The Killing Joke Review (Yes, again)

The Killing Joke Graphic Novel Cover


To Batman fans, “The Killing Joke” is one of the most quintessential comics in recent years. Comic book readers tend to agree: The Killing Joke is Joker’s true origin story. Last time you heard Zane’s thoughts on one particular Killing Joke adaptation found on YouTube. This week’s review is the same story, but with a different cast and crew  behind it. Whether it be adaptations or reviewing the same exact audio stories, I’d like to do more of this in the future. Call it a spin on the saying: “Different Strokes for Different Folks.” With that said, let’s get down to the review.

“The Killing Joke” Review

The only way to mess up an audio adaptation is with over-the-top acting and bad sound effects. When you’re adaptating a story from a comic book, people tend to gloss over sound effects and go straight for the acting itself. In this particular adaptation, every line of dialogue comes straight from the comic. Like the last “The Killing Joke” review (written by Zane Sexton), this one is also on YouTube. As the title of this one will say, it’s a motion comic and audio dramatization. While the visuals aren’t required, it might’ve helped with the performances.

Not to say they were bad, but they were no Mark Hamill or Kevin Conroy, which they seemed to be trying to emulate in their performances. The actors playing Joker and Batman/Bruce Wayne were over the top is some instances and melodramatic in others. It was hit or miss, more often than not, and a struggle to get through the entire story. The first 10-15 minutes were the most awkward, as if the actors were finding their way into character.

That said, it’s hard to live up to the graphic novel’s acclaim. Even the animated movie failed to capture the story, according to most critics. The general consensus was the off-putting scene in the “prologue” with Batgirl that wasn’t in the original story. Unlike the animated movie, this audio adaptation is faithful to the source material and it’s perhaps its greatest flaw.

If you’ve never read The Killing Joke or know nothing about it, you might enjoy this. Aside from those two reasons, you’re better off listening to the one Zane Sexton reviewed on the site or reading the graphic novel.

It’s as simple as this: if you know what’s going to happen in a story, then the only thing that can make it engaging comes through with the production itself. As far as this adaptation goes, it barely scrapes by.

3.5/5 Stars

The Killing Joke Review

A new twist on one of Batman’s most famous tales, The Killing Joke is an audio drama made by WMSC 90.3 FM. It’s well-crafted, with strong characters, and production quality making it a must-hear experience.

The story mainly focuses on The Joker and how he became a super villain, sometimes interjecting Batman’s investigation into Joker’s crimes. The radio drama switches from past to present and back again, which might make it a little confusing at certain times, but it’s a minor nitpick. The supporting characters, such as Alfred, provides interesting commentary into the Batman mythos, but overall has little impact on the plot. Despite the minor problems, the story is very dark and extremely well constructed.

The voice acting is superb. The voice actor for The Joker engulfs himself in the character, creating a man who’s been driven insane by death, misfortune, and rational, yet poor decisions. Joker absolutely loves being in his inner-asylum.

The production quality is very good, with no technical problems. The background noises for the various settings complete the mood and atmosphere, whether you’re at a deranged carnival to a basement filled with horrors.

But the best aspect of this radio drama is the dialogue. The voice actors steal the show with their believability and the conversations between Batman and the Joker are both interesting and disturbing. It can make one believe that good and evil are really not so different after all, that our own perception on ourselves is the only barrier between heinous acts and good deeds.

This version of the classic Batman vs. Joker story is one that should be experienced by any fan of the dark-winged hero.

5/5 Stars

Listen Here


Kevin O’Leary as Batman
Brendan Maly as The Joker
Rob Dickerson as James Gordon
Morgan Vasquez as Jack’s Wife
Jeremy Doyle as Pseudo Joker/ Hood 1
Michael Sangregorio as Det. Bullock/ Hood 2/ Cop
Antoinette Fasino as Barbara Gordon
Mike Bufis as Carnival Freak

Site Updates

New interview posted on Audio Drama Digest. A YouTube-based company/troupe.

Next Review will be another version of The Killing Joke. This time another adaptation of the classic Joker origin story.

Kakos Industries Episodes 1-5 Review

A fictional broadcast for a made-up corporation, Kakos Industries is the evil love child of The Bright Sessions and King Falls AM and that’s not because it’s structure and style match those two titans of newer audio dramas.

Kakos Industries easy-to-follow format is one of its hallmarks. On average, there is only one character. That of Corin Deeth III, voiced by creator, Conrad Miszuk. The show’s format is focused on corporate announcements about Kakos Industries and its operations in the world. There’s a lot of dry wit humor and dark comedy sprinkled throughout, adding a Pratchett-esque feel to the episodes as a whole.

Continuity between episodes is easily forgotten if you’re not listening back to back and is quite subtle. Most of them take the form of running gags like Kakos Industries shareholders being the only ones who are able to listen to the announcements. Anyone else should end their lives in a black comedy kind of way. Obviously, this is not for the faint of heart and contains explicit language such as the occasional f-bomb and humor that makes you “that’s just wrong” throughout. Personally, I love it. If I ever get more free time, this goes on my list.

Each episode is more or less standalone and releases each month along with the full text on their website.

5/5 Stars

Caalo Xan Season One

Caalo Xan is as science fiction as one can get, having a hound as the leading character, a team of swashbucklers travelling through the Galaxy, and meeting a weird and alien cast of friends and foes along the way.

