Tardy to the Party: Wolverine – The Long Night

People have a lot of different attitudes when it comes to parties. Some find them absolutely delightful—they actively look for reasons to celebrate and they’re often the first to arrive with some kind of elaborate, homemade dish or an expensive gift. Others appreciate the occasional festive gathering, politely arriving promptly on time to wish happy birthday to a friend or congratulate a newly married couple. But certain people are not particularly fond of large get-togethers, even if they care deeply about the individual(s) involved. Sometimes such people will come up with a plausible excuse not to attend or feign an illness to get out of it. If this person does end up grudgingly attending, they will inevitably leave early after arriving noticeably late— after being intentionally tardy to the party.

At best, Wolverine falls into that last category. At worst, he’d simply ignore the invitation and not show up at all.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but for those of you joining “Tardy to the Party” for the first time, I’m going to say it again. I was introduced to the X-Men through the 90s animated series (aptly named X-Men: The Animated Series; take a look at the show’s intro—I still think it’s awesome), which I became obsessed with. The show eventually inspired me to dig deeper and explore the world of comics, mostly seeking out story arcs featuring my favorite characters. Rogue was on the top of that list from the start. I loved everything about her—her sassy attitude, the fact that she was super-strong, invulnerable, and could fly, her tumultuous relationship with bad-boy-turned-kinda-good-guy Gambit, and her mutant powers. I’ve always held the opinion that she’s the most powerful mutant of all since she has the ability to absorb and wield every other mutants’ powers. Even though her powers came with a price (she can’t make skin-to-skin contact with other people without absorbing their powers, memories, etc. though I think she’s gained control over that in more recent years), I thought it was worth it.

But this article isn’t about Rogue. Or the X-Men, for that matter. It’s about my second favorite character on the team—Wolverine.

If Rogue was the X-Man I wanted to be, Wolverine was the one I wanted to hang out with. He’s a cigar smoking, whiskey drinking, stubborn son of a bitch, and I like that. From childhood, I’ve had a soft spot for grumpy characters and/or characters with bad tempers, so Wolverine fits the bill and then some. I loved his claws and the amazing sound they make when they come out (snikt). I found his healing powers fascinating. I admired the fact that he could get away with calling people “Bub”. As a victim of many an unreciprocated crush, I related to his passionate, unrequited love for Jean Gray (who, frankly, I always disliked). And as an added bonus, he had a strong friendship with my beloved Rogue.

So when my brother told me about Marvel’s new Wolverine podcast, I knew I had to check it out, even though it has a different format from the types of podcasts I usually listen to. I tend to prefer non-fiction ones (mostly true crime), not scripted serials. But my brother listens to a wide variety of podcasts, most of which he doesn’t bother to tell me about, so I knew that I shouldn’t take his recommendation lightly. By the time I got around to listening to it, the entire first season had already been released, making me tardy to this party. Luckily, my lateness ended up being a blessing in disguise. This particular podcast doesn’t include a recap of previous episodes prior to the beginning of each new episode, therefore being able to listen to the whole season over a relatively short period of time was a plus in my book (while I don’t like to binge everything in a day, I did listen to one or two episodes a day for about a week, which helped me keep track of what happened from one episode to the next).

Wolverine: The Long Night takes place in the small town of Burns, Alaska, and begins with the discovery of a boatload of fishermen who’ve been slaughtered. Special agents from the FBI have been dispatched to investigate, but it soon becomes evident that this massacre is only one of many problems the usually quiet region has been facing in recent months, such as the string of women supposedly killed by a bear (despite evidence to the contrary) and the appearance of a bizarre cult whose purpose is sketchy at best. Then there’s the newcomer in town— a short, gruff, and muscular man who keeps to himself and works on a fishing boat, trying to blend in with the crowd. That is, until he exposes himself as something extraordinary when he saves a man’s life.

Once known as Wolverine and now going by Logan, he’s come to Alaska in an attempt to escape his past, much of which has been lost to him thanks to the mind-erasing techniques employed by the secret government project known as Weapon X. The memories he does still possess are filled with enough blood and violence to make even the most hardened soldier sick. Seemingly unable to die himself, and afraid that he might kill again, he decides the best solution is to live a solitary life in the wilderness, interacting with people only when absolutely necessary. He has no interest in making friends, but his deep-seated compassion drives him to reluctantly help those in need, resulting in a motley collection of thankful acquaintances who are eager to repay him.

In the opening scene of the first episode, titled “A Thousand Ways to Die in Alaska,” a fisherman recounts the gruesome scene he stumbled upon early in the morning to two FBI agents, Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall. Pierce is a “just the facts, ma’am” type, her focus rarely straying from the investigation. She tends to be so impatient with people that her attitude often borders on rude. Meanwhile, Marshall is the more empathetic of the two, as he is patient and kind with witnesses and is more likely to follow leads that are tenuous at best. It’s during this initial interview that the agents learn of a possible drug smuggling operation, as well as the suspicious deaths of two young women. The private conversation they share after interviewing the witness implies that their interest in this particular case stems from the possibility that Logan is the perpetrator, as suggested by the claw marks left on both the bodies and the boat itself along with the remnants of a cigar.

