The follow-up to the surprising Wolverine: The Long Night unfortunately gives listeners exactly what they'd expect from a Wolverine podcast.
I previously wrote about how delighted I was by the first season of Stitcher’s Wolverine podcast, Wolverine: The Long Night.
What I enjoyed so much about that first season was how the podcast subverted the expectations one would have of a "Wolverine podcast"; much of the story was told from the perspective of two investigators/ agents trying to solve a series of murders and Wolverine only makes rare cameos for much of the first half of the season.
Heading into the second season, I knew that the podcast would have to change its approach in that it simply wasn’t possible to tell the story through that same mystery/ detective format without having it seem contrived. It appears, Benjamin Percy, the writer of the podcast, agreed. In the second season (titled Wolverine: The Lost Trail) we're given a more straightforward narrative structure which features the podcast's titular hero far more prominently. While one might think that more Wolverine is a good thing for a Wolverine podcast, as it turns out, that isn't necessarily the case.
The plot premise of this second season is that Logan has returned to New Orleans from Alaska in search of his (former) lover Maureen who’s gone missing. Along the way, he picks up a sidekick in a boy named Marcus, the son of a mutant, and we come across several characters comic fans would know well in Remy Lebeau (Gambit) and Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind).
The acting and audio effects are again masterful and the script is consistently clever in how it conveys what’s happening despite the fact that we can’t "see" anything.
Where this second season disappointed however was with the story. Whereas season one felt fresh and different than other comic-book-inspired stories, season two felt like a relatively run-of-the-mill tale that could have just as easily been pulled directly from the pages of Wolverine's 40+ year history. There was nothing wrong with it per se, but it also didn't feel like a must listen.
It's worth saying that the challenges of successfully writing a story with this beloved character (and for the audio format) are manifold. Probably the biggest of these is that the writer is tasked with endowing the story with stakes and narrative drive, all while the listener knows that the title character cannot have anything truly life-altering happen to him. In many ways, this is the same challenge that many noir detective novels have: Phillip Marlowe/ Lew Archer aren't going to die, be maimed, or retire, but we have to care anyway. Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and the rest of the detective novel tradition do this by making the characters, plot and atmosphere surrounding the central detective compelling. The Long Night skirted this challenge by making Logan/ Wolverine a supporting character in his own podcast. Wolverine: The Lost Trail, unfortunately just fails to fully surmount this challenge. I simply never was that interested in any of the characters surrounding Logan/ Wolverine.
Would I still listen to a potential season 3? Absolutely. But I hope Percy (assuming he's the writer, and I'd hope he would be) would try to take a fresh approach rather than the more predictable one we saw with The Lost Trail.