All three RED PANDA novels are available as audiobooks on Audible.com

November 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

I do not hide my love for the Red Panda.

But, SPOILER ALERT, I’m actually in love with the Flying Squirrel.

Both of my loves show up in the three Red Panda novels that are now available on Audible.com.

Written by a certified genius, Gregg Taylor, and read by a certifiable genius, Gregg Taylor, these are the long-form superhero adventures that we’ve been waiting for. They are:

Tales Of The Red Panda - The Android Assassins by Gregg Taylor

Tales Of The Red Panda - The Mind Master by Gregg Taylor


Tales Of The Red Panda - The Crime Cabal by Gregg Taylor

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Superman Lives! AUDIO DRAMA

August 3, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Superman Lives! from TimeWarner AudioBooks

Superman Lives!
Written and directed by Dirk Maggs
Cast: William Hootkins, Lorelei King, Vincent Marzello, Garrick Hagon, Kerry Shale, Eric Myers, Denica Fairman, Liz Ross, Stuart Milligan, Bert Kwouk, Leon Herbert
Publisher: Time Warner AudioBooks
Released: 1994 BBC Enterprises Ltd/2005 Time Warner AudioBooks
ISBN: 1594830738

Synopsis: Daily Planet loves birds Clark Kent and Lois Lane finally get engaged. Lex Luthor dies in a plane crash, and Metropolis is thriving with prosperity and happiness under the infinite protection of Superman.

Or so it seems…

Follow the story of Lex Luthor’s true fate, and the fate of the new woman in his life…Supergirl. Listen to the heart-pounding fight to the death between Superman and a monster called Doomsday. Discover the truth about four new mysterious Superman.

And take a journey into the heart, minds, and unpredictable future of the Man of SteelTM everybody can count on…

…until one day, when he’s gone.

As with Star Wars, this is another of my “gold standard” shows against which other audio dramas are weighed. I mentioned it before in the standards post.

Helmed by the incomparable Dirk Maggs, Superman Lives! (known across The Pond as Superman: Doomsday and Beyond) features a stellar cast who give stunning life to some of the classic characters in the DC pantheon.Link

This is what Kingdom Come should’ve aspired to be.

From the opening funeral procession to the stirring fight to save Coast City at the end, we are treating to a veritible feast for the ears. Within just a few seconds of beginning, you know instantly that you’re in the hands of a master audio drama craftsman. When I first heard this back in the mid-90s, I was hooked right from the start.

I guarantee you will be, too.

The cast is simply fabulous and the acting is top-notch. As Clark Kent and Superman, Stuart Milligan initially evokes Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the character (slightly bumbling Everyman Kent vs. commanding and authoritative Supes) through vocal quality then immediately makes it his own. Lorelei King gives Lois Lane a kind of quiet strength–part Margot Kidder from the original film, part Katherine Hepburn from The African Queen. William Hootkins as Lex Luthor is simply delicious in the role. I got an Alan Rickman-Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves vibe from his performance.

Superman’s titanic fight with Doomsday is the highlight of this production. In my view, at least. Music, sound design, and acting all come together in a breathtaking sequence that still, even after multiple listenings, make me wince, cringe, shudder, and leave me with a lump in my throat. I have to applaud Stuart and Lorelei for their performances in this section.

Bravo.

Overall, fantastic. Simply fantastic.

If you don’t own this yet, I highly suggest you get it now from Amazon or Audible.

Posted by Abner Senires

Review of Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin

July 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Wild Cards edited by George R. R. MartinWild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Edited by George R. R. Martin; Read by Luke Daniels
19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 9781455833009
Themes: / alternate history / superpowers / alien virus / superhero / urban fantasy / science fiction / horror /

Publisher Summary:

In the aftermath of WWII, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Originally published in 1987, the newly expanded saga contains additional original stories by eminent writers.

The stories contained in the audiobook are:
“Prologue” by George R. R. Martin
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop
“The Sleeper” by Roger Zelazny
“Witness” by Walter Jon Williams
“Degradation Rites” by Melinda Snodgrass
“Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace” by Michael Cassutt
“Powers” by David D. Levine
“Shell Games” by George R. R. Martin
“The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner
“Transfigurations” by Victor Milán
“Down Deep” by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper
“Strings” by Stephen Leigh
“Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn
“Comes a Hunter” by John J. Miller

There are also a variety of “Interludes” in between the stories, which are short bits mostly written in the form of newspaper or magazine articles or first-hand witness accounts. These interludes are often used to bridge the narrative with real events from US history, to provide the reader with insight as to the feelings in this “alternate history” type world.

