Coquettes & Cougars|Brimble Banks Brothers Episode 10

Brimble Backs Bros Cougar

A charming and humorous blend of oral storytelling and drama for the ear. The tenth episode of the Brimble Banks Brothers is a self-contained unit and at the same time a continuation of previous episodes. Coquettes and Cougars is the story of a family in Atlanta and their daughter’s planned marriage to someone of aristocratic heritage and wealth.

Honestly, the frame story of the brothers was far more interesting than the one of southern sensibilities and random cougar attacks. The frame narrative uses classic fourth wall breaking to constantly throw you in and out of the story. At times this is exhausting as you aren’t sure if you’re listening to the story about cougars in the southern United States or back in the real world with two bickering brothers who can’t seem to agree on what the story is about.

The overall narrative is all over the place and incorporates characters from previous episodes into the story. Yes, it’s that kind of story. No holds barred and out there in terms of pacing and plot. In this story, anything goes, including the kitchen sink. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy the stories type of humor.

The biggest problem with this is the lack of attention to detail at some points. Not from a story stand point, but a production aspect. The volume goes up significantly at random places throughout the 50 minute long episode. It’s doubtful it was intentional and it’s not something you hear every day in the audio drama community, no matter if it’s free or for purchase.

Without having listened to earlier episodes, it’s hard to give thoughts on the overarching series with the two brothers. That being said, it sits on my feed, waiting for when I have free time.

4/5 Stars

Mistborn: Shadows of Self

The fifth novel in the Mistborn series, Shadows of Self shares more in common with the original trilogy than the Alloy of Law–the fourth book. In that book, we’re introduced to the characters of Wax and Wayne. Despite their different personalities, the same letter at the beginning of their names makes for a confusing read. Thankfully most of that got straightened out in the first book starring these two vigilantes out in the wild west.

Alloy of Law comparisons aside, Shadows of Self isn’t a standard Mistborn novel. While the magic systems are still ever-present in the world and have evolved since the days of the original trilogy, their importance has dwindled. Shadows of Self is a mystery whose clues and conclusion rely on knowledge of the previous books to get the full effect the author intended.

The star of this new era of Mistborn is Wayne and Michael Kramer’s portrayal of him. He steals every scene he’s in and his point of view scenes are a delight. All the characters are well-rounded, but I know I’m not alone in thinking that Wayne brings life to an otherwise like-minded cast.

Overall, Shadows of Self is a darker tale set in the Mistborn universe, filled with murder, mystery and an easy to spot twist. Its balancing act between dark fantasy and light-hearted epic fantasy is blurry at best, but because of Wayne, stays clear of complete Grimdark territory.

4/5 Stars

The Bright Sessions Season One

The first season of the audio drama “The Bright Sessions” (written by Lauren Shippen) may be two people talking in a room, but it’s some of the most compelling storytelling and acting I’ve heard in a while. The premise is straight forward–a psychologist for the supernatural.

The story isn’t simply Dr. Bright talking with her patients for 10-20 minutes per episode. Each of her patients has an otherworldly power. Mind reading is the most “normal” in terms of speculative fiction. The most complex character is Caleb. His ability isn’t too specular (reading people’s emotions, rather than thought), but Lauren Shippen’s 16 year old character balances the line of homosexual and heterosexual behavior that one can interpret his sexuality either way and isn’t heavy-handed as a result.

Diversity aside, it’s hard to fault something this basic. It accomplishes what it sets out to do. There’s no complex narrative or witty banter between Dr. Bright and her patients, which eliminates any need for speculation or theory-crafting, almost.

As the story unfolds through Dr. Bright’s audio logs before and after the sessions, her interest in these unique people seems a bit more ominous. By the end of episode nine, you realize there’s more to this service than simply helping people with extraordinary powers.

Another fascinating aspect of this story is the transmedia nature of the podcast episode descriptions. There’s a sense of a larger world using little to no description. Sure it might seem shallow, but what transmedia campaign is known for being anything other than a gimmick. For example, what do the levels of empath mean? How powerful is a level seven compared to a level four?

So much is left unanswered at the season finale, but based on the structure of each episode, there’s no feeling of loose ends. At least not when you consider it’s a season finale with more being released on a regular basis.

5/5 Stars

The Death of Captain America

The aftermath of Marvel’s Civil War is a story which holds no punches, but those punches are rather soft. Unlike its predecessor, “The Death of Captain America” doesn’t have the luxury of falling back on other heroes and villains in the Marvel universe, when things get a bit dull. This is primarily a Captain America tale, or rather, the repercussions of his death to everyone who both knew him and knew of him.

