Murky Depths: Issue Three / Review
“The Quarterly Anthology Of Graphically Dark Speculative Fiction”
Contents: Title / Author / Artist
- What’s Yours Is Mine / Pike Stephenson / Dylan Williams
- Evention / Mike Webster / Lucas Hinchley
- The Suicide Bar / Montilee Stormer /Jag Lall & Denis Pacher
- Nine-tenths Of The Law / Edward Morris / Wayne Blackhurst
- In This the Era of the Great Wilting / Jeffrey Archer-Burton / Jason Beam
- Death and the Maiden 3 / Richard Calder / Richard Calder
- Shit New World / Martin Hayes / James Cameron
- Maimed / Hazel Marcus Ong / Glen James
- SPOIL / Stan Nicholls / Johnny Lee
- The Dark Gospel 2 / Luke Cooper / Luke Cooper
- Speak Ill Of The Dead / Ian Faulkner / Mark Bell
- Zombie Diva / Glynn Barrass / Lucas Hinchley
- The Love Ship Guide to Seduction in Zero Gravity / Steve Pirie / Denis Pacher
- Sprawl and Brawl: Five Reasons Why Cyberpunk Sustains (Article) / Matt Wallace
- An Interview with Stan Nicholls
Half the fun of reading magazines from their beginning is seeing them evolve as the publisher gets feedback and ideas from people who have read it. Murky Depths is no exception.
It has kept its half size, glossy style, is a whopping 84 pages, and contains no less than nine stories, three graphic strips, three non-fiction articles and one passage of poetry. It continues its ‘Mature Content’, so lets hope it’s scary enough to warrant a trip to the underwear draw.
The front cover is drawn by Richard Calder for his graphic strip Death And The Maiden. Comprising of an image of a woman/girl, under a street lamp, on a street corner, in a pose which shows her knickers, you’ll either love it or hate it. Guess what - I hate it. Maybe it was done to be controversial - or to be an eye grabber. But how many comic stores (or books shops, news outlets etc) would put a publication with that kind of front cover on view? (I’m asking the question, I really don’t know, would they?). The artwork didn’t grab me, and it didn’t make me want to go back and look again. I actually liked the colour change of the MD logo, red and yellow made it stand out.
The first story up is actually a QA interview with Stan Nicholls, who is the author of one of the stories, SPOIL. It’s an interesting and honest interview, which I wasn’t one bit interested in, as I haven’t heard of him before. It will, nevertheless, make me keep an eye out for his work in future.
What’s Yours Is Mine, written by Pike Stephenson with art by Dylan Williams. The latter is ‘ok’, has depth, but lacks clarity and detail. Maybe the original looked more distinct, but on paper, it looks muddy.
The story is about a generic bad guy who has recently finished off some people in a most bloody way during a game of cards, and has legged it with the money, hoping to reach the border without being caught. Low and behold, he and his bike crash in a forest, in the middle of nowhere. Queue weird noises, flashlights and a bit of swearing. He’s pursued by the weird noises, which turn out to be a grotesque creature. The prose builds the anxiety quite well, but as this guy is a bad guy anyway, I wasn’t bothered if he escaped or not. The creature is described well, but it’s not explained what the creature is or where it came from. I read into it that it was a pet, rather like someone’s dog, which had gotten loose. Pretty atmospheric, and the ending has a neat twist which is, to be honest, sick.
The first graphic strip of this issue is Evention, written by Mike Webster and arted by Lucas Hinchley. This seems to fit perfectly into the ‘meaning’ of Murky Depths. Dark, unnerving, slightly chaotic, has some bare breasts, bare behind, bare bits, gun fighting and a girl who is scared.
The poem compliments the artwork and visa versa, which made me jump back and forth between the writing and the artwork. The artwork, even though quite physically dark, emphasises parts of the female, and increases the hit of the accompanying poem. It’s almost like what the artwork doesn’t show, the text does, and what the text doesn’t tell, the artwork does. A great example of the two working in harmony.
The Suicide Bar written by Montilee Stormer, and drawn by Jag Lall & Denis Pacher is another story which could have had a slightly different name so as not to give too much away prior to reading. The artwork suffices and sets the scene somewhat too much upfront. The artwork style, along with the story, reminded me a bit of 2000AD’s Future Shocks. Short, sharp and to the point.
A guy turns up in a bar, orders a nice mix of poison, and then, well, you guess. Its immediacy means it sets itself up nicely - showing a world where certain things can not only be bought, but signed and contractually sealed. It’s part horror, part SF. It’s depressing, dark and very believable.
Nine-tenths Of The Law written by Edward Morris and drawn by Wayne Blackhurst. This is a really strong piece of prose. Even though possession has been done to death, the way this tale flows is second to none, and the ideas are great, and I loved the characters. A great world build of a dangerous place, populated by believable characters. Sometimes it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what makes a good read, but this certainly has it.
The accompanying artwork is ok. Although I’m not sure I like the style, the focus and perspective made me want to yank the ‘camera’ away from the subject and see what else was going on.
In This the Era of the Great Wilting written by Jeffrey Archer-Burton with artwork by Jason Beam is my favourite in this issue. The two page spread into artwork is amazing. Rather than being ‘comic strip’ quality, this kind of photo quality. A real woman with real emotions, gazing up into nowhere. Viewed through a smashed window, we see her holding a rose, the petals aflow in a breeeze, her hair caught in the upbreeze, with her arm resting on something. She looks at peace, but you can tell something devastating has happened. Utterly evocative and atmospheric.
