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Murky Depths # 8

01/06/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Murky Depths in the USA - or Buy Murky Depths in the UK

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pub: House of Murky Depths. 84 page comic size. Price: 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906584-10-8.

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The fact that I get a mention in the editorial just makes 'Murky Depths # 8' even better than usual. I've been won over by the graphic strips and my first comic script has been accepted for a future issue. That's still a way off though, so what does this issue bring?

Well, first of all another strikingly different cover. Editor Terry Martin is evidently intent on displaying as wide a range of graphic styles as possible and this is shown not just by the cover but throughout the magazine.

A cat named 'Peachy' goes strangely still and quiet in David Tallerman's tale of how ordinary life can be interrupted by unimaginable disaster. The very ordinariness of everyday life allows the finale to stand out pointedly. Short but thoughtful.

Part 1 of Luke Cooper's new serialised comic strip 'The Wrath Of God' brings back some familiar characters from his earlier works to investigate a brutal vigilante killing by somebody or something calling themselves Wrath. I continue to like the style of his artwork - bold black and white, with shades of grey that reflect the murkily grey world that his characters inhabit. As with Cooper's other stories, this is graphic in both senses of the word, with a powerful conclusion that left me hanging on for part 2 in desperation.

Sam J Drane's 'What The Tongue Will Taste' is the uncomfortably perverse story of a man who grows his own clown for purposes best left to the imagination. It's not a pleasant story, but is cleverly written. What I at first took to be a typo is actually a depiction of the two clones' parallel thought processes. The viewpoint switches between the two from one paragraph to the next as they continue each other's thoughts. It's a little confusing at first, but once you realise what's happening its effectiveness becomes apparent.

Also making me feel a little queasy this time round was Geoffrey Girard's 'Collecting James', the story of a man whose passion for the arts leads him to collect the essence of the artists' talent by cutting out a token from their skulls. It's a dark and emotive story that's giving me a headache even as I write this review. The story's three characters were all disturbing in their own ways and made this a starkly potent piece.

James Johnson's cover art accompanies his own comic strip 'Hero In Hell', the atmospheric story that does just as the title indicates. The artwork in the comic strip itself, by Alberto Cortes, is moody and stylishly dramatic, making it a fabulous combination.

Nancy Farmer's artwork to accompany 'Out Of Time' is especially effective, capturing the essence of Jack Westlake's tale. When time stands still, one man finds himself wandering alone through a seaside town where everybody is happily frozen in their fun-filled activities. The man's tedious existence and philosophising provide one of my favourites stories of the issue.

Best title of the issue must be 'My Muse Wears Army Boots' by Christina Luca. A struggling writer (don't we all know that feeling?) gets his inspiration from corpses at the hospital where he works (I most definitely do not know that feeling!). When a famous author becomes the latest corpse to pass through his hands, it seems a providential opportunity to obtain a new muse. It's a compelling and interesting story, superficially based on a similar idea to 'Collecting James' but taken in a different and equally dark direction.

In Chris Huff's future of bio-sculpting and replacement organs, nobody has to grow old. His comic strip 'Recall' brilliantly portrays the fate of one old man and the startling disparity with his rejuvenated wife. Joshua LaBello's black & white minimal artwork allows the story's strength to show through and I thought it an excellent piece of work. Murky Depths' Comic Consultant r@t then offers a whole new view of the piece with the unfinished original artwork by Neil Morrisey that was interrupted by illness. The much more detailed artwork in this version gives the story more of a 'Blade Runner' feel and both styles offer thoughtful interpretations of the script.

An old man mourns the loss of his wife and then develops an unusual ability in Lawrence Buentello's 'The Undead'. It's a depressing story that depicts the lonely desperation of the widower and gradually leads us through his afflicted mind as he copes with life. It's an effectively wrought piece.

'Monitor' is a creepy piece by Richard Rippon in which a new mum gets spooked by strange voices coming over the baby monitor. It seems like a simplistic story, but the realistic way that her mindset is described and her disturbed sleep make it an effective story.

Biofuel takes on a new meaning in KC Ball's 'Nosing With The Four-Stroke Kid', a short piece in which a motorbike enthusiast asks too many questions of a mysterious rider. It's a fun little piece with a good twist.

Another atmospheric comic strip comes from Christopher Barker, whose character goes on a 'Pilgrimage' through a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of the few remaining tall buildings. The story cleverly mixes religious symbology with a post-apocalyptic reverence for surviving technology and was a satisfying conclusion to this issue's fiction.

The magazine is rounded out with two poems, an interview and a column that pack out its 84 pages in a gratifying manner. From the near future to the far future, through apocalypse and death and out the other side of both, there's a heady mixture of thoughts and images to linger in the mind and leave you feeling slightly disturbed yet fulfilled.

Gareth D. Jones

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This book has 4 votes in the sci-fi charts

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