the status quo in comics. Soto delivers 64 packed pages in the first issue of this new one-man anthology, with stories ranging from mysterious and bizarre ("Dr. Galapagos Chapter One") to thoughtful and thought-provoking ("Day 34").

Street Angel's Rugg is thanked in the notes on page one, and whatever advice or friendship he may or may not have provided for Soto, it's clear that Street Angel itself was an influence on the continuing serial "Dr. Galapagos," from the page design to the story matter. Soto takes a different narrative tack, though, decompressing the battle scenes and creating a sense of high mystery about the lead character that should be entertaining to watch unfold over the future of the title.

"Day 34" suggests a Dylan Horrocks influence by way of Bipolar's Tomer and Asaf Hanuka. The story is a dream-like piece about isolation and purpose in life, told with powerful imagery and a strong narrative sense.

Soto's art has a rough feel to it, especially in "Dr. Galapagos," where it is reminiscent in places of the paradoxically cocksure uncertainty of an eighth-grade comic book fan doodling in his notebook during math class. The sheer loveliness and attention to detail elsewhere suggest that this is not an artistic deficit, but a canny visual stylization designed to convey power and the simplicity of graphically depicted action and violence.

Soto includes a generous amount of text, from an introductory essay on the letters page to a page full of plugs for works by other cartoonists he enjoys. Far from padding out the issue though, with 64 pages to luxuriate in, it adds to the feel that the reader is in the hands of a cartoonist who not only wants to communicate with his readers, but actually has ideas to communicate. This is a vast improvement over the majority of new titles introduced with no text piece at all, a warm, intimate invitation to take part in the worlds that Soto's comics elsewhere in the issue promise to create and sustain. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Alan David Doane

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Alan David Doane
Comic Book Galaxy Reviews
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Glens Falls NY 12801

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