The story is a post-apocalyptic narrative centering on a lonely woman. The human race has mysteriously died out. Mummified bodies are all over the place. She is lonely. Until she meets another living human being. The story is atmospheric and even though a lot if explained, there is no info dump, all explanations being done in memories, until the very end. Loved it.
I’m glad Death and the Maiden 3 written and arted by Richard Calder is, from episode 4, moving to its own self contained comic, released through The House Of Murky Depths. I still haven’t been hooked onto it and personally, I think it’s a waste of space in Murky Depths. Again, this episode suffers from not being able to grow enough due to lack of space. A nice touch was the hyper skirt - which I won’t explain so I don’t spoil it, but.. they’re interesting.
The artwork is still pretty much the same; it looks indistinct, probably suffering from being shrunk down from its original size. I did like the way he drew the females in it, and some of the ‘action’ artwork is great - a flying kick for example. Haphazard story line, not really any character building. The trouble with the strip is that I know just about the same as I did when I started reading it. Zero. And it’s not dark, it’s not gloomy, it’s not scary, it’s not even sensual and it’s not SF, it’s just.. there.
Shit New World written by Martin Hayes with artwork from James Cameron, is a short piece of prose which is a long rant on the state of the world in 2096. It’s really a comparison between the future possibilities as we argueably see it now - sex-bots, aliens, alien prostitues - to what it really is like in the future. The Paris Hilton Legacy Channel (all her best performances shown back to back), Horse Steaks, Shit Loads Of Vodka, working in a cubicle.
A satirical, funny piece which has ideas it could have expanded upon. And the artwork is quite simple, but suitably funny too.
Maimed written by Hazel Marcus Ong and drawn by Glen James is a surprise departure from the normal dark horror of Murky Depths. It is well and truly bedded in the fantasy genre. It seems to be a take on the Pied Piper Of Hamlet. A guy can play a flute pipe and lure pretty much anything with his tunes. A weird ending which left me wanting more. I also liked the artwork, which reminded me of (I believe) the old Fighting Fantasy book series.
SPOIL (part two of two) written by Stan Nicholls with artwork by Johnny Lee. Imagine a disease affects only true christian believers.. a story which shows this from different character perspectives. Medium paced, a neat idea, readable, but ultimately, not my kind of story. The artwork is ok and does its best to illustrate some of the tale.
The Dark Gospel (Part 2) arted and lettered by Luke Cooper. Interestingly, this has a text backstory to cover part one, which is a great idea for all stories/artwork spread over more than one issue (think LOST or Battlestar Galactica - ‘Previously on …’).
OK, so there’s a book called The Gospel According To Satan, and our detective has found it. It isn’t the nicest of reads and could cause the destruction of pretty much everything good, everything evil and the bits inbetween. Unfortunately, our detective reads from the book and finds a personal message from Mr. Evil himself, looking forward to a meeting.
The artwork is what makes the whole story so cool - it’s black and white, but manages to show so much. It’s drawn in Luke’s ‘trademark’ way of having ‘only’ two levels of depth. The foreground is sharp, focusing on the characters and action. The background is slightly blurry, which means the main focus is where it should be, on the characters. His use of motion blur (for expelled bullet cases for example) is spot on, and even the use of slight blurring for objects which are nearer to the viewer adds an subtle amount of depth. This is definately my kind of art.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the characters in The Dark Gospel are expanded upon in later installments - there will be more episodes.
Speak Ill Of The Dead is written by Ian Faulkner and drawn by Mark Bell is a zombie tale, set in the future, which involves sentient zombie terrorists. Eyecatching artwork which doesn’t spoil the story at all, and even the copied artwork from the first page is used as a background, rather than using space up on the story. A great read which isn’t your common or garden zombie fest.
Zombie Diva written by Glynn Barrass with artwork by Lucas Hinchley. This is the only prose in the issue which can be read as a poem. I’m not normally into poems so much (although, after reading Murky Depths for a few issue, it is growing on me), but this is a blinder: strong words create horrific visions. ‘Back to the roots’ Murky Depths. The artwork is on a par with the poem, dark and horrific, and just a little bit (a lot?) sick. It’s probably why they have the normal lights so low, and the flourescent lighting turned up in those strip clubs (so I’ve been told). Gruesome and horrific.
The Love Ship Guide to Seduction in Zero Gravity written by Steve Pirie with artwork by Denis Pacher is a light, easy, not scary or dark story, which is in contrast to the rest of this issue. A man in a mid-life crisis takes ‘not his wife’ to a orbital hotel hoping to make the earth move. Alas, all is not as it seems be. This is pure SF and as such I was more intune with it. The ending is unexpected, and with the prose being partly a ‘guide’, it makes for a nice read. The artwork is stylish, remeniscent of 60s Dan Dare, and isn’t half as X-rated (believe it or not) as Calder’s work, making it more enticing.
So, overall, Murky Depths is still on an even keel, there’s some artwork and prose which didn’t grab my attention, some is a waste of space, but some is exceptional. Looking forward to keeping up with its progress - bearing in mind that Murky Depths is still in its infancy, and that its aiming its sights higher than most publications of this kind would dare.