01/04/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: House of Murky Depths. 84 page comic size magazine. Price: £ 6.99 (UK. ISBN: 978-1-906584-10-8.
check out website: www.murkydepths.com
From issue #10, 'Murky Depths' has been made available as a PDF download as well as the original print edition. In fact, editor Terry Martin has just made a PDF of #1 available too. (You should buy this - it includes a story by me!) So for issue #11, I have obtained the PDF version for the first time instead of the print copy. For many small press magazines, an electronic version probably wouldn't look too different to the print version; after all they mostly contain plain text that you could as easily download and print out if you wanted. I was concerned though that with 'Murky Depths' some of its essence would be lost in the translation. How would the full-page graphics, full-colour covers and superb paper quality look in PDF format?
Well, obviously, you lose the feel and smell of holding a real magazine and this is particularly noticeable for a high-quality magazine like 'Murky Depths'. You lose nothing of the artwork, though. To get the double-page spreads on-screen I needed to scale to 50% on my widescreen monitor. The text is a little small at that scale, but is perfect at 100% - which is larger than the print magazine. Even at 200% magnification the artwork still looks superb. I printed it out double-sided, 4 pages per side on A4 paper. That's far too small to be read comfortably, but for the most part the graphics still look good.
Camille Alexa takes us to a remote mining outpost where a lonely miner finds comfort in the arms of 'Sarah 87'. The description of the tough life of an asteroid miner is standard fair, competently written but not extraordinary. The bizarre alien breeding programme through the ethical backlash and the effects of far-off decisions on the miners' lives add an intriguing and original twist.
In 'Hush Little Brother', Richard Rippon gives us sleeping zombies - no trouble as long as you keep quiet. A teenager's struggle to entertain his young brother while keeping quiet and leaving the town to sleep will be especially meaningful to anyone who's had young children in their care. There are some particularly poignant moments in this story and some real tension as even the sound of a pin-dropping seems worryingly loud.
We're taken on a whirlwind tour of history in Steve Tanner's 'Thank You And Goodnight', illustrated by Dexter Wee. Death and destruction on a huge scale dominate each panel, like stills taken from numerous war and disaster films, strung together to give a sorry picture of mankind. We don't appear to be doing a very good job.
'Low Tide' is a melancholy and enigmatic story from Lisa A. Koosis. The anonymous inhabitants of a string of shoreline houses watch the detritus of their lives wash by on the tide. Why they use no names, whether it's all symbolic and who ties a white thread to their gates is all left unexplained (unless I'm just not very perceptive). It's an atmospheric and oddly triumphant tale, though.
Matt Finucane's quirky humour returns with 'We Know Where You Live'. When two mysterious agents seek entrance to his home, one man is not happy to go along with their demands. Several possibilities crossed my mind as explanations for what this story was all about. Ultimately it doesn't matter though, it was short enough to get away with being inexplicable and amusing enough to get away with being short.
Leonardo M Giron's stylish and detailed artwork once more brings Richard Calder's imaginings to life in 'Dead Girls, Episode 3'. I won't comment too much on the storyline as it's the midst of a series, but the distinctive graphics and the controversial idea behind the Dolls makes this a must-read.
A deal to extend his life seems to have gone sour for an unpleasant businessman in 'Loose?' by Mike Wood. The main character is described well enough for us not to like him and his long-suffering partner gets most of the sympathy. It's an unpleasant method of rejuvenation he's invested in, but a darkly satisfying story.
In 'Served', a prisoner is about to be released after ten years in jail for murder. Rauiri MacInnes portrays a focused but evidently disturbed man whose whole life revolves around the crime. Several possibilities flashed through my mind regarding the prison or his fate on exiting. None of them were right. It's an excellent idea (though not one I'd propose be implemented) with alarming consequences.
Dave Barnett's title 'The Story Of Andrew Haddock, Part 2' had me worried as I couldn't remember reading Part 1. Don't worry, that's because the title refers to a book in the story. The art is by Neil Struthers and well illustrates the story of a love-sick young man and his discovery of a strange library. I particularly liked the scene of the romantic skip through a flowery meadow, reminiscent of one of Homer Simpsons' daydreams and a good example of what graphic stories can do so well in a single scene.
Another good cross-section of fiction this time around then. There's also an interview with artist Nancy Farmer whose whimsical art has now graced several 'Murky Depths' stories. I remain firmly in the print magazine camp when it comes to my reading though.
Gareth D. Jones
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