Desert Moons of Karth (2021)

Desert Moons of Karth (2021) downplays the usual horror of Mothership in favor of embracing spaghetti western vibes. There are still horrors, of course, but there is a lot of other stuff in this ambitious zine and it is nice to have the variety pack of flavors for a change. There’s a lot of inspiration drawn from Hot Springs Island and Ultraviolet Grasslands, creating a world of interesting locations to explore and factions to run afoul of. It all appears much looser than it really is, though — wait too long and a confluence of events will consume everything in a horrible organ assimilating conflagration. I told you the horror was still here!

The reason to visit Karth is to get rich prospecting alien coral (which is then centrifuged into an extremely profitable recreational drug). That’s two of the factions: the prospectors of the boomtown and the marines who enforce the export tax. Another faction is a kind of eco-cult bent on preserving the existing ecosystem. Then there is the group of immortal organ harvesting lunatics. And they aren’t even the worst, as the alien civilization whose corpses are being turned into drugs aren’t quite so extinct as everyone things. There’s also a web of old automated defense technology, sand squids and other dangers to wrangle. Oh, and there is a vengeful ghost too! So much packed into a little zine!

It is all brought to dusty life by a team of four illustrators. There is no clear credit as to who does what, but Logan Stahl, Francesco Zanieri, Glynn Seal and Ben Smith earned their fees, for sure. Mothership illustrations tend to tilt toward the impressionistic or the abstract, but I really enjoy the cartoon-style realism on display here. It grounds the action in a way that benefits of world of gunslingers, gamblers and high stakes.

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