There are a plethora of characters in this story, not as grand as Marvel’s Civil War, but enough to keep it mildly interesting. The political undercurrent which kept the story afloat barely gets by with simple tropes. The main cast includes Agent 13, Bucky Barnes, the Falcon and many others on both sides of the compass of good and evil, including those in the morally grey area.

Within the first hour, the villain Crossbones has killed America’s hero and most famous World War Two veteran. As with most stories about assassination, the person carrying out the job is not the same as the person orchestrating it. There’s a lot of mystery, but nothing which felt like a good act three twist. The actors seem to downplay those moments of revelation in order to preserve the tone of the piece. Unfortunately for them, the tone isn’t that interesting and the foreshadowing is so abysmal that it might as well not be there at all.

One example of the poor, nonexistent, foreshadowing is the man pretending to be Captain America after Steve Rogers’ death. This comes much later in the story and, no, I’m not referring to Bucky Barnes AKA the Winter Soldier. Before the imposter gets in the costume, he is found by Agent 13 and we learn all about him as apparently he was an important character in the super soldier serum aftermath. For those not blessed with back issues of Marvel Comics, this feels like a bit of a stretch, considering this is the first time he’s appeared in the story or is even mentioned.

Like most Graphic Audio dramas. The casting is spot on and the music exhilarating and calm at just the right moments. Most of the complaints come from the adaptation or the source material, rather than the production value. The first Graphic Audio production I’ve ever disliked on some level. Hopefully it will be the last as I truly enjoy the work they do.

3.5/5 Stars

Darth Plagueis

Taking place before the events of the Star Wars prequels, “Darth Plagueis” is a political drama about the story of Hugo Demask’s and his apprentice, Darth Sidious’ rise to power.

While not part of the new canon, established by “Star Wars Episode VII,” it does have a few problems with pacing. At times the politics can get boring, but unlike the prequels it’s not sloppily mashed together with kid-friendly moments that don’t make sense given the galactic scale conflict. In a way, “Darth Plagueis” is almost what the prequels could’ve been, as the politics are given much more detail and aren’t constrained by the length of a movie.

The story itself mostly focuses on Sidious and his rise to the position of Supreme Chancellor. Aside from the opening chapters, the title character of Darth Plagueis (Hugo Demask) barely has any point-of-view scenes. Sidious steals the show in both the story and the narrator’s portrayal of him.

By far the best part was the soundscape. Little things like blaster and lightsaber sounds make this more than an audiobook and fully immerses you in a galaxy far, far away.

Trying not to compare this with the prequels is hard, because the story takes place before the events of The Phantom Menace, but it does drag on in–mostly due to the political scenes where very little happens. On the plus side, it does explain a lot of the backstory behind the Phantom Menance’s convulted plot.

Overall, the story is much better than the prequels, but with dozens of Star Wars novels out in the world, with more coming on a regular basis, there are certainly better ones available for purchase. However, if you’re one of the people who liked the concept of the prequels, but hated the execution, this might be a good alternative. At the very least it gives you some insight into the world George Lucas had in his head, but didn’t get explained on the screen.

4/5 Stars

New Contact Information

Some of you may have noticed that your e-mails to michaelbergonzi@audiodramareviews.com have not been sent. In preparation for the new  server switch, I forgot to set up new a new e-mail address.

The post titled “Reviewers Wanted” is now up to date with the correct e-mail address. All review requests should be made to Requests@AudioDramaReviews.com. If you’ve submitted previously to the old e-mail, don’t worry I still have access to it. I just can’t receive any mail. Not sure about sending it.

In any case, here is a list of the following shows on the review queue:

  1. The Bright Sessions
  2. New Century – Arlington
  3. Wooden Overcoats
  4. Caalo Xan
  5. Gallow Tree

If you’ve submitted something that isn’t listed above, please e-mail the above e-mail address. If you’ve contacted me about wanting to be a reviewer for the site, send an e-mail to Volunteer@AudioDramaReviews.

Reviewers Wanted

In an effort to expand readership, Audio Drama Reviews has opened up their doors to other critics of the art form. We are looking for a few writers/reviewers to add to the arsenal. If you are fan of audio drama, full-cast productions, audiobooks, or any story told without required visuals, send an e-mail over to Volunteer@AudioDramaReviews.com. Use the subject: “ADR Employment – GENRE OF INTEREST” (See below).

We are looking for 3-6 reviewers in the following genres (two for each one is the goal, but one per genre is also good):

Comedies
Horror
Anthologies

Please note, for the time being, these are volunteer positions. I’d love to be able to pay people per word right out of the gate, but it’s just not feasible for me right now.

The body of the e-mail should contain your credentials. A cover letter. Don’t worry if your new to reviewing anything artistic. Once the e-mail is sent, I’ll reply back with some follow-up questions. The sooner you answer these, the sooner you can be added to the reviewer’s roster. These questions are to help me place you inside your ideal position.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.

