Murky Depths: Issue Two / Review
“The Quarterly Anthology Of Graphically Dark Speculative Fiction”
- The Art Of War / David Ryan
- Duchess Street / Kurt Kirchmeier / Frankie Wallington
- With A Whimper With A Bang / D.M. Moehrle / Paul O’Connell
- Super-size Security / A.R. Yngve
- The Dark Gospel, Part One, Tin-Man / Luke Cooper
- Yellow Warbler / Jason Sizemore / Michael Lomon
- Bernadette And The Sirens / Hannah Davey / Martin Deep
- The Litter / Katherine Patterson / James Fletcher
- Death And The Maiden, Part Two / Richard Calder
- Venus And The Birth Of Zephyrus / Sarah Wagner / Mark Bell
- The Last Flight / Silvanus Moxley
- SPOIL, Part One / Stan Nicholls / Edward R. Norden
- Hair Of The Dog / Edward Morris / Timothy Shepherd
- Firewallburn / Dave Ryan / Dennis Hopeless
- Phantom Payment / Willie Meikle / Ricky Martin
- Poppets / Mike Driver / Mark Bell
- Church Of Saturn / Alex Wilson
Lavishly packaged and sexily shiny, issue two of Murky Depths bleeds production quality. A splendid front and back cover image of a female figure in a flowing red dress, accompanied by a tripe-headed hound, in a fog enshrouded forest, leaps off the page and bites your head off (in a good way). The cover artwork is drawn in a style which is semi realistic, as opposed to a ‘cartoon’ style, and fits in well with Murky Depths‘ imagery. As well as concentrating on prose and artwork, the outward image of the magazine is being well thought about. A definite eye-grabber.
The Art Of War, written and drawn by David Ryan is a short graphic strip which shows a drawing artist initiating a ‘giving the soul away’ scenario. The artwork is great, suitably dark, portraying a gloomy room, setting the scene perfectly. The reason this doesn’t quite work is that the end plate shows a surprise ending, and should have preferably been on a new ‘turn of the page’, so the finale is seen straight away. As it is, it appears at the bottom of the last page of the two page strip - which spoils the effect somewhat.
Even so, it’s a nice little piece which still retains the suprise factor, even if dumbed down.
Duchess Street, written by Kurt Kirchmeier and arted by Frankie Wallington has a dead prostitute (a recurring theme in Murky Depths) release her inner demons. There are two possible targets for her released demons, and the resultant target makes it a nice revenge story. She also reflects on her life, which makes the story all the more interesting; she makes a decision on what she is to do next. The associated artwork is a bit vague, but for some reason, I kept going back to it; simple, yet lookable.
With A Whimper, With A Bang, written by D.M. Moehrle, with associated art by Paul O’Connell is about politicians getting the upper hand against each (what’s new, eh?), instead this time, it’s set off-Earth. It didn’t particularly grab me in any way and seemed out of place in Murky Depths. The focus of the story wasn’t interesting, but it would be nice to see what was happening at a wide-angle, as it hinted of a much larger story.
The artwork is a busy collage, the centre of which is a Chinese leader, while surrounded by Chinese people smiling and applauding. Inset there’s a picture of a toddler in a space helmet, and an older girl in a space helmet, with a cat and dog also in a space helmet. Nicely drawn, and shows a side of the story which isn’t mentioned in the prose itself. Really great.
Super-size Security, written and drawn by A.R. Yngve is set in an unsual prison. A new inmate enters the prison, and worries about being ‘new meat’. It’s a plausable story which, to be honest, is another example of a story which could be true in the future. Laws and laws aren’t they? And laws can be changed.
The artwork is simple and looks uncannily like a slightly altered picture of Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman in Heroes). Anyway, it’s quite striking, and sets the scene nicely.
The Dark Gospel, Part One, Tin-Man, written and drawn by Luke Cooper. This is a full on graphic strip, nine pages long, and drawn in Luke’s effective layered style. With a great opening, it’s almost like the opening to a film. A quick shock, or hook, to grab the reader’s attention, then into the intro credits. As this is part one, it will be a serial of an unknown number of episodes. It’s nine pages long, so is the longest piece in this issue of Murky Depths, and this gives it breathing space. Danny Goulding is a hard ass detective who pefers to take on ’strange’ cases - hence his nickname down the precinct, Ghoul. He’s on the trail of a book which was stolen from the scene of a priest’s murder. He has a couple of unusual friends to help him find clues and leads. For instance, Holly a psychic girl with…. wings.
There’s a couple of nice twists during the episode and along with the dirty, dark art and character dialogue, makes for a powerful viewing.
Yellow Warbler, written by Jason Sizemore, with complementary artwork by Michael Lomon. The pencil, cross hatched artwork shows a figure on a cross, outside a church, with people (seems to be mainly children) watching from a distance (and pointing etc). Sitting behind a tree, is an older figure of a man. Beautifully drawn, it evokes a sense of people not quite sure what’s going on, and kind of being half interested. Seeing the artwork and the name of the story made me wonder what on earth the story could be about.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic, yet idyllic town. Trouble starts when a ‘Shadow’ enters town. The minister encounters a crisis of faith, both from himself and from the towns people. The yellow warbler is cleverly introduced into the story, and because it’s not a main part, makes it all the more memorable. The ending itself is grotesque, which makes it all the more effective because the rest of the story is quite peaceful.
