Some things just go together in unexpected ways: peanut butter and pickles, deep fried batter and twinkies are some of the few examples of odd but wonderful combinations. The unexpected but fascinating fusion is Marvel and Stitcher’s newest podcast “Wolverine: The Long Night”.
The podcast is something along the lines of “Fargo”, Wolverine and a true crime podcast like “S-Town” all mixed into one series. “The Long Night” is an original story set within its own continuity, in which the FBI are called out to investigate a string of unusual murders in a sleepy Alaskan town. However, there is more lurking beneath the surface of the town, with a mysterious loner, Logan (Richard Armitage), a crazy cult and a web of lies and conspiracy.
Written by novelist and comic book scribe Benjamin Percy (“Green Arrow”), “The Long Night” unfolds as two FBI investigators dig deeper in the odd circumstances and murders of the various women and low-lifes in the town. Percy’s scripts draw on the atmosphere of this Alaskan town, using the underlying themes of isolation and man vs nature that are solidified in the Wolverine mythos to build an emotional and narrative weight in the silence between sounds.
The podcast also creates a propelling sense of suspense through a conscious choice not to show, or play Logan’s voice until the end of the second episode. The first time a lister gets to experience Logan in the podcast is when a letter he wrote to a previous lover is discovered. Another technique the podcast thrives in using occurs in this scene, where a line of dialogue or sound is used to transition from time period or speaker to another.
The choice to not tell the story from Logan’s total perspective is a genius one that allows for an outside view of the hero’s character. The broad stroke characteristics of Wolverine are ingrained in the larger cultural zeitgeist now, thanks to the “X-Men” movies, especially the stand out “Logan”. Percy is less concerned with retreading these established thoughts, and instead looks to mystify and complicate Logan once again.
Sound design is the linchpin of the entire podcast, allowing for the rich characterizations of character like Logan, and to establish a distinct tone and atmosphere in which the story is set and exists in. At a panel introducing the podcast, the producers of the series described the ways in which sound was recorded for the series. Using a set up where sound is captured at 360 degrees, the audio team is able to create a sense of space in the audio files.
Every sound effect has a purpose in this series, from establish setting to providing hints at what is occurring in the world. This sound design is long past the radio drama or audiobooks of old. Instead, listening to this podcast is like being immersed in the story unfolding, whether it be actually happening in your ears, or something being relayed to the audience.
“Wolverine: The Long Night” is an unexpected but well thought out experiment for Marvel Entertainment. Not only is it well written, crafted and recorded, but it also is able to float between genre and conventions in order to drive the principal story of a man trying to find peace, and only being dragged into more pain and killing.