Generally, this is a story of the effects of an alien virus on humanity between the time shortly following World War II through the late 70’s/early 80’s. The virus was brought to earth by aliens from a planet called Takis. It was developed as a device to give Takisians superpowers to be used as a part of large-scale family wars on Takis. The aliens wanted to test it, so sought to release it on Earth, as humans are genetically very similar to Takisians. “Prologue” introduces us to an alien who is called (by the humans, as his name is not well-suited to human speech) Dr. Tachyon and the “Wild Cards” virus. Dr. Tachyon is also a Takisian, but tried to prevent the release of the virus on Earth. “Prologue” sets the scene and tone for the world of the book. It also provides an insight into Dr. Tachyon’s values: he doesn’t ask first for the President of the US, he instead asks for the top scientists and thinkers. This is an obvious nod by George R. R. Martin to those who have true powers in the US.

“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” tells the story of Jet Boy, an American superhero, and the release of the Wild Cards virus over Manhattan in September, 1946. Jet Boy is a true hero, an all-American kid who came back from fighting in World War II with a superhero story of his ace flying abilities. He is the only superhero in the book who wasn’t a superhero because of the virus, but because of his innate abilities and selflessness. In a theme that becomes common through the book, the reader is reminded that a hero is a hero because of what they do, not because of their skills. Jet Boy tries—and fails—to stop the virus from being released.

The virus is brutal. It only impacts humans, with no effects on other species. It kills most of its victims, but those who survive (only about a tenth of those exposed to the virus) are not left unscathed. Through the rest of the book, the reader is introduced to various people impacted by the virus. The first stories tell mainly of “Aces,” those who get super powers from the virus (usually in the form of telekinesis and/or greatly enhanced physical abilities. Later, the reader is introduced to the concept of “Jokers,” who become horribly deformed due to the virus. The first interlude presents the concept of “Deuces,” those who get an “ace-like” ability that is not particularly useful, like “Mr. Rainbow,” whose ability is to change the color of his skin.

The narrative takes the reader through time: each story is a snapshot of a period in US history and provides a sort of “alternate history” of how that time may have been different if there had been these Aces and Jokers were around. Some of the early stories, taking place during the era of HUAC and McCarthyism, show how the aces became subjects of witch hunts and were forced into service in the US military or intelligence agencies. Jokers are looked upon as second-class beings, a theme that plays a large role during the stories set in the 60’s and 70’s, mirroring the US Civil Rights Movement. Some of the stories are sad, such as “The Sleeper” and “Witness.” Some are a bit more uplifting and triumphant, such as “Shell Games.” A lot of the stories, especially the later ones, become a bit creepy, with people using their powers for selfish reasons, as in “Strings.”

All in all, Wild Cards serves as an interesting statement on humanity through the guise of a “what if” scenario. All of the stories are eminently believable—at no time did anything that happened seem overwhelmingly unlikely. To some extent, that’s a bit of a sad statement on humanity—as the book goes on, aces and jokers alike seem to be only interested in helping themselves, looking out for their own (often misguided) interests.

The narration, done by Luke Daniels, was pretty good in the audiobook. He had a good speed and good intonation for most of the characters, and it was easy to tell each character apart. As often happens with male narrators trying to do female voices, some of the females sounded whiny, but it wasn’t so over the top so as to be unlistenable. After listening to this narration, I’ll be keeping Luke Daniels on my radar when looking at audiobooks.

Personally, I preferred the stories in the first half of the book to those in the second half. In the second half, the stories got quite a bit darker, more creepy and violent. After the strong lead-in with the Prologue and “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway,” I quite enjoyed the origin stories and the weaving-in of events in US history. As the book progressed, the stories didn’t seem quite as engaging—for one, I actually repeatedly fell asleep while listening, and ended up having rewind and re-listen to some of the others. There was also one story that was too graphic both in terms of sex and violence for me, “The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner. By the end, I wasn’t interested in more stories of people serving their own interests. There are other books in the series, which I have heard are more like the stories at the end of the book—I’m not sure that they’ll be for me. But I enjoyed this anthology well enough and would recommend it to others interested in a cross of science fiction, general fiction, and horror genres.

Review by terpkristin

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7

July 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season SevenThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /

The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.

The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.

What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!

Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.

In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.

How wonderful to find that!

And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).

As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.

The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.

One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.

That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.

Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.

Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.

This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Posted by Jesse Willis

KCRW: The Treatment: Interview with Mark Waid about Irredeemable

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The TreatmentKCRW’s The Treatment interviewed comics author Mark Waid about Irredeemable back in August. Elvis Mitchell, the host, does a solid interview. With him Mark Waid makes a compelling case for comics and Irredeemable in particular.

|MP3|

I sought out the interview after reading the first trade paperback (Irredeemable Vol. 1). I’d heard some good things about Mark Waid’s Irredeemable and I picked up the first trade paperback (Irredeemable Vol. 1) despite my not caring much for superhero comics. Other than the stunning work in Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman the closest I normally get to supe comics is seeing them get their asses kicked in Garth Ennis’ The Boys.

