Reviewed by Gareth D Jones

Arriving fully-formed as a professional-looking glossy production, Murky Depths has certainly grabbed attention. While issue #1 had a dark tone, issue #3 certainly lives up to its name and the 'Mature Content' warning should be taken seriously. With a fairly short average story length, its 84 pages pack in more stories and comic strips than I normally manage to get through in a review.

The opening story is Pike Stephenson's What's Yours Is Mine, in which a man on the run encounters a grotesque creature in the forest. The creature's existence isn't explained, but despite its seemingly evil nature it's not as disturbing as the amoral characters of the story. Plentiful coarse language detracts from the prose rather than adding to the atmosphere.

Suicide Bar is Montilee Stormer's tale of a bar where people go to commit legalised suicide. I couldn't help thinking that a bit more thought could have been given to the title. The tale isn't as obvious as it first seems though, but mirrors society's often indifference to suffering and death.

In Nine Tenths of the Law, Edward Morris gives us a story of possession; whether by alien dust motes or something more sinister isn't entirely clear. The scum-of-the-earth type characters show a surprising amount of depth and a slightly brighter side to things than seems possible.

Jeffrey Archer-Burton's contribution is In This the Era of the Great Wilting, a whimsical post-apocalyptic tale. An odd description, I'll admit, but it fits. A young woman is wandering the streets of New York, stepping over the shrivelled remains of the rest of its inhabitants, facing life in a philosophical and yet dazed outlook. It's a touching moment when she finally meets another survivor in an encounter that is very effectively written.

At first Maimed seems to be a re-telling of The Pied Piper, though Hazel Marcus Ong's nostalgic style makes it a pleasant and heart-warming account. Of course, this being Murky Depths, it doesn't stay heart-warming. It does stay superb, however.

Someone has found a way to re-animate the dead in Ian Faulkner's Speak Ill of the Dead. They're not very pleasant, in a fundamentalist terrorist kind of way. What I thought was great about this story is that it's set in the UK, with a former Special Branch officer as the protagonist, but doesn't end up sounding self-conscious about it. It's full of high-tech weaponry and combat, but doesn't come across as all gung-ho and ridiculous. And the ex-police woman is called Blueberry, which doesn't at all sound daft in the story. It's a brilliantly put together tale.

The Love Ship Guide to Seduction in Zero Gravity is not nearly as seedy as it sounds. Steven Pirie writes an amusing tale of a middle-aged crisis and a high-tech, very expensive weekend away. The interaction between the characters develops almost unnoticed until you're suddenly aware of both points of view. Very cleverly written.

There is of course poetry and comic strips, two of which are continuing stories and all of which come across quite forcefully. The graphics that accompany them are, well, graphic. So Murky Depths seems to have hit its stride for definite. Whether that stride is to everyone's taste is uncertain, but they certainly know what they like.

Murky Depths edited by Terry Martin. Comic size, 84pp, UK£6.99 or £24/4 (for other countries and payment options see website).

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