Review: Murky Depths #16

Murky Depths is without a doubt one of my favorite magazines. Spawned out of the UK it’s a hybrid blend of graphic strips (don’t call these moody, dark tales comics) and short stories, science fiction, fantasy, horror, articles and interviews. Richard Calder’s Dead Girls takes the cover of issue 16, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The first tale in this issue is Alan Baxter’s Mirrorwalk. This one has a Lovecraft feel, no elder gods, but two people who stumble upon ancient scrolls of magic find that people just aren’t designed to mess with such things.

Next up is Mecurio D. Rivera’s All Smiles, a short tale that serves up human-alien relations where we’re not being invaded, but they aren’t peaceful, benign critters either, along with a side of sadistic peepshow. Following is Valeria by Ian R. Faulkner. This one is science fiction as well, though it doesn’t need aliens. Instead Faulkner takes readers into the twisted minds of humanity in a techno-noir tale of an abuse victim fighting back.

The highly sexualized build up is a perfect lead in for the next installment of Richard Calder’s Dead Girls series. Calder tells of a pornocracy (where the politics, technology and economy is all driven by sex) where a disease has turned Primavera into a highly infectious vampiric Sex Doll. Along with her sidekick, doll-junkie Ignatz (essentially the person she acts out on) she’s been captured by an ″unknown third party″ who’s looking to torture (and not in the fun way) some answers out of them. The drama so far (nano bot diseases, sexual intrigue and a boy and girl who just want to be left alone and free to love each other) proves Primavera and Ignatz are in over their heads when they didn’t even realize they were ″in″ in the first place. I really hope MD plans to release a collected version of Dead Girls for more in depth reading. * ETA: They are!

Blood Not Boiling by Andrew Roberts is a twisted vampire tale that makes Anne Rice’s choice to have Lestat feed from a tampon in Memnoch the Devil look tame. The title is apt as it confronts sensitive subjects and makes them into something even more bizarre. Teamwork by Jonathan Pinnock is one of those fabulous dark SF stories of space exploration and technology where the reader knows from the beginning something is wrong, but doesn’t really appreciate it until the end. This one’s deserving of a Hitchcock episode.

Michael J. deLuca’s Mowing Them Down also covers familiar horror territory, but since readers won’t guess which land it wanders into I won’t tell. Suffice to say it’s got an aging-Clockwork Orange feel and atmosphere so thick you can smell the cigar smoke. JS Watt’s The Audition ties in very well with previous entries Dead Girls, All Smiles and Teamwork. This SF tale explores the insidious world of movie stars and Hollywood, though. It’s expected bite is no less severe and happily Watts manages to make the pretentious surfer dude actor’s plight a sympathetic journey.

Kevin David Anderson’s Momentum offers one last story piece, a post apoc horror story with carnies and trickery and a solid horror end. The last graphic piece is part two of Lavie Tidhar’s really weird I Dream of Ants. If you’ve ever wondered what a war between the biggest bad guy in European history and the smallest, techno-forged, scariest community bug in the world would be like…well I’m sure you wouldn’t even come close to Lavie’s really bizarre vision.

Issue 16 shows stellar storytelling, imagination and a solid thematic flow, paired with great art is why I always look forward to getting MD in my mail.

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