Irredeemable is a kind of anti-superhero book – the premise being a Superman-like superhero, named The Plutonian, goes crazy and begins murdering his former allies, destroying whole cities and drowning millions of people. The Plutonian is on an unstoppable rampage. The supervillains, his former enemies, want to court him, those who knew him before he turned want to stop him, but both are potential targets of The Plutonian’s unstoppable and god-like superpowers.

I must admit Boom! Studios first collection, issues 1-4, delivers a pretty great story. And though we only get some hints about the solution to the mystery of why such a humanitarian hero would stop, reverse course, and then kill instead of save – is not answered. I’ll probably have to pick up the next volume – though from the sounds of it it’d be good one to pick up at a library as there’s a price jump from Volume 1 to Volume 2 of $7.

Irredeemable - Volume 1

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 6

July 1, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Happy Canada Day everybody!

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FiveThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 6
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2010 – May 2011
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Vancouver / Amnesia / Telepathy / Airships / Time Travel / Magic / Aliens /

“Let the festival of unsolicited advice begin” -Kit Baxter (All The King’s Men)

Season six of The Red Panda Adventures begins with World War II fully underway. The first six episodes are set prior to December 7th, 1941 and the twelfth episode ends in the high summer of 1942. There’s not a bad episode in the bunch. In fact, this season features some of the finest episodes of the entire series. My personal favourites are: the buoyant adventure of “Girls’ Night Out“, the standalone goodness of “The Wild West“, and the deeply disturbing arc episode “There Will Be Rain Tonight.” September and season seven can’t come soon enough!

Episode 1 – “The Nose For News
A new adversary appears, a shadowy leader of a fifth column inside of Canada! He’s sowing the seeds of discontent and planning acts of sabotage. Can anyone stop Archangel?

Episode 2 – “The Home Team
Having joined the army, Lt. August Fenwick (aka The Red Panda) receives a visit from his new boss Colonel Archibald Fitzroy. But can a superhero really do more good following orders and digging trenches than by defending a city from supervillians?

Episode 3 – “The King Of Crime
There’s a new ruler of the underworld, a royal sort, who demands absolute fealty from his criminally inclined vassals. But is this supercrook merely what he appears to be?

Episode 4 – “Rocket Science
A runaway train packed with high explosive is hurtling toward Montreal, this sounds like a job for the Red Panda. Unfortunately he’s all tied up and Doc Rocket isn’t helping.

Episode 5 – “Girls’ Night Out
Kit Baxter, aka The Flying Squirrel, on a field trip to Vancouver runs afoul of a ring of Japanese spies (who aren’t). But Vancouver’s got its own vigilante superhero, The Grey Fox, who is already on the case. And she’s no fan of aerially inclined rodents meddling on her turf.

Episode 6 – “Barbarian At The Gates
There’s a creature coming and it can’t be stopped. It’s steamrolling its way across the forests of Northern Ontario and heading straight for Toronto! No weapon can stop it, no force can slow it. This sounds like a job for … oh, just guess.

Episode 7 – “Sword Of The Sun King
A 3,000 year old khopesh is the target of an occult Nazi snatch team. But what makes a magic sword a useful tool in this era of Stukas and Panzers?

Episode 8 – “Small Wonders
Molecule Max, a variably sized superhero, joins the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel in an adventure that may cost them all more than they’ll want to give.

Episode 9 – “Stop The Presses
It’s the story of a lifetime for any reporter, “The Death Of The Red Panda” and Kit is being forced to write it! An army of Nazi thugs have seized her newspaper, taken its staff hostage, and only an old adversary a sinister simian can help!

Episode 10 – “The Wild West
Somebody has been messing with history, and its up to the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel to clean up. They’ll need to saddle up, partner up, and load their six-shooters up (in case they need to throw down).

Episode 11 – “All The King’s Men
With the Red Panda’s network of agents away in the army it’s up to young Harry Kelly to infiltrate Archangel’s conspiracy. Meanwhile, Kit’s got secret and the only person she’s more afraid to tell than her husband is her mother!

Episode 12 – “There Will Be Rain Tonight
A second front in Europe is still years away but there are those who think a sinister network of black towers is key to Hitler’s defense of the French coast. Red Panda and Doc Rocket are on a secret mission to take them out. Back in Canada the Flying Squirrel is in full retreat as the Nazis have assassinated every Home Team agent in Canada!

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

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