Review: Wolverine, The Long Night Podcast
One of the criticisms I've had of the modern superhero industry (by which I'm referring to the commerce engine that starts with comics, gives us an endless stream of mostly mediocre blockbusters, and has subsequently infiltrated every part of popular culture) has been that it is incredibly backwards looking and has lacked fresh ideas over much of the last thirty or so years. Just look at the origins for the two biggest comic movies releasing this spring. Avengers Endgame is loosely based on the Infinity Gauntlet storyline from 1991; X-Men: Dark Phoenix is based on the story arc contained in Uncanny X-Men #129-138 all the way back in 1980. In fact, nearly all of the characters featured in either of those movies first graced the pages of Marvel comics before 1980 (the few exceptions are some of the tertiary characters from Black Panther and the Winter Soldier, who first appeared in 2005). There's no question; the superhero industry is far more nostalgic than innovative.
All that being the case, when I started listening to Stitcher's Wolverine: The Long Night podcast, which debuted last year, my expectations were relatively low. At best, I was hoping for some run-of-the-mill comic book entertainment featuring everyone's favorite, vastly-overused, adamantium-laced mutant. What I got instead was something that felt altogether fresh: a mystery-whodunit radio play that mashes up the best of The X-Files with just barely enough Marvel to keep comics fans from revolting.
To start, this is a Wolverine podcast in name only. Yes, Wolverine is a crucial part of the plot. But for much of the ten episode run, he's more phantom than on-stage character. He's talked about and people bear witness to the carnage he (ostensibly) leaves behind, but he mostly just makes cameos. This restraint on the part of the writing gives the whole experience a sense of anticipation as you eagerly await every appearance Wolverine makes.
Speaking of the writing... I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the podcast was penned by literary-fiction-writer-cum-genre-fiction-writer-cum-comics-writer, Benjamin Percy (who just happened to also have written one of my favorite short story collections, the excellent Refresh, Refresh). Percy by and large does a superb job here as well and really uses the most of the audio medium in order to build tension and move the plot along/ communicate information without simply having characters tell us everything directly.
Finally, I'd just mention that the acting is quite good as well and, though he might have fewer lines than the title of the podcast would suggest, Richard Armitage (who you might have last seen as Thorin Oakenshield) gives us a spot on performance of Logan/ Wolverine.
Bottom line: if you're a fan of comics--or just of strong audio storytelling--Wolverine: The Long Night is definitely worth a listen. I personally can't wait for the soon to be released second season.