A review on the latest Marvel podcast through 6 episodes.
As I've previously written, I really enjoyed some of the Stitcher/ Marvel podcast collaborations (especially Wolverine: The Long Night), so when I caught wind of the launch of Marvel's Wastelanders, I was interested to give the new podcast a listen.
Marvel's Wastelanders is a rather ambitious podcast project between SiriusXM and Marvel consisting of several interconnected scripted podcasts set in the dystopian future first shown to comic book fans in the "Old Man Logan" story arc, where most of the world's heroes are dead and the US (and maybe the world?) is controlled by various villain warlords like Dr. Doom, Kingpin, and Magneto.
The first of these podcasts to be released is Old Man Star-Lord, which just happens to be written by Benjamin Percy, who also wrote Wolverine: The Long Night (and who's short decidedly literary short story collection Refresh, Refresh is a personal favorite). The basic premise of the podcast is that after decades away from earth the titular Star-Lord and his pal Rocket Raccoon (both of Guardians of the Galaxy fame) return to earth with only a limited amount of time to find a cosmic artifact before the collars placed around their necks by their sort-of client decapitate them. Having been away for so long, the duo is surprised to find how much of a dystopian place the earth has become. Along the way the characters run into a number of (for comic fans) familiar characters like the Brood, Emma Frost and Kraven the Hunter (though in the case of this last character, I'm a bit confused how he's still such a great warrior/ hunter since he must be at least in his sixties).
As was the case with previous Marvel podcasts, the sound design and editing are excellent and the voice cast features a number of recognizable names, including Danny Glover, Vanessa Williams and Chris Elliot.
Overall, the story is entertaining if not necessarily groundbreaking. In many ways I'd liken its brand of entertainment to that of the Marvel movies – a reasonably good time, even if ultimately forgettable. Some have complained that the main protagonists of Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon are unconvincingly juvenile for characters who are (at least) in their late fifties. This is probably true, but ultimately wasn't something that particularly bothered me.
As a writer myself, and admirer of Percy's work, one of the things that I continue to find most fascinating are the writerly gymnastics necessary to make a superhero podcast work. Given how much is usually visual with the superhero genre, and given that there is no narrator, a lot of clever work needs to be done in order to bring the story to life. In the case of Wolverine: The Long Night, this was done by structuring the story as a mystery and making the protagonists FBI agents rather than the titular superhero himself. The agents spent much of their time traveling around town talking to people and asking questions. Interviews and conversations work great in audio format. Fight scenes? Not so much.
The conceit in Old Man Star Lord that allows for the medium to work is an android from a far-off space empire that accompanies our heroes. The android's primary function is "recording" what happens in the world and she's (conveniently) able to play back recordings of what she witnesses, which allows the story to move forward when it might otherwise be blocked. She also has the ability to hear what's happening in distant locations which also helps listeners of the podcast know what's going on. While this plot device certainly works in this podcast, I do wonder if, should they keep going with Marvel podcasts, they'll eventually run out of tricks to allow the medium to be successful.
Bottom line: If you're already a fan of Marvel (and especially if you're a fan of the Old Man Logan universe) you'll enjoy this podcast. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the other advertised heroes (the aforementioned Logan, "Old Man Hawkeye" and "Grey Widow") eventually find their way into this podcast universe.