01/12/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
publisher: House of Murky Depths. 84 page comic size. Price: £6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906584-10-8)
check out website: www.murkydepths.com
Many genre magazines fail to make it into double figures, so it's especially exciting to see 'Murky Depths' hit the magic tenth issue. With the launch of a writing competition that stretches to issue 14 and with plenty more artwork and stories already commissioned for forthcoming issues, it looks like the publishers plan to be around for a while yet.
The magazine opens as usual with an artist interview, this time with cover artist Lars Rasmussen. For someone like me who has no artistic talent, I always find these interesting. Other non-fiction includes an article on steampunk and Matt Wallace's opinionated and entertaining 'Depth Charge' column.
Leonardo M Giron's superb artwork for Richard Calder's 'Dead Girls' continues to draw the eye back to its pages over and over. Part 2 in this issue sees Primavera and her besotted friend attempt to run away from the besieged city. The idea behind the Doll Plague is very clever, leading to conflicting feelings from the characters that make theirs an intriguing relationship. Their every thought and expression is wonderfully illustrated throughout the comic.
The first complete prose story is Ian R Faulkner's 'The Other Side Of Life' and again the artwork that accompanies it by Dylan Williams is superbly evocative. The Lazarus Virus is able to bring the dead back to life, where they are often targeted by sick gangs to make snuff videos. One cop investigating the crimes has a personal score to settle and demonstrates the lengths that some will go to for justice. It's a brutal, heart-rending and powerful story.
Toby Anderton gives us the intriguing one-page comic, 'The Claimant', which illustrates the unfeeling way that the economic crisis leaves some on the scrapheap of life. A nicely ironic little story.
Alex Curnow dishes up a healthy dose of satire in 'Radio Man, Frequency Woman'. In a future where people only communicate via their PDA and only if it says they are compatible, one man dares to form a relationship the old-fashioned way. It's a touching story, laced with technological descriptions that don't distract from the pace but show how dependant on our personal technology we're becoming. I really enjoyed it.
Lavie Tidhar goes all surreal in his comic 'The Finger'. Neil Roberts has illustrated it with a Victorian feel, with a young 'Oliver Twist' kind of character finding a severed finger on the street. That is the least of the strange things that then occur in this bizarre but fun piece.
'Christmas Miracle' is Jeff Cook's morbid story of unhappy family life, as a man examines his feelings for the comatose father who dominated and bullied him. There are a couple of subtle twists to this story that raise it from introspective gloom to a sympathetic and slightly mystical tale.
James Johnson returns with 'The Naked Soul Of Man', another thoughtful comic, this time illustrated in strikingly dark detail by Lars Rasmussen. There's betrayal, intrigue and a strange discovery on a trip to the South Pole, all tied together with excerpts from a letter from home. It's another classic tale from Johnson.
The final story is Mark Ball's 'The Long Haul', the lonely story of an interstellar freight-haulier whose holographic companion malfunctions, leaving him to face the journey alone. The story switches from reality to hallucination to virtual reality between the ship and Earth. Which sections are 'real' is a question that both characters find equally puzzling, but still I found the enigmatic conclusion to be satisfying.
This issue features some of the best artwork yet and the fiction continues to push the boundaries of darkness. As usual not all of the stories are to my taste, but there's no denying that 'Murky Depths' has a presence that looks set to endure.
Gareth D. Jones
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