With a series like M.O.D.O.K. hitting the streaming service Hulu, the sub-genre of obscure C and D-list characters to get their own show is more of an expectation than a pipe dream at this point. This is a genre that is currently thriving in a golden age for well over a decade now so why not bring unlikely characters that the vast majority of people have never heard of before to the forefront. There is oversaturation to consider, given the number of new films and series planned over the course of the next few years. Unlike the most popular MCU that is currently in their phase 4, M.O.D.O.K. is a breath of fresh air to a genre that has expanded its horizons recently. Series like The Boys, Umbrella Academy, Invincible, Harley Quinn & Doom Patrol have all brought something new to a genre which has played it safe more often that it should.
Within the realm of the comic book genre, there is an abundance of content to explore that can be told more freely without the restrictions of a more kid friendly rating. Call it a Renaissance of a genre or a deconstruction of it and with the right creators, the possibilities are endless. M.O.D.O.K. isn’t necessarily groundbreaking since the animation route has been done previously but the type of animation M.O.D.O.K. uses is enough cause to explore the 10-episode first season.
M.O.D.O.K.’s animation style of stop-motion, perfected by Robot Chicken, with the company Stoopid Buddy Stoodies, founded by Seth Green, Matthew Senrich, John Harvatine IV & Eric Towner is used to the shows advantage. The stop-motion, the look and design of the characters stand out the most through the entirety of the first season giving M.O.D.O.K. a lot to offer visually with a smaller budget.
If there are ever actors/actresses that are destined to play certain characters, and there are in the comic book genre (Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman), it’s the voice of M.O.D.O.K. or Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing (Patton Oswalt). What Oswalt brings to the character that’s vastly different from the comic version is a more comedic sensibility compared to the evil nature this notorious villain is known for. The first episode sets the lighter more humorous tone the show adapts as soon as Iron Man (Jon Hamm) shows up to stop a world conquering mission to multitask watching The Great British Bake-Off and stopping M.O.D.O.K. simultaneously. Out of that entire encounter between the nemesis Iron Man’s boot is taken – a win in M.O.D.O.K.’s book.
M.O.D.O.K. blends the sitcom style of comedy with the superhero genre, something Oswalt is very familiar with. It’s no Wandavision in that regard but the way each shot is framed the 3 camera setup is the inspiration. I almost expected there to be a laugh track whenever M.O.D.O.K. Spoke. Combined with the animation, the series can take itself a little less serious and embrace the silliness that comes with the writing.
10 episodes is a short season with as much happening on screen between M.O.D.O.K. planning to conquer the world, saving his company Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) from the generic Silicone Valley tech billionaire Austin Van der Sleet (Beck Bennet), salvaging his marriage and home life to Jodie (Amiee Garcia) and battling his younger self for bragging rights who hates what his future self becomes. As the creator, Oswalt juggles all the plot points in the destruction of a character destined to have it all. Within that realm, M.O.D.O.K. is written sympathetically to be seen as an anti-hero but most of the time he comes off as a whiney entitled brat who was told he was special as a kid well before he became a villain. As I mentioned earlier in this review, the concepts in M.O.D.O.K. aren’t brand new nor is the show reinventing the wheel – it’s a fresh take the way Oswalt approaches this unique villain as the protagonist with more jokes, even if no one else sees him as a hero.
That much can be seen as a win for this show, M.O.D.O.K. thinks he’s the hero in his own story, It’s the foundation for a great villain (Thanos) but he’s just a bad guy on a domestic scale as well as a global scale. M.O.D.O.K. is self-centered, narsissistic and obsessive when it comes to everything in his life that it ruins whats most important – family. His daughter Melissa (Melissa Fumero) hates him but envies his super-villainy, and his son Lou (Ben Schwartz) suffers from an identity crisis. Some of the funniest interactions come from the dialogue between M.O.D.O.K. and Lou and M.O.D.O.K. and any other Marvel characters strategically used as easter eggs.
As far as easter eggs go, there’s a plethora of them. From supervillains that appeared in the very first volumes to obscure lesser known characters like Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion) (rumored to play Simon Williams in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe).
M.O.D.O.K. is a great distraction from the past year and a half that the world has been in lock-down. For a comedic series that’s more of a satire of a genre, M.O.D.O.K. is perfect for what it Is – a strong voice cast, visually stunning animation, and a social commentary on how a villain conducts himself at home and at “work”. The camera constantly swaying can feel nauseating at times, which, if noticed happens in every scene and can be distracting more so than innovative.
M.O.D.O.K. season 1 premiered on May 21, 2021 and can be streamed on Hulu. M.O.D.O.K. season 1 has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88%. M.O.D.O.K. was created for TV by Jordan Blum & Patton Oswalt, was based on characters created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and stars Patton Oswalt, Ben Schwartz, Melissa Fumero, Amiee Garcia, Beck Bennett, John Daly, Wendie McLendon-Covey & Sam Richardson. 3.5 out of 5.