The Death of Captain America (Patreon Exclusive Review Preview)

 

The aftermath story 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.

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The Grayscale: Cracks in the Pavement

The Grayscale is produced by Critical Point Theatre and has all the makings of a great Twilight Zone homage, from the opening of the opening and closing to the meat of the story. If there was one problem this first story has its with the story’s conclusion.

Let me explain. See, the opening few minutes sets up the series, and then slowly focuses in on a single character. This character is the one we follow for most of the story. It’s straight-up horror of the Lovecraftian variety, but the writing is nowhere near the pinnacle of that sub genre. It’s not bad, but at times it can be bland. Other times, in particular, the metaphors the writer used to describe the monster were simple, but do its job quite well.

Everything was good until the sappy, it was all just a dream ending. The falling action and denouement was rushed, making the climax feel just like every other Lovecraftian horror story. I can understand not straying too far away from the genre, but there’s an homage and then there’s downright rehashing of tropes.

By far the best part of this episode was the opening and the slow zoom in on a single character. The “voice in your head’s” The middle and meat of the episode was okay and the ending felt like every other Lovecraftian story out there. Still, this is definitely on my list of things to listen to when I have downtime.

4/5 Stars

HUNT the TRUTH: Season Two

After the first season, hope of a good audio drama of the Halo franchise seemed like a dream, especially since this was simply a continuation of the same show. I will admit that the second season starts off much stronger and answers many of the questions I had back in the finale of season one. After the first few episodes, however, things follow the same downward spiral as they did the first time around.

The pacing is all over the place and the setting and characters change every episode, making it hard to root for anyone, even the protagonist. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her, but all I felt was boredom whenever she told the listener why they should give a damn about her moral dilemma. To some extent I could sympathize, but not to the extent the writers probably wanted to achieve.

Another thing which boggled my mind was the tie-in with Halo video games. Having the Master Chief disappear in the middle of the story had no impact on it whatsoever. In fact, why was it even included? The only reason I can think of is they wanted to connect it to Halo 5: Guardians on a story-driven level, but what they got was more of the same from season one–a marketing ploy, rather than a story.

Overall, Hunt the Truth season two is more of the same. If you liked the first season, you’ll like this even more as it adds something slightly different, just not different enough from its predecessor to warrant a grand slam rating.

4/5 Stars

King Falls AM (Episodes 1-5)

King Falls AM is a podcast audio drama masquerading as a radio station for a made up town where nothing is as it seems. What makes this show interesting isn’t so much the story, but its format. The first couple episodes don’t seem to link together in any meaningful way, but when episode three roles around things started getting twice as good. The witty banter between the two co-hosts and their guests is one of many examples of what makes King Falls AM a great listen.

The show is very much the audio drama equivalent of cinematic formalism where form is king and content is second. That’s not to say the story isn’t good, but it plays more of a secondary role to the production as a whole.

You don’t really get a sense of the setting and scope of the project until episode five, when a plot thread is tied up from two episodes prior. Rather than answering the question with another question, the creators use horror in a comedic way to essentially tell the audience: “yeah, we know it doesn’t make sense, but it sure as hell’s entertaining.” Some people might have issues with that, others not so much.

Needless to say I’ll be continue to listen to this series with increasing interest as each episode slowly peels back the layers of complexity that creators have set up. Whether or not there’s an endgame remains to be seen, but I’d be lying if I said this isn’t an entertaining ride.

5/5 Stars

The Fall Season One

An audio drama about the fall of Lucifer hits all the beats you’d expect from a “fall from grace” storyline, but at the same time forgets the promises inherit in the genre. For example, the catalyst for Lucifer beginning to question God is quick and abrupt, much like Anakin’s in the Star Wars Prequels. Now I hate to compare this with prequels, but both stories have similar problems. There’s no love interest in “The Fall,” but it does have a relatively strong relationship component between Lucifer and Michael. Though, at times, it can feel a little over the top. Melodramatic, if you will. “Corny” is perhaps a better word.

Created by radio personality/DJ, Dayn Leanordson with voice work from audioblivious productions (the people who brought you “Natural Selection.”) Fun fact: I learned about “The Fall” after listening to Dayn’s episode on The Roundtable Podcast and hearing about his take on the original “fall from grace” story arc. I had no idea he and audioblivious worked together on this until around episode three. Small world.

The fall from grace storyline is nothing new to fiction and just about everything plausible has been done to account for the switch from good guy to bad guy. Basically any of the seven deadly sins seem to be the go to source for character motivation. In this case it’s lust and greed for power. The inciting incident for Lucifer’s arc is instigated by another angel who, when we first meet him, is nudging Lucifer on the course we all associate with him. Much like Palpatine and Anakin from Star Wars. After that, he basically becomes a patsy for Lucifer with no real known motivational switch for his character from one who manipulates to one who follows.

Aside from the melodrama and quasi-believable story trajectory, “The Fall” is essentially a “the true story of [insert historical figure or mythological character here]”
type plot, where the writer takes great liberties knowing how limited the source material is. Given those limitations, the writer did a decent job of conveying those ideas into my head. The biggest problem on a conceptual level was that it could’ve been so much more creative. Everything about this has been done before, and it’s the lack of following through on what was set up that makes this relatively short season depicting the fall of Lucifer an average listen.

3.5/5 Stars

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The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower

My first BrokenSea audio production was both a frightening and exhilarating experience. “The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower” is a horror tale about a bar owner named Matthew, who falls in love with a monster in human guise. All the while his friends worry about him as he slowly starts acting more and more strange.

