The Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing (or M.O.D.O.K. to his friends, family and enemies) was always one of the more far out bad guys in Marvel’s comic book universe. First appearing as an opponent to Captain America – whose physical perfection he envied – in the pages of Tales of Suspense in 1967 – he was treated as a genuine threat for a long time, despite his obviously bizarre, humorous appearance. More recently – including in the pages of his own mini-series (M.O.D.O.K. Assassin) – he’s been treated a little more knowingly by modern writers, keen to lean into the ridiculous premise of a super-intelligent, super-villainous, giant-headed man in a floating chair.
The new Marvel TV series – branded as a Star Original Series on streaming service Disney Plus, so as not to be accidentally mistaken as a kids show – takes the premise of casting M.O.D.O.K. as the arrogant, not-as-intelligent-as-he-believes-he-is villain, but also giving him a role as a husband and father. The first episode sets up the premise well, with a rapid succession of jokes being thrown at us. Not all of them land, but the hit rate is pretty impressive.
Doing great work as the ridiculous lead character is Patton Oswalt, with Aimee Garcia as his long-suffering wife, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero as his daughter (who share the big head, floating chair gene) and Ben Schwartz as the villain’s more traditionally humanoid son. The Marvel Universe references are frequent and fun, with an early cameo by Iron Man – and his boot – providing a long running gag (and a great cameo by famous giant underpants-enthusiast Fin Fang Foom). The stop motion style is vibrant, colourful and incredibly tactile looking, with a nice faux-mockumentary, shakycam look too. The show kind of looks like a bunch of awesome action figures being manipulated with the odd visual effect layered on; it’s not surprising to learn that Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (responsible for anarchic action figure stop motion series Robot Chicken) are on animation duties.
With tons of blackly comic visual jokes, swearing and plenty of gore, despite the animated look of the show and the Marvel branding, this is definitely not one for the whole family. Those of us old enough to appreciate M.O.D.O.K.’s Deadpool-esque anarchic adult humour should find a lot to like here though, based on the strength of the opening episode.
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