A cult favorite The Marvel villain has finally got his own TV show, one that skillfully balances humor and raw emotion. Time travel stirs the plot, while undercard characters from long-forgotten back problems play a central role. It’s one of the most original comic book adaptations to ever appear on screen, and it offers a tantalizing glimpse into the full potential of Marvel’s impending multiverse. I’m talking of course about MODOK
Okay yes, Loki also fits this bill. But chances are, you’re already watching it, or at least you’re aware of it. Who is great! The more Tom Hiddleston there is, the better. by Hulu MODOK, a crazy stop-motion show created by Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, is a deeper cut. It’s also an exercise to burn deadlines LokiTVA is desperately trying to fix this, which could spark a new creative resurgence.
What is MODOK? Well bear with me. The name stands for a mental organism designed only to kill; he’s basically a giant skull with a tiny torso and ends that moves around on a flying chair. He first appeared in the comics in the late 1960s, became a regular Captain America foil, and is typically associated with Advanced Idea Mechanics, a criminal organization that wants to invade the world with fancy gadgets. MODOK can detonate beams of energy from his forehead, access an assortment of weapons from his chair, and is one of Marvel’s most absurd creations. Which means something.
To that end, MODOK is also not a person likely to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. He’s too outrageous, even next to a chatty raccoon and monosyllabic tree creature. But MODOK the show leans to the end of this ridiculous. He fills his world, imagining her not only as a failed enemy, but also as a restless husband and father. It’s as shamelessly violent and profane as it is sentimental, as likely to give an entire episode to an unfortunate heist as it is to a family reconciliation. It’s almost certainly the only Marvel TV property that will feature Tenpin, a comic book villain who… throws bowling pins. (In the world of MODOK, Tenpin doesn’t even have one; he pledged them and lives in his car, which does not drive.)
If it’s not already very clear, it’s not a sight for everyone. This is Infinity war through Adult Swim, and rewards a healthy appreciation of esoteric comics. In addition to Tenpin, you get heavy doses of C-List Villains like Armadillo, Arcade, and Angar the Screamer. And that’s before you even get to Easter Eggs, which would require repeated views and an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel history to fully time.
Not being for everyone, however, is the main thing. contrary to Loki and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and all of the big tentpole movie releases of the past 13 years, MODOK exists outside of the MCU. He has no interest or obligation in the continuity that binds the dozens of hours of canonical Marvel movies and TV shows that came before him. He has not been shaped by studio notes or whose rough edges have been sanded in search of mass appeal. The only Avenger to make a credited appearance in MODOK is Iron Man. MODOK calls her a “wet slut”.
The events of MODOK instead unwind in the Marvel multiverse. More precisely, on Earth-1226; Disney + movies and series are mostly set on Earth-199999, and the comics are set in an alternate reality. This multiverse – where multiple realities occur simultaneously and sometimes intersect – has long been a staple of Marvel comics and is the foundation of its cinematic future. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse explored it in 2018. WandaVision brought it to the main timeline earlier this year, and Loki lays the groundwork for a larger split that will occur in theaters over the next several years. (This is neither a spoiler nor a speculation; the upcoming slate literally includes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.)
Which sounds exciting, but also a little intimidating. The multiverse has been releasing significant entropy over a tightly controlled process for over a decade. If the comic book’s past is a prologue, it will mean muddled storylines, unsatisfying resolutions, lost narrative threads and ultimately having to blow everything up and start over at worst. “Heed my warning”, my colleague Adam Rogers written earlier this year. “It will end in tears. “
But at best, the multiverse allows for exploration and experimentation, especially once you break free from the gravitational pull of the cannon. This is MODOK, a gloriously self-contained experience. He owes nothing to Phase Four of the ever-expanding Marvel Universe. He doesn’t need to build an infrastructure for future installments or ask you to remember the fine print of the Sokovia accords. Its only cross is a wink; he calls on Nathan Fillion to voice Wonder Man, years after the actor’s brief appearance when the same superhero was Cut of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.