Thank you.

–Michael Bergonzi

The Wall in the Mind

The Wall in the Mind is an Irish-produced audio drama set in Berlin before and after the fall of the Berlin wall. It centers around an Irish woman named Claire O’Hanlon and her adolescent boyfriend Emil who mysteriously reappeared after years of being missing. The main focus is Claire and her obsession with finding out the truth about Emil.

By far the best part of this audio drama was the dystopian tone from the pre-fall period of the Berlin wall. There was so much tension and realistic angst for the characters, it felt like I was experiencing the second Hunger Games film in audio form. The fact that it’s set in the real world past makes it all the more bleak.

The title is purposefully misleading. Throughout the story you get a sense that Claire might not be all there. She’s constantly making rash decisions when she arrives in modern day Berlin all because she is desperate for some closure.

The German and Irish accents can be hard to understand for an american audience, but you still get the general sense of what they’re saying despite not hearing all the words. The actors, specifically the male ones, sound similar enough to each other that you wonder who’s talking to whom. The cast is also a bit to large for the kind of story there telling, making it needlessly complex. The soundscape was created on location, which definitely added to the confusing nature of the dialogue and scenes. Audio drama may be a blind medium, but when the listener feels blind as to what’s going on, the immersion factor decreases.

My interest level waxed and waned constantly throughout listening. There are so many twists and turns and you’re sure the story will end a certain way. In fact the story practically confirmed my early suspicions during episode five. However by the end of the series, it’s not entirely clear why the scene was included as it raises more questions than it answers. Needless to say I fell for the misdirection, thinking Emil’s fate had to be part of some conspiracy. It’s almost like “Memento” in the way our primary focus is on one character. Everything we experience is filtered through the lens of Claire O’Hanlon.

Overall this six-part audio drama series is a great example of writer’s creating misdirection in their mysteries. Even if they didn’t quite nail the landing, it was still an impressive jump.

4/5 Stars

Ray Gunn and Starburst: Series One

This superhero origin story achieves the same effect as the Deadpool film, while at the same time fulfilling the promises inherent in the genre of space opera comedies. Ray Gunn and Starburst starts off a little lackluster. There’s nothing new here, aside from the fourth wall breaking, and even then that feels like a gimmick. It’s not until episode three when we learn of the larger world and thus the stakes of the galaxy.

That being said, the evil overlord is not all that threatening and his terror comes from characters reacting to him rather than him doing anything all that evil. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a good villain, you may be disappointed. They do rectify this in the last episode, but by that point it’s too little too late.

The cast of characters are a delight and the ending surprisingly works, despite it essentially being deus ex machina. I won’t spoil the end other than to say the fourth wall break keeps it from being a poor story choice.

Ray Gunn and Starburst is a breath of fresh air for the audio drama medium, because it adds something new to the overpopulated space opera comedy genre. Also, if you’re a fan of fourth wall breaking, you’ll certainly get a kick out of this. It’s not quite the same as Deadpool, because it’s not the character who breaks it, but it’s still very much the same in theory. The foreshadowing commercials are a nice twist on the typical fake advertisements found in shows such as Hadron Gospel Hour as they serve more than one function.

4.5/5 Stars

ISS Forlorn Hope

ISS Forlorn Hope feels like the beginning of a series, but offers the self-contained nature of a television pilot. The story starts off strong. Bits of humorous dialogue make the characters likable and place the reader gently into the opening scene. Not much set up is required and you get the gist of what’s at stake early on.

A man is on trial for the murder of his best friend. As his retelling unfolds, we learn about his friend and how the two of them got sucked into a space opera world, full of evil overlords and technological marvels. And what better way to start this off than at a science fiction convention. A mysterious couple of aliens wants a box the two characters–Rob and Keith–have come into possession of. How a box as powerful as it was described happened to land on earth is a mystery. Then again, this is a comedy and thinking that in depth about the story doesn’t bode well for anyone. Rob and Keith are forced onto the ship, but Keith doesn’t survive. In fact, we learn the incompetent ship’s doctor “Improved him” to the point that he’s no longer human.

This a comedy and stupid humor occurs from time to time, but overall the story is consistent with itself and not over the top with its cheap jokes. Honestly there are so many space opera comedies out there, it’s hard to differentiate them. Most of these types of stories feel rehashed and overdone. Once you’ve experienced one of them, you basically how it’s going to end, and the journey isn’t that impressive either.

Overall this a solid introduction to a larger world with the compactness of an hour long television pilot. The credit read was a delight, but there’s nothing fresh and new here to warrant anything other than a standard rating.

4/5 Stars