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Murky Depths #12

01/01/2011. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Murky Depths #12 in the USA - or Buy Murky Depths #12 in the UK

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

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The cover of this issue of ‘Murky Depths’ is a lovingly rendered steampunk image from Nancy Farmer, who has supplied some wonderfully atmospheric interior artwork in the past. The illustration accompanies Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s story ‘Glory Of The Empire’ in which a disillusioned young man launches himself on a rickety manned kite to attack the emperor aboard his grandiose airship. The contrast between the downtrodden masses with their subversive elements and the utter ostentation of the imperial airship sets the story up nicely. The political manoeuvring and social unrest make this a more gritty kind of steampunk.

Leonardo M. Giron’s art continues to mesmerise in episode 4 of Richard Calder’s ‘Dead Girls’. The detail in each scene is astounding and every frame is beautifully drawn. The story continues to gather pace and deserves to be read from start to finish to get the full effect.

‘Inner Space’ is Clark Nida’s story of a long-lived mystic whose battle to prevent chaos engulfing the world is interrupted when he is assassinated and forced to inhabited the uncommunicative body of a cripple. The way this is dealt with is both sensitive and depressing and although the story’s resolution struck me as too swift and convenient, it was still a memorable tale.

A post-apocalyptic land inhabited by giant cockroaches is the setting for Aaron Poulson’s ‘Shoes For The Journey’. A young boy of uncertain background travels downriver with his dying guard and a threatening roach, a situation that is left somewhat unexplained for most of the story. It’s an intriguing twist to the genre.

James Johnson returns with ‘Kite’, an enigmatic comic-strip illustrated by Scott Purdy. The magic of flying a kite, the bitterness of loss and the loneliness of an old man combine to make a poignant episode.

A stomach-churning dilemma is presented in Matthew Wimmer’s ‘Life's A Grind’. Five men held captive by the alien Kromarty seek a way to jam the gear mechanism that keeps them sealed in. Once the limited flimsy items they possess are shredded by the gears, there appears to be only one way to seize up the mechanism. It’s a story to make you shudder.

‘Spare Change’ is Jay Eales’ enjoyable story of celebrity and ambition in which an ageing presenter buys a youthful new body to give him another shot at the big time. Controlled remotely from his own vegetating body, it seems to bring him everything he wants. The pathetic determination of the man to succeed in his career is an entertaining read.

‘Swampjack’ is the creature that lives deep in the swamps in Jeremiah Job Levine’s tale of destitute youths seeking escape. Despite a bit of rapid switching between points of view, the three characters are nicely sketched, with the swamp thing coming across as surprisingly sympathetic.

Illustrated by Dexter Wee, ‘Strict Machine’ is Paul L. Mathews’ comic-strip about a seemingly-immortal heroine who leads the armies of Prussia to victory, while maintaining a bizarre relationship with a twisted genius scientist. The artwork is gloomy and intense, matching the dark themes of the story and the ultimate revelation that rounds it off with chilling finality.

A small Mexican town hosts a showdown between two sinister characters in Jeff Crook’s ‘Warm August Tequila’. You can almost feel the heat and oppression as the scene is artfully laid out for us with neat descriptions and drawling dialogue.

There are also two poems, which I am woefully ill-informed to comment on. Interviews with Steve Upham of ‘Screaming Dreams’ and ‘Estronomicon’ magazine and with comic artist Nicholas Dishington round out the issue, giving further insights into the world of publishing and art. Along with book reviews from IE Lester and Matt Wallace’s always thought-provoking ‘Depth Charge’ column, there’s plenty in this issue of ‘Murky Depth's to entertain. Issue #12 marks three years of publication whereupon it was awarded the BFS Award for best magazine. It looks like there’s plenty more in store for future issues, too.

Gareth D. Jones

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