Bernadette And The Sirens, written by Hannah Davey, with artwork by Martin Deep is one of my favourites in this issue of Murky Depths. It’s set in a rural lanscape, rather similar to the previous story, only this time, they are surrounded by howling winds brought on by (apparently) the dieing of the sun. The pencil sketched artwork shows a ballet dancer twirling ribbons while in the thoes of a dance, and visualises the story well. The prose shows the immediate setting of the story well, and to me it conjoured up images of a fairy tale, which, on the face of it, seems simple, but when looked at deeper, has a moral, or at least an apparent proverbial meaning.
Back to straight, in your face, horror with The Litter. Written by Katherine Patterson A family arrives at a farm to adopt some animals after seeing a local advert. This is the kind of story which works so well because of what isn’t said in the prose. Although, after reading, it leaves some questions. Why doesn’t anyone notice people going missing? to name but one. Still, a great read, with a neat twist at the end. James Fletcher does the story justice with his dark artwork, which reminded me of Tales From The Crypt even if it does give the story away too soon.
Death And The Maiden, Part Two written and drawn by Richard Calder. OK, Calder’s work isn’t my favourite, he’s not even in my top five hundred of either artists or writers, nevertheless I always look at Calder’s work with no prejudice.
So - a boring walkthrough by a scantily clad female. Some dialogue which doesn’t make sense. Too much empty space in some of the panels. Some panels seem to not even have a real meaning and could have been chopped out without losing the continuity. The background of the interior seems to be in a different style compared to the character graphics. Having said that, Calder does well in the artwork with moving vehicles and the naked girl (particularly her breasts).
It needs to speed-up or at least get to the point. Next.
Venus And The Birth Of Zephyrus, written by Sarah Wagner with artwork by Mark Bell. A story of a security unit, which is part of a security system, covering an area of a city. It seems to show this unit gaining consciousness (or at least artificial intelligence) and self awareness. The catalyst for this is something or someone called Venus. Very vague as to be infuriating. I liked the way the unit knows it exists, and yet it carrys on, in part, as it did before it gained consciousness, thereby hiding from the powers that be. The artwork is a simple picture of the top half of a woman, with ‘computer’ writing below, which seems to indicate that this is the security unit… a bit obscure, but a nice piece of art in a stand alone context.
The first bit of poetry is The Last Flight composed by Silvanus Moxley. A readable bit of poetry about pirates and vampires, set in space. A nice read, which had me half laughing when I’d finished.
SPOIL, Part One written by Stan Nicholls with artwork by Edward R. Norden. The first part of a serial, it sets the scene well. There’s a virus going around, and it infects people who are religious, which ultimately kills. The scientific community are struggling to find a cure, or indeed, a method to how it infects. The religious community are worried about it, yet on the flipside, they are taking advantage of it.
It was originally written in 1993 and makes reference to AIDS. At the time there was crap in the news about it being a punishment from God; SPOIL is the opposite. Nicely written, with many viewpoints and characters. The associated artwork is sketchily drawn, and shows one of the main scenes of the story. Looking forward to the second installent.
Hair Of The Dog, written by Edward Morris, drawn by Timothy Shepherd, is an atmospheric story of life on the street. Morris manages to bring alive the sights, sounds and smells at ground level. Not a nice picture, especially as this is set around Christmas. A story with a lonely feeling, which has a supernatural twist at the end. The ending was neither here nor there (though it manages to change the whole context of the story), but the descriptive qualities of the text are second to none. The artwork is a great addition to the story, again evoking images of urchins on the street.
Firewallburn, written by Dave Ryan and arted by Dennis Hopeless is a strange and confusing story. I really couldn’t make out what was going on. Some kind of ‘person’ makes a journey back to see his dad, talking about Promethius and ‘FIRE!’ and such incomprehensive jibberings. As for the title of the story - no idea. Normally I wouldn’t want to second guess a story, but I’m guessing this has to do with some ancient story, set in a modern environment.
The artwork is great, a kind of dotted and mottled effect, with the use of shading giving it a shiny aspect. The last panel is an unexpected image on its own, and due to the haphazard story, makes it a totally hilarious ending, in so much as someone getting machine gunned apart is funny.
Phantom Payment, written by Willie Meikle, with artwork by Ricky Martin is one of the most readable stories in issue 2. A poor bank worker finds himself trapped in a bank’s ATM network, communicating through the audit logs. The entity inadvertently causes problems (core dumps - oh you love ‘em if you’re a ‘nix administrator) and therefore an engineer is brought in to fix the problems.
A tale of lost love in the extreme, which is made all the more dark by the way it ends - it’s a love story which ends on a high note. Loved the thick lined, scribbly, artwork.
Poppets, written by Mike Driver, with art by Mark Bell was, along with the previous story, one of the best and most memorable of this issue. A tale of someone who is constantly scared, who tries to find a meaning in things which have happened to him and to people in his life. What made this story readable was that much of the scene setting is probably real, and happening right now. Pause for thought.
Towards the end it delves into black magic, which seems almost like a cop out, but then it resurrects itself with an unexpected finale.
The clean artwork didn’t really seem to be based on the story so much. But was nice all the same.
Church Of Saturn composed by Alex Wilson is a small piece of poetry (or maybe it’s flash fiction?) which was brilliantly written, and had such a spot on ending, it makes me nearly puke in disgust at attributes which are built into the human race.
So - Issue 2. Again, it looks lovely and shiny. Some of the artwork was a bit redundant, in that either it didn’t go with the story, or it was an eye sore. Most of it through is well drawn and thus very effective. Again, a mish mash stories which range from excellent, to a bit… confused. But seeing as this is issue 2, it is still a fetus of a magazine, barely out of the starting gate, and it is not bad by any stretch of the imagination.
Overall, it shows that Murky Depths are still gunning for the top place in the prose/artwork magazine market place.