Being told a good tale is my favorite art form, more than movies (gasp!) and even books (double gasp!). There’s something about the human voice taking me into a story and letting my own imagination fill in the colors and lines. I recently finished Wolverine: The Long Night podcast, which is an audio story. Don’t confuse an audio book with an audio story. The first is a word-for-word telling of a printed novel, and the other is a full production, a play with sound. Wolverine: The Long Night is Marvel’s recent foray into audio storytelling and they did a stellar job.
As an electronic music major, I’m an audio geek, but before I go into that part of it, let me tell you the main two reasons I checked this out: Wolverine and Richard Armitage. Saying “I’m a fan of Wolverine” doesn’t really capture my obsession. I’ve written plenty of posts here about my fictional boyfriend, including one of my very first, Wolverine’s Claws In My Heart. So I was curious when I heard about The Long Night. I listened to the preview and thought, “Whoever they got to be Logan is spot on.” The voice was deep, rusted, weary, and so sexy. But I didn’t listen to the whole thing until a friend of mine told me Armitage was that voice. *swoon*
I’m late to the Armitage Gang, having only watched North and South this fall (though he was great in The Hobbit), and then quickly put on my earbuds, and fell into the world of The Long Night every night while cooking dinner. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but listening to this excellently produced podcast meant I wasn’t really seeing the vegetables while I chopped; instead I was up in cold Alaska, following the trail of a ruthless murderer, a monster, and wondering where Wolverine fit into it all. Was he the good guy? Or the bad guy? (Chop, chop, sauté.)
The main characters are not Wolverine, but two FBI agents, Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall, who investigate a gruesome massacre that took place on a fishing boat in Burns, Alaska. They are played by Celia Keenan-Bolger (an award-winning actress in stage and film) who is a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done, kind of agent; and her partner, Marshall, is played by Ato Essandoh (film and television actor), who is someone who doesn’t give up but seems to have more heart. At first, I was annoyed that Logan wasn’t front and center, but these two agents caught my attention. Their investigation leads them deeper into other murders and criminal activity in this small town in the middle of nowhere, and their personal arcs are fascinating and ultimately shocking.
There is no character, including the agents, that has a straightforward motive. The story unfolds crazily, revealing new oddities and disturbing events into their investigation, turning every character into a suspect of something. The agents are obviously there for Logan, who tells anyone who listens not to trust them, but it’s hard to know who to trust in this tale. With a beheading serial killer, a creepy cult that worships the night, a family of feral children, and an underground drug ring, I was as confused as the agents to place Logan in anywhere… or everywhere.
Richard Armitage makes at least one appearance in every episode as Logan; his gravely voice always thickened the plot, and left those listening wanting more. This is writing, directing, and acting at its best. Which brings me to my nerdy side of this: the production. First of all, the script is excellent. Remember those old timey radio shows? They almost always have an announcer or narrator to set the stage, to describe the scene or fill in the details. Wolverine: The Long Night doesn’t and yet we always know where we are and what is happening to whom. As a script-writer for audio plays myself, I was so impressed at how the writer did this. Benjamin Percy, an author of prose and comics, was the genius here, utilizing conversation (that wasn’t forced) and audio clues to keep us in the story, walking alongside the characters. Brendan Baker directed and kept his actors understated and authentic, which is so much more effective than other overly dramatic voice acting plays I’ve listened to. (Chaske Spencer as Sherman was effortless.) The plot itself was so over the top, it would have been easy to get ridiculous, but he kept it real, let the story sell itself, and I was entertained the entire time.
I have taught classes on writing and producing audio plays, mostly to children. It’s a fun creative way to tell a story, but I always, always did the editing myself. It is hard to explain the HOURS it takes to edit a halfway decent audio story. After every episode of The Long Night, I was bowing to the production team, knowing exactly what they did to make it so seamless, so real. Yes, I’m the geek that would say, “What a great car door slam!” Good foley effects are a challenge! Deru did the music, which was more a soundscape, atmospheric rather than melodic. It fit. (He also did the music for Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sweet.)
The female character speaking ratio was 14 out of 36, or about 36%. That’s better than the movies and comics, so perhaps Marvel will take note and make the Marvel Podcast Universe more equal gender media. Although it was still a mostly white cast, there was some diversity.
A comic book version is coming out in installments, covered by GeekMom MJ. She began her reviews here.
Marvel and Stitcher teamed together to make Wolverine: The Long Night podcast. I listened to the final two episodes while driving to pick up my son from college. Although I kept my eyes on the road, I was actually with the characters of this story, eyes-wide, popping too many unnoticed snacks in my mouth, until the very end. The second season, Wolverine: The Long Trail, will be coming out this winter. I’ll be listening.