The agents then meet up with local police and make arrangements to be taken to the one person who may have survived the massacre, a member of the crew who conveniently didn’t show up for work that day. They find him alive and well, if hungover, and when they inform him of the fate of his crew he admits he may know the identity of the assailant. He tells them the unbelievable story of how Logan saved his friend’s life by going after him into a stormy sea. His friend’s arm had gotten caught in a commercial crab pot right before it was dropped into the water, dragging him down into the waves. Logan followed him in without hesitation, throwing him back onto the deck a few seconds later, minus an arm. The man and his friend were less grateful and more horrified by what’s just happened (though I’d argue if Logan hadn’t cut off his arm, he’d be dead), resulting in Logan diving back into the ocean to avoid scrutiny. The fisherman’s tale, and the episode, ends with him unexpectedly seeing Logan at a local bar several weeks later and making a hasty exit when he recognizes him.

As the series follows Pierce and Marshall’s investigation, we are introduced to the inhabitants of Burns: the naïve, ready-to-please newly minted local police officer Bobby; the guarded, potentially corrupt Sheriff Ridge; the moody, secretive waitress Mallory; the wild, orphaned strawberry kids who live off the grid in the forest; and Prophet, the mysterious leader of the Aurora cult. We also meet the members of the powerful Langrock family who own the town’s fishing fleet, cannery, and mill: Joseph Langrock, the seemingly magnanimous patriarch, and his two sons, Brent and Hudson. Brent, the oldest and clearly the favorite, is a skilled hunter whose passion for the sport borders on mania, while Hudson is younger and weaker, making him somewhat of an embarrassment to the family. These characters make up a disparate group of winners, losers, and survivors, all of whom are guarding their own personal secretsand all of whom are somehow connected to the tragic recent events.

It’s a good story with a decent amount of twists and turns. The actors do an excellent job, most notably Richard Armitage as Wolverine. I’m incredibly protective of my favorite characters, so when I approve of an actor’s portrayal, that’s a fairly high praise. That said, I’m generally not an audiobook kind of girl, and although this technically isn’t an audiobook, it certainly has that kind of feel to it. As a result, it took me a few episodes to get used to the format and get into the story, but I’m glad I gave it a chance because I ended up enjoying it. In fact, the first few episodes of season two, Wolverine: The Lost Trail, have recently been released, and I’m looking forward to listening to them as well. Of course, I’m going to wait for the entire season to be out before I do because of the whole “not including a recap before each new episode” thing I mentioned earlier.

I think it’s important to emphasize that Logan himself remains enigmatic during the course of the season. Despite the fact that the podcast bears his code name, we don’t see (hear?) much of him. While I didn’t mind it, I was initially surprised by his limited appearances, and I’m sure some listeners will be disappointed and might feel misled. But I think a little bit of Logan goes a long way, much like the shark in Jaws, and using him sparingly works well. It’s a refreshing change from the past,when he was overused to a ridiculous degree in the comics, showing up in several titles on several different teams at the same time. Rest assured, though Logan doesn’t say much, he’s clearly the focus of the story and the other characters spend a lot of time talking about him.

There’s also the matter of when exactly these events take place. I don’t mean when as in what year it is, I mean when in relation to Logan’s life. Although Weapon X is mentioned in one of the earlier episodes, the X-Men don’t come up at all, aside from the briefest flash of a memory Logan has near the end of the series when he recalls wearing a yellow suit. Because that revelation comes so late, I spent most of the season wondering if the story was meant to happen before he joined the X-Men. But finding out the answer to that question didn’t end up being particularly helpful. Between the comics, movies, cartoons, and various universes within each one, I was still unsure of which Logan I was dealing with and which past he possessed. With such a complex web of narratives to deal with, I guess I can’t blame the writers for being vague about which version of Logan this is supposed to be. Then again, maybe they did it on purpose—with Logan’s memory so messed up, he can only remember bits and pieces of his past. If a listener who is already familiar with the character is unsure of which version this one is, that puts us in the same boat as the infamous Wolverine. None of us know what secrets his past holds, so it’ll be more exciting to uncover it along with him as the series continues. And it gives the writers room to have some fun.

You can learn more about both seasons of Wolverine on the podcast’s official website. You can also find information regarding Logan (which provides some assistance with the “when” question discussed in the previous paragraph), the cast and crew, and some behind-the-scenes videos on the site. While searching for images to include in this article I accidentally stumbled across a comic book adaptation of the podcast. I don’t know much about it, so if you’re interested, visit Marvel’s website for more details.

If you’re a Wolverine fan, this is a must-listen. If you’re someone who likes listening to scripted podcasts or audiobooks, I still encourage you to try it even if you’re not particularly into the X-Men. The barest familiarity with the character (which I think most people have thanks to the popularity of the movies and Hugh Jackman’s brilliant portrayal of him) is all you really need to appreciate it. If I’ve piqued your interest and you don’t know anything about him at all, go to the About Wolverine section of the podcast’s website and that will tell you everything you need to know. I guess what I’m trying to say is that anyone could potentially enjoy this podcast, so everyone should at least give it a shot. After all, it could help you get through a long night.

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