On paper, it makes sense to give a character like MODOK — Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing — his own animated series. The long-time Marvel villain is, after all, one of the campiest entries in Marvel's ever-growing stable of characters, and he is someone most think could be nearly impossible to translate to live-action. From the second Hulu's new MODOK show rolls, it's apparent an animated series was a perfect choice for a character like this.
In the source material, MODOK oversees Advanced Idea Mechanics, a criminal organization that more commonly goes by AIM. That's still the case here, even though it's not the only focus. The series opens up with MODOK's control over the organization waning until the group is eventually ripped from his hands entirely. Naturally, this sends shockwaves throughout his personal life, and that's what's featured most throughout the first season of this series.
Ripping MODOK from AIM and upsetting his home life is the riskiest of risks, and thrusts the character into unfamiliar territory. With a hilarious writer's room led by funnymen Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt, it's a risk that ends up paying off big-time.
The show takes pride in jamming however many Marvel cameos it can manage into the 20-minute run time of each of the episodes. It's only a matter of seconds before Jon Hamm's Iron Man appears on screen, and that's only the littlest tip of the iceberg. Throughout all 10 episodes, there are countless cameos from all corners of the Marvel world from The Leader (Bill Hader) to Master Pandemonium to Fin Fang Foom.
Even with one cameo after the next (and yes, there are some pretty massive surprises,) MODOK (Oswalt) and his family — wife Jodie (Aimee Garcia), daughter Melissa (Melissa Fumero), and son Lou (Ben Schwartz) — remain the best part of the show. The dynamic is something that's been missing from the character's lore since his first comic book introduction and this new variable adds another layer of depth to the character helping to propel the show to greater heights. In fact, Schwartz's role as MODOK's socially awkward 12-year-old son is where many of the show's funniest moments come from.
In this show, MODOK isn't just looking for world domination. He's looking for that and love, family, and companionship. It shouldn't work, but it does. At times, it even works incredibly well.
Marvel's MODOK is an animated comedy geared for adults, there's no denying that. It's animated by the same company behind Adult Swim's Robot Chicken, which means there's a moment or two where you'll be left wondering how a show bearing the Marvel brand was able to get away with what it does. There's blood, there's gore, and there's even a fair share of one-liners that make it seem as if Star-Lord's "Jackson Pollock" line is a family-friendly jest.
Honestly, that may be a huge part of the show's charm. It continually pushes the boundaries, being sure to separate itself from anything Marvel has done before. If you want to see an Avenger die in the most brutal of ways, drop an f-bomb while fighting aliens, or give Thanos the middle finger, Marvel's MODOK is exactly the place where that will happen.
But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Blum and his team do an excellent job of cutting the levity at the necessary times without removing it completely. By the end of the season, they manage to transform the campiest of camp into a misunderstood character that's almost entirely all too relatable. There are some life lessons (and Third Eye Blind cameos) along the way, and that creates a balance that helps take this show from good to great.
MODOK never strays too far from its comedy, and that's where it thrives. It's a well-rounded offering from the House of Ideas that's one of the company's most exciting and original properties yet. It ends as fast as it starts, and that will definitely leave you wanting more. It's hilarious, surprisingly heartfelt, and entirely insane, wrapped up into one oversized noggin, and Marvel has a hit on its hands.
Rating: 5 out of 5
All 10 episodes of MODOK hit Hulu on May 21st.