Multiple things about the audio drama can hook the audience. It has an excellent original song playing at the beginning and end of every episode, which can draw anyone into the atmosphere and tone, very much like how an audio drama should. Another excellent thing are the sound designs. Actions scenes are given a boost on life due to the laser sound effects, the soft, creeping footsteps of enemies, and the speed of the spaceships. The characterization is extremely well done, as the dialogue flows naturally and their topics of discussion really humanize them into something more than a ragteam of misfits.

However, there are some technical problems with the audio drama that might make it hard for people to listen to. First, some of the voice acting could’ve been better, as they are often monotone or just feel like an actor reading off a script. There is little believability when it happens.  Another problem I noticed was the inconsistent volume levels, ranging from extremely low to intolerably high. As such, immersion is almost immediately broken when this occurs.

It’s shocking to learn that over forty people have given their voices for this project, so it’s obviously a collaborated effort to mimic the 1940’s radio drama style, which succeeds splendidly. While science fiction isn’t my favorite genre, the compelling stories and memorable cast of characters overshadows the technical problems the show has.

3.5/5 Stars

Gallowtree Season One

Gallowtree Radio details strange events from a town somewhere in England. These events range from literal identity theft to “homeless zombie scum” taking over the world… so predictable, huh? This is very much a story-driven podcast.

Listener’s should be aware that Gallowtree’s concept is noticeably similar to Night Vale, so if you like that podcast, odds are you will like this one. Basically, it’s as if Night Vale was set in a British horrorshow that’s being run by a mentally disturbed anarchist. Although the setting might turn some listeners off, Gallowtree has high production value and good voice acting.

Despire the limited voice cast, I felt that the narrator had a vivid personality and a very loud, creepy voice that suited the tone wonderfully – in particular, the tone and atmosphere. It does wonder for the tone and atmosphere. The writing is a little fast-paced if one is not paying attention. They could easily miss some really good social commentary and important details into a 1984-esque world.

The show has good pacing and good writing, often making references to problems in contemporary society, such as religion, police brutality, politics, and numerous other topics. The 22-minute format reminds me more of a science fiction TV show on the SyFy network than a podcast.

The background noises are so detailed and precise that it only makes you more involved in the insane world it presents. Small things like the echoing background noises sound more like a disgusting sewer than anything else, with rats scuttling across the floor and vault doors slamming  shut so politicians and zombies can’t get in.

This is obviously a labor of love, as it was made by only a few dedicated people who so obviously love the impact Night Vale had on podcasting and audio storytelling. Anyone who is a fan of creative, creepy stories and excellent social commentary should take a ponder at the British craziness that is Gallowtree.

4/5 Stars

RED SUN: Hajima

At first glance, this sounds like a cool idea and upon closer inspection it had the potential to be a kick ass modern-day take on Samurai. Most of the problems lie within the short length of each episode and the odd, almost forced characterization of the main character.

Miles Moto is supposed to be an Asian American Bruce Wayne. He certainly has the skills, but they border on the unbelievable. For example, there’s no real sense of how hard he trained. This is an origin story and its hard to suspend disbelief on a guy who suffers from a haunted past in the military. The way the fight scenes were handled certainly didn’t help, but again the setup wasn’t there to make you believe he could do all those things and do them so well. On top of that, his desire to become part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a bit forced on the page, but comes across as not all that important until the end. The opening narration for each episode, explaining who Miles Moto is and what his passions are, go a bit too in-depth with his character. It adds some depth, sure, but what’s the point aside from making him forcibly more complex.

The length of the episodes is almost too short for what it’s trying to accomplish in this five-part origin story arc and the fact you have to purchase them individually is also a pain. The shortest episode is around ten minute long, including the credits. Considering the money you put in, the investment is barely worth it–Quality not withstanding. An extra five minutes for each episode or ten minutes across all the episodes would have given a lot more context on the characters. As it stands now, I really didn’t care about any of them.

There were a number of awesome story hooks that never got utilized to their full potential. On top of that, it just wasn’t that memorable. Nothing got you excited about going out and purchasing the next episode, let alone listening to it.

The acting is without a doubt the best part and the production value is at least on par with many audio drama podcasts, if not better.

4/5 Stars

Archer and Armstrong 1-4

Pendant Production’s audio drama adaptation of Valiant Comics’ series, Archer and Armstrong is both for the fans and a wild ride in general for everyone else. The four episode arc titled “The Michelangelo Code” is filled with humorous gags such as ninja nuns and a secret order of nazis with a ridiculous name. If you’re getting a Dixie Stenberg vibe, you’re not alone.

If you’re fan of the comic, you’ll no doubt enjoy this. If you have no idea who Archer and Armstrong are, you’re at a slight disadvantage. It’s like watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and not seeing the phase two films leading up to it. You’ll understand the main plot, but almost half of the characters will be unknown. Even more so if you haven’t read or know about the source material. Archer and Armstrong lies somewhere in between the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic one, but much closer to Marvel in terms of tone.

The creativity and attention to detail in the production and sound scape alone were incredible. The moments where Archer is explaining the fighting style he’s about to use on someone were pure gold and felt right out of a comic book. Its execution played out like the first fight scene in the 2008 Sherlock Holmes film, starring Robert Downey Jr., making the listener go wow that was fun and cool. Something which is lacking in entertainment these days.

4.5/5 Stars

Archer and Armstrong is available for purchase on Amazon/Audible and iTunes.

Coquettes & Cougars|Brimble Banks Brothers Episode 10

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

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 through them. 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 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