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Murky Depths #16

01/06/2011. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Murky Depths #16 in the USA - or Buy Murky Depths #16 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 # 16’ may well be the darkest yet, with death and depravity forming an atmospheric backdrop to many of the stories. As usual the quality of the magazine shines through in terms of glossiness, paper and artwork; it just feels like a great product. What, though, of the contents? There are artist interviews and spotlights, along with a sprinkling of book and DVD reviews and a new column from Kevin Tucker, among a selection of prose and comic stories that demonstrate a wide variety of styles.

If anything, the extra-long opening episode of Richard Calder’s ‘Dead Girls - Act 2’ is even more stylish than Act 1 was. Leonardo M Giron’s art is just as captivating and provocative, with wonderful imagery that portrays the adventures of Primavera and Iggy as they start trying to take control of their own destiny. The plot grows steadily more complex and I find myself just as addicted as Iggy himself.

‘Valeria’ is Ian R Faulkner’s disturbing and gritty portrayal of the depravity that technology enables, as seen through the eyes of a world-weary policeman who thinks he’s seen it all. The story avoids going into gory details, which serves to vindicate the policeman’s moral stand as the climax of the story arrives. It’s an interesting blend of old-fashioned cop and hi-tech degeneracy.

In Alan Baxter’s ‘Mirrorwalk’, the ability to use mirrors as a short cut between distant locations is discovered in a dying old man’s wardrobe. It’s not the first time this device has been used, but I enjoyed the nonchalant way the young man decided to try it out and head off to enjoy himself without any thought to the consequences.

‘Blood Not Boiling’ is a short, uncomfortable and chilling story by Andrew Roberts that turns something that used to be terrible, but has since become acceptable, back into something horrifying. It’s an unglamorous twist on a popular sub-genre.

Trapped aboard an alien spacecraft at the mercy of his sadistic captors, the US President is not ‘All Smiles’ in Mercurio D Rivera’s brutal and horrifying tale. It makes you worry that the worst of humanity have their counterparts among the stars and there may not be anything we can do about it.

‘The Audition’ in JS Watts satirical story is a life-changing, life-or-death opportunity for a fading actor looking for one more shot at the big time. It’s a simple story with a build up that gives us a rambling insight into the actor’s life, before the fateful audition arrives.

In a post-apocalyptic world where the remaining humans are mutating or starving, a carnival worker offers shelter to a desperate woman in Kevin Anderson’s ‘Momentum’. It’s an excellent sketch of a lonely and desperate man’s attempts to come to terms with his fate, by turns charming and chilling.

‘Teamwork’ is a very cleverly devised story of survival by Jonathan Pinnock in which a communications glitch leaves a space-suited astronaut with the ability to hear one of his companions and see the visual feed from another. I was totally enthralled in how this worked for the man struggling across a dangerous alien landscape. It’s a perfectly executed short tale.

An ex-con struggling to go straight endures abuse and tedium in his job at a bowling alley in ‘Mowing Them Down’, Michael J DeLuca’s seedy tale of arcade games and maggots. It’s the kind of story that gives no clue as to where it’s going, but rather follows the vagaries of life to an odd, but strangely satisfying conclusion.

I recently met Lavie Tidhar at EasterCon and we discussed the opportunities that magazines like ‘Murky Depths’ offer to produce something unusual. In ‘I Dream Of Ants – Episode 2’, Lavie Tidhar certainly does just that, as his bizarre tale of ant armies, psychologists and paranoia continues. Neil Struthers provides the strikingly atmospheric artwork that brings this wonderful story to life.

Issue #16 of ‘Murky Depths’ continues to deliver on its promise of atmospheric tales and fabulous graphics. ‘Teamwork’ is a highlight for me and I can barely wait for the next episode of ‘Dead Girls’. This is a magazine that demands to be read.

Gareth D Jones

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