Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Follows a Supervillain Going Through a Midlife Crisis
Patton Oswalt stars in the new Hulu animated series.
As Marvel continues to plumb the depths of their extensive catalogue of heroes and villains, the company’s more obscure characters are getting their moment in the sun. And few are as delightfully bizarre and goofy as M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), a giant-headed genius whose cranium is so packed with evil plans that he can only travel via hoverchair. M.O.D.O.K was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in Tales of Suspense #93–94 (September–October 1967). In the ensuing decades he kept popping up, battling the Avengers, the X-Men, and many others.
Now, Marvel and Hulu have teamed up to craft a sitcom around the big-headed baddie. Created by Jordan Blum (American Dad!) and beloved geek comedian Patton Oswalt (who voices the title role), Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. finds its villain right in the middle of a midlife crisis. His evil empire A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) has gone bankrupt after countless attempts at world domination, and is bought out by trendy tech company GRUMBL, led by smarmy tech bro Austin Van Der Sleet (Beck Bennett).
And things aren’t much better at his suburban New Jersey home. His wife Jodie (Aimee Garcia) is an author and blogger looking to launch her own brand, daughter Melissa (Melissa Fumero) is like her dad, i.e. a giant floating head with evil tendencies, and son Lou (Ben Schwartz), is a relentlessly optimistic and high energy handful. In his quest to take over the world, M.O.D.O.K. has been an absent father and husband, and eventually kicked out of the family home and forced to move into a sad bachelor apartment with his robot/blender Super-Adaptoid (Jon Daly).
Like many adult animated series, the show is stacked with quickfire laughs, sight gags, and obscure pop culture references. And being a Marvel show, the series gleefully resurrects some of the brand’s more obscure villains like Master Pandemonium and the Ciegrimites. But its biggest weapon is undoubtedly Patton Oswalt, a gifted performer who effortlessly embodies the humor and pathos of the role. M.O.D.O.K. is crafted with stop-motion puppetry and CGI provided by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, and the series is similar both visually and tonally to SBS’s long-running Robot Chicken. It’s loud, brash, and filled with plenty of puppet-on-puppet violence.
Much like Rick and Morty, M.O.D.O.K. uses an egomaniacal genius to subvert the classic family sitcom. But crafting these kinds of worlds take time, and it takes a few episodes before M.O.D.O.K. really starts to pick up steam. The series also struggles with its more emotional moments, which can be hit or miss. Shows like Rick and Morty and Harley Quinn consistently hit their emotional beats while delivering mile-a-minute jokes because they take the time to invest in their characters and relationships. M.O.D.O.K.’s noisy and breathless pace moves too fast for many of those moments to land, but it’s an issue that becomes more smoothed out in later episodes as the series finds its footing.
There’s a lot to like here for both Marvel and animation nerds: relentless comic book references, a stacked cast of voice actors (my favorite is Jon Hamm’s bored Iron Man), and some quality jokes. First seasons of animated shows like these often need a season to establish a tonal baseline. I have no doubt that when/if we get a second season of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., the series will rise to meet and surpass its current challenges. As it is, it’s still a silly, entertaining watch designed especially for its niche nerdy audience.
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