Marvel Entertainment took a dip into a new medium earlier this year: fictional podcasts. Their first release in this format is Wolverine: The Long Night, distributed via Stitcher Premium. If you’re wondering how one goes about translating Wolverine into an audio format, the answer is by focusing on the myth rather than the man.
The Long Night follows Wolverine to the remote town of Burns, Alaska. When a series of grisly murders strikes the area, two agents are dispatched to investigate. They quickly learn of Logan’s activities in and begin investigating further, uncovering all manner of strange secrets including cults, prophecies, and legends of otherworldly creatures.
The two agents, Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall, serve as the series’ point of view characters, which is the most surprising and interesting narrative choice that the writers of Wolverine: The Long Night make. Fans going in expecting to get inside of Wolverine’s head as he goes about being “the best he is at what he does” may want to check their expectations. That's not to say that they'll be disappointed with what they find, just that it may not be what they assumed the series would be. Wolverine is at the eye of this hurricane, but the series begins at the outer edges of the storm before making its way slowly inward.
Treating Wolverine like a force of nature and not an outright protagonist works because this also isn’t the Marvel Universe of the comics. If the X-Men, or any superhero team, exists in this version of the Marvel Universe, they aren’t mentioned at all in The Long Night. It’s also unclear how much the general public knows about mutants, and if Xavier is running a school for gifted youngsters then it’s unclear if Logan has ever heard of it.
This all helps to create the deep sense of mystery that surrounds The Long Night. Since the X-Men and Wolverine and mutants aren’t commonly known, Logan’s death-defying exploits become woven into the folklore and legends that have been passed around the Burns, Alaska community. The town practically has its own mythology in place even before Logan shows up, so when Logan does make himself known, he is made into an extension of that mythology.
The listener primarily learns of Logan's exploits by listening as locals relate their tales to Pierce and Marshall, but every storyteller has their own secrets to keep, including the agents themselves, and so every narrator is unreliable, meaning attentive listeners will be rewarded for noting the cracks in each character’s story.
Leaning into an oral storytelling tradition plays into the strengths of the audio format. It would fail on its face if not for the strength of the cast, especially Celia Keenan-Bolger and Ato Essandoh as agents Pierce and Marshall respectively. Richard Armitage also has a heavy presence as Wolverine. It’s effective and intimidating, all the more so since this Wolverine lives even more within the moral grey than his comic book counterpart, and the voice is wisely used sparingly so as not to dilute its potency.
It's all woven together by excellent sound design. Burns is a small town, but its a town, and its surrounded by the kinds of woodland someone could easily get lost in. This leaves the sound designers with the perfect tableau with which to create soundscapes of ambient noise that are somehow even more unnerving than complete silence. When the action picks up, the sound also manages to communicate the chaos that results in a way that seems more real than most superhero movies since there’s no need for elaborate or flashy choreography, just the brutal cacophony of ugly, raw combat.0comments
Wolverine: The Long Night may not be what fans were expecting, but it is an engrossing noir tale that sets itself apart from much of what’s being done with superheroes in other mediums. There’s a surprise at the end that is lightly foreshadowed beforehand and could open up an entire universe of possibility. Anyone looking to give audio drama a try and who likes a dark, even-paced tale will find Wolverine: The Long Night is well worth investigating.
Wolverine: The Long Night is available now on Stitcher Premium and will be released for free this fall.