February 7, 2014

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Ghost Attack 4

Written and Illustrated by Zack Soto
Self-Published

Mini-comics creator and Study Group leader Zack Soto collects two short stories, random illustrations, and a few comics covers in this one-man anthology.

One of the great things about mini-comics is that they don't have to follow any set rules. Like their prose cousins zines, when a person makes a mini-comic they can do whatever they hell they feel like. They can have a theme--or not. They can create a series--or not. It's entirely up to the individual, who then hopes that the reader appreciates what they are trying to do.

Well, as a person becoming more familiar with Zack Soto's work, I appreciated this gathering of little works together in one place, because it allowed me to see his range as a creator.

The first story, Have a Great Summer, is a (mostly) wordless piece about a man who lives on a cold mountain and wants to move to warmer climes. Fortunately, he's got the technology to do it without having to sublet his cabin. Using a series of 6-panel pages, Soto takes the reader from the ordinary--drinking coffee, peeing in a bucket--to the extraordinary by the end of the story. The progression is slow but steady, which is what makes the gag work. Soto's art in this one reminds me of something we might see in Cartozia Tales or the hand-drawn Flight stories, with an uncomplicated look to the main character and solid shading.

Compare this to the other story, I Heard You Were Around. As a character narrates his attempts to meet one final time with an adversary, Soto gives the backgrounds more details and thick inking, which if you look close enough shows details of the tools used. The look reminds me quite a bit of Patrick Dean, especially since the character's round, bald head and cape make me immediately think of the horror themes in which Dean excels. The story is narrated in cursive and is just a touch wistful.

In between and after these stories are some sketches of everything from superheroes to creatures to studies of hands. They vary wildly in depth and style, and are a fun look into Soto's practice work and ideas, which is where I imagine these come from.

Rounding out the mini are a series of covers for magazines that I don't think exist, but certainly would be interesting. Styled after the Bronze Age Covers of the 70s unless I miss my guess, Soto plays with perspective, character archetypes, and dramatic moments of such covers, mixing them with his own distinctive look. They'd make a great series of prints, for those who have room for that type of thing.

Ghost Attack 4 probably isn't the way to be introduced to Zack Soto, but if you've run into his work elsewhere and are looking for a chance to see what else he might try his hand at, this is worth grabbing if you see it at a show or in one of those really cool indie bookstores (like Atomic in Baltimore) that carry mini-comics on a regular basis.