Already the more astute horror fans among you will probably think the monster to be a succubus (or in this case a succufish). There was no sense of suspense one might expect from horror stories nowadays–ones filled with jump scares. The closest this tale gets to that cliche of the movie medium is when the volume goes up and your heart is pounding afterwards. It’s quite effective and not something I’ve heard done in audio horror story. If you are easily startled, this story might get your blood pressure up, but for horror fans that’s probably a good thing.

One of the better aspects is the mystery behind the creature. The humming of the “Jaws” theme near the beginning is a perfect addition to the story as it adds a bit of foreshadowing. After all, a monster is scarier when the individual can’t see it coming, and audio drama is the perfect medium for giving the audience that sense of dread.

Overall “The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower” is a tale not for the feint of heart.

4.5/5 stars

Natural Selection

An audio drama from newly formed company Audioblivious Productions, this short piece borrows gracefully from the zombie and survival horror genre. The opening few scenes are there to make you sympathetic towards this father-son pair, and lead the listener into a false send of security. The scenes with the father and son feel a bit forced, but when shit hits the fan, watch out, because the tension only ratchets up from there.

After a scene where a pregnant pig is killed by other swine, all hell breaks loose, and the heroes must survive a night of living hell in the vein of a survival horror story. The creepy music and ambience only adds to the feeling of hopelessness the character’s face.

One downside of this piece is the acting. That’s not to say it’s not good, but given the context, the actors give performances are a bit over the top. This is probably due the usual audio drama over the internet most companies have in place. Most people probably won’t notice or care, but as a critic you tend to notice subtle things like that. The army officer who shows up near the end is a good example of the acting.

The story itself ends on a relatively sour note, almost as if the writer felt he needed to not only get the characters out of danger, but also justify the reasoning behind why the animals acted the way they did. The answer to both is a bit of a letdown as the story would’ve been fine without the reasoning aspect, because it doesn’t make sense.

All in all, the tone of the piece and constant state of anxiety for the listener as they wonder who’s going to survive make this audio drama short an excellent first episode for a new audio drama company.

4.5/5 Stars

Eclipse: An Original Audio Drama

What happens when the sun is nowhere to be seen and the entire planet is shrouded in darkness?

With this premise, it may sound like your typical “save the sun from exploding” mission, but that’s not the problem the character’s face. In fact the sun is fine. It’s merely being blocked out by a large banner.

The most noticable thing of this thirty-four minute audio drama is its humor and drama are so conflicted with each other, you don’t know when character’s are being serious or if they’re joking. Add in the problems that means for the overall tone and you have a coherent plot, but one that’s also a mess.

The plot was easy to follow and as long as you don’t ask how a banner could be large enough to block out the sun for the entire planet, you shouldn’t have any problems with it. Even if that particular pill is extremely hard to swallow.

It’s hard to tell whether the actors or the writer are to blame for a cast of dozens, where none of them feel like real people. The dialogue isn’t cringe-worthy, but could be better, and the acting certainly doesn’t help with believability that these character’s have lives.

The solution to the problem comes soon after they figure out the problem is, which brings in a problem of pacing. Right from the beginning, there’s no investment in anything. Character or plot. It’s like they didn’t care one way or the other what happened.

Despite all the complaints, it’s not so bad you shouldn’t not give it a listen.

3.5/5 stars

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London: The Gloria Scott

A Sherlock Holmes tale from The Sherlock Holmes Society in London. Released in 2009, this audio drama is reminiscent of a Grimms Fairy Tale. What makes this story interesting is that it plays in Sherlock Holmes’ childhood–where, even back then, his keen powers of observation were well above average.

To clarify the Grimm brother’s reference above, it’s not that this is a fairy tale. Rather there’s a certain story in that collection of stories which shares a lot of dark elements with this Sherlock Holmes tale. I’m referring to Rumpelstiltskin.

What does Rumpelstiltskin have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Not much, but there’s a certain character in this story who is essentially the devil. The father of one of Sherlock Holmes friends has, unwillingly, struck a deal with a mysterious man, and the scenes that man appears in are quite creepy and dark.

The mystery itself isn’t as memorable as the tone of the piece, but the perforamances are top notch and despite it being discontinued, this podcast–and in particular this episode is worth checking out. It’s one of the best ones out of this company

4/5 Stars

Edict Zero FIS: Season One

Part sci-fi, part cop drama–Edict Zero FIS excels in both engaging storytelling and tremendous acting. The one downside is that the medium level details are lost in translation. There were many times where you don’t know what’s going on, but on a micro and macro level, you understand everything you need to know. Perhaps a better word would be the specifics of the information.

The plot revolves around a team of federal operatives who are tasked with solving the mystery of who the illustrious Mr. Cook is and the reason behind him blowing up a building on New Years Eve. From there things get complicated.

The sci-fi may be prevalent in the technology and SFX of the show, but at its heart this is a cop drama. Albeit with less of an episodic-feel, where one episode equals one crime. There’s an overarching plot, which seems simple, but the more that’s uncovered, the more intriguing it gets.

The characters are great. Each one had a distinct voice, both on paper and the microphone. By far the most interesting reoccurring one is Agent Garrett, who has all the trappings of a sociopathic character, but is a federal agent. My favorite character in the first season, who disappears after his usefulness to the agents is fulfilled, is Socrates. Creator of the show, Jack Kincaid gives a performance that is mind blowing. The best I’ve heard in a long time when it comes to audio drama podcasts.

Around episode five of the nine episode first season is where the season reaches it’s peak. There’s so much going on, it demands a second listen as you’re bound to miss something minor. However, you can follow the story just fine without going through it again. Needless to say, this on my re-listen list and that’s an honor not many audio dramas have received.

4.5/5 stars