WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Marvel's Wolverine: The Long Night, available now on Stitcher Premium.
As difficult as it may be to believe, there was a time when Wolverine was a mystery. It was long before the Marvel character became virtually ubiquitous, appearing in multiple comic series and emerging as the best part of a film franchise. It was before Wolverine Origins told us his real name isn't Logan but James Howlett, and before he morphed from a short, hairy mutant with fractured memories and an ugly mug to, well, something more closely resembling Hugh Jackman. It was a simpler time.
Wolverine: The Long Night takes us back to that era, presenting Logan as a puzzle that demands to be solved, a danger that should be avoided, at all costs, and an urban legend that can't quite be believed.
Presented by Marvel and Stitcher, the scripted podcast concluded its 10-episode season this week, weaving a mystery that brings two government agents to fictional Burns, Alaska, purportedly in search of a serial killer. What they find is a town burdened by secrets and corruption, and plagued not only by the deaths, some of which the sheriff attributes to a grizzly bear, but also by the growing presence of the Aurora cult, and the local feral children known as the Strawberry Kids. Somewhere near the center of it all is Logan, who's tried, unsuccessfully, to retreat from society.
Written by Benjamin Percy (Red Moon, Teen Titans), and aided by stellar sound production and an impressive voice cast (including Richard Armitage as Logan and Scott Adsit as Sheriff Ridge), The Long Night presents a refreshingly enigmatic Wolverine who's as much of a stranger to himself as he is to the people of Burns. Over the course of the series, Logan recalls flashes of memories -- of a war, of a yellow costume, of Japan, of the name "Wolverine" -- but the puzzle of his past is incomplete, much like it was in the first decades of his comic book history.
The series is lightly sprinkled with references that will please longtime fans -- for instance, we learn Logan wears pants size 32 x 26, a nod to his more traditional height of 5-foot-3 -- before it leans harder into X-Men lore in its final episodes, but The Long Night doesn't require an encyclopedic knowledge of Wolverine's 44-year history. We're introduced, or reintroduced, to the character from a distance, through witness statements, the observations of agents Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Bolger (Ato Essandoh), and retrieved notes and phone messages; we don't even hear Armitage as Logan until the second episode, and then only in his narration of a letter written to Maureen (likely a nod to his wife from the "Old Man Logan" storyline).
In that way, listeners are immersed in the myth of Logan, who dives over the side of a fishing boat to rescue a fellow crew member entangled in a crab-pot line... by slicing off his arm. He's the man of the woods who's spotted hunting, naked, with a pack of wolves, and a bar patron who takes on an entire fishing crew in defense of a waitress. He's Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster.
Technical achievements aside, that's the real accomplishment of Wolverine: The Long Night. Oh, it delivers a satisfying story, sure, even if its embrace -- heck, bear hug -- of genre tropes is obvious early on, from the mismatched government agents to the wealthy family with dark secrets to the corrupt sheriff, and elements like the Aurora cult and the Strawberry Kids sometimes feel as if they wandered in from another tale. (Of course, one suspects much of that's all intentionally planned by Percy, an accomplished novelist, to cleverly distract from the clues leading to the big series-changing revelation of the finale.)
No, The Long Night's greatest success is in its ability to present Wolverine, one of the most prominent Marvel heroes in either comic books or film, as something new. As related through the second- and third-hand accounts of Burns residents and government agents, Logan feels like a genuine discovery -- not a reboot, retcon or retread, but something mysterious and new that invites further exploration.
Available now exclusively on Stitcher Premium, Wolverine: The Long Night will be released in September across all podcast platforms.