The exciting second installment of the live-action comic book The Intergalactic Nemesis launched into being Friday evening at the Long Center to a packed house of old and new fans alike. Proud creator/co-writer/director Jason Neulander was rightfully beaming from ear to ear with infectious joy the entire evening, from the evening's welcomes to the last late-night autographs.
Riding the high of their whirlwind U.S. tour, their appearances on Conan and NPR's All Things Considered, and a write-up in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, the team behind the Austin-born Nemesis has established an impressive national buzz that insured a full house on their home turf at the Long Center. The proud swell of local support for creator Neulander and his intrepid team was palpable in the theater and remained bouyant throughout the two-hour performance of Book 2: Robot Planet Rising.
Picking up right where Book 1: Target Earth left off, fans were treated to the further adventures of investigative reporter Molly Sloan and her mentally gifted sidekick, Timmy Mendez, fending for themselves on the robot planet, Robonovia. Sensing a mystery afoot that could once again leave the whole world in danger, the two heroes join forces with their new human allies to stop the robot uprising once and for all. Old enemies and even older flames return to complicate matters, and the ending will leave you high-fiving your neighbor with anticipation for the next installment.
Before the show began, Neulander shared a glimpse of the show's humble 1996 coffee shop beginnings, and showed genuine amazement at how far the collaborative experiment had grown in the last few years. With two graphic novels, two full soundtracks, one national tour and another on the way, it is evident that Nemesis shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
And thank goodness for that. Combining the behind-the-scenes production of a serialized radio drama with the exciting storytelling aspects of science fiction comic books, Nemesis has revived these two anachronistic art forms and made something even more compelling and watchable. Watching a Nemesis show is both warmly nostalgic and acutely post-modern; aware of its genres and able to maximize on the humor, action and melodrama of them both.
As brilliant as the concept is, it takes an unbelievably talented cast to get nerds to a theater and to keep non-comics readers riveted to the story of a robot planet uprising. Luckily, Neulander has assembled a crack team of collaborators to help execute his vision, most of whom have been a part of his process from the very beginning stages.
Voice actors Danu Uribe, Jason Phelps and Shannon McCormick play all of the characters of Book Two, employing their effortless vocal control to bring all of the story's characters to life. Even the most minor robot minion gets a distinct, often comical edge to their inflections, showing the depth of thought in the show's development. Some of the most impressive parts of Nemesis is watching the three actors carry on extensive conversations with themselves, ping-ponging back and forth between two characters at rapid-fire speed.
Despite the two-story projections of the beautiful graphics on-screen, it's easy to get caught up in the constant activity of the on-stage sound effects creation by foley artist Buzz Moran and the furiously fast fingers of genius composer Graham Reynolds. With his circular set-up of gadgets and strange contraptions, Moran is in his old-timey radio show element, walking shoes on metal plates, dropping sacks of softballs on suitcases, and opening and closing creaky doors.
His attention to aural details is as much an art form as the beautiful genre-specific accuracy of Reynolds's precise one-man score. In his able hands, the story's points of action and romance are heightened to delirious levels of fun for the audience. It is evident these two "sound guys" have ample experience in the movie industry, and they treat the stage show with the same level of respect.
Meanwhie, David Hutchison's stunning graphics capture the stylized artwork of early adventure comic books, providing the necessary science fiction visual elements of aliens, robots, mind powers and deep space. Capitalizing on the media, Hutchison is able to go where special effects in movies cannot, and dares us to imagine ourselves in these impossible heroic scenarios. With bold coloring by Lee Duhig, every scene comes to vivid life in a way you wish comic books did when you were growing up.
The world premiere at the Long Center is the first stop for Book Two before the Nemesis team heads out on their next multi-city national tour, where they will be alternating between Book One and Book Two. Somewhere during their down time, Neulander says he is already working with his creative team on Book Three. Look for that around 2014, he promises.
It's still not too late to join the fanclub of the Intergalactic Nemesis. While the premiere was only a one-night engagement, plenty of those who attended were new converts to the Intergalactic family. You can still buy the graphic novels and the accompanying soundtracks with the original voice actors, sound effects and score at the show's website.