01/09/2009. 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
Opening the envelope is always a treat when 'Murky Depths' arrives. I sat for several minutes just inhaling the odour. The fabulous wraparound cover by Leonardo M Giron takes several minutes of looking to pick out all the detail he's crammed in. The art is based on Richard Calder's graphic novel 'Dead Girls', which features in a couple of articles, too, before we're treated to the opening chapter of the novel. The artwork for the comic, again by Leonardo M Giron, is beautifully drawn and highly evocative, the characters' expressions and attitudes captured with remarkable realism.
Art is also featured in an interview with Paul Drummond that is illustrated with numerous examples of his work. These aspects of the magazine epitomise the difference between 'Murky Depths' and other genre magazines - the first prose story doesn't commence until page 20.
Juliet E. McKenna, who is also interviewed in this issue, gives us 'Is This My Last Testament?' It's a frantic account of a Victorian gentleman's trip to a remote Scottish stately home where the family hide a dark secret. There are some very effectual moments in the story where Victorian manners and customs provide a backdrop of civility before everything gets terribly out of hand.
'Complaint From The Other World' is Matt Finucane's short account by a man who has somehow been embedded in a brick wall. He's pretty fed up about it and will happily explain how it happened, if only you'll stop and listen. It's a desperately sad story, told in a fun and quirky way.
Rogue, bio-engineered leviathans need to be hunted down in Andrew Knighton's 'Distant Rain'. With the use of a high-tech but decrepit submarine, a small crew of disparate characters struggle to make a living from their dangerous work, while giant Japanese corporations make their life more difficult. There are some excellent characters here, briefly but effectively described. This personal touch makes the great hunt much more involving and ultimately captivating.
Prepare to be blown away again by Luke Cooper as he delivers part 2 of 'The Wrath Of God'. Determined to take revenge for the murder of his girlfriend, Detective Goulding abandons all pretext of lawfulness and sets out on a trail of mayhem. Not for the faint-hearted, Luke Cooper's graphics and text are uncompromising and forcefully effective.
Reality TV gets even sicker in 'Cancelled', Robert E Keller's tale of an actor who's had enough of dying in horrible ways and wants to retire. Unfortunately, they're about to film his latest hideous demise and there doesn't seem to be a way out of it. Darkly humorous.
A warehouse full of humanoid robots are 'Fast Learners' in Derek Cageman's distasteful account of a brutal gangster and the woman he terrorises. The story starts in mid-scene, so it's unclear exactly how the characters relate to each other and why they're in the warehouse. The eerie setting, perfectly captured by Nathaniel Milljour's artwork, gives the whole story an edge of unease that proves to be well-founded.
We're given a glimpse into the life of a zombie in Craig Hallam's 'March Of The Broken'. It's an interesting twist to watch the horrified reactions of normal people to the appearance of a bewildered zombie who just wants to be loved. It's short, but successful.
There's some light relief with Anthony Malone's 'Transported Man' when a would-be Casanova finds himself inconveniently and inexplicably transported to the Amazon. The sense of fatalism and the comic asides make this an enjoyable if mystifying contribution.
Kevin Brown's story 'Postosuchus Kirkpatricki' is set out as a play, which is unusual in itself. It's quite difficult to engage with the characters when all we're given is the dialogue. The story of a dinosaur reincarnated as a man who works in a complaints department makes an odd tale that raised a couple of chuckles and left me suitably bewildered.
Finally, 'The Escape Artist' is Chris Huff's comic about a bereaved wife's investigation of her magician husband's death. Again, the artwork is brilliantly detailed and atmospheric, making the bizarre story truly magical.
'Murky Depths' may be only a token paying magazine, but any author would be proud to appear in its pages. The quality far exceeds any satisfaction to be gained from appearing in a higher-paying but duller-looking venue. It continues to be the best-looking genre magazine on the planet.
Gareth D. Jones
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