The Venture Bros. started in 2004 as Jonny quest parody that ridiculed sci-fi action tropes while focusing on the goofy adventures and dysfunctional family of a failed super-scientist, as well as his intricate relationship with his costumed foe. As the series progressed, it expanded its scope to make fun of Marvel Comics characters, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Kingpin, while delivering remarkably crisp storytelling that blurred the lines between the two. heroes and villains.
This is about where MODOK de Marvel departures. The stop-motion animated show, which releases its 10-episode first season on Hulu on May 21, isn’t as well-written as The Venture Bros., but he longs for that same wacky mix of sitcom and satire, centered around a pathetic and unfriendly protagonist.
Patton Oswalt, who co-created the series with Jordan Blum, voices George Tarleton, a scientist who experimented on himself to gain superior intelligence, which transforms him until he becomes a giant head with a vestigial body. Now called MODOK, which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, it leads the evil scientists of Advanced Idea Mechanics in their attempts to take over the world.
But as The Venture Bros.“Dr Thaddeus Venture, MODOK is a perpetual mistake. His failed plans practically bankrupted AIM, leaving them ripe for a takeover by manipulative tech brother Austin Van Der Sleet (Beck Bennett of Saturday Night Live). Meanwhile, MODOK’s single-minded focus on supervillainy leads his wife Jodie Tarleton (Aimee Garcia) to request a separation.
By the end of Episode 1, MODOK has practically hit rock bottom. It takes a while for it to transform into something worthy of love – and so does the series, which suffers from a tonal boost. The first episodes are split between super-villainous antics that would feel at home on The Venture Bros., an ultra-scientific office policy at AIM, which sounds like a riff on Better Ted, and the family conspiracy, where MODOK is at its most intolerable, demanding sympathy without respecting anyone else. It’s easy to imagine a stronger version of the series that focuses more on spectacularly animated combat, which features MODOK taking on SHIELD helicopters, and Jon Hamm’s perfectly smug version of Iron Man, who can fight a supervillain all the way. looking at The great british Bake Off in his costume.
Yet family intrigue is at the heart of Blum and Oswalt’s vision for the series, which ends up being a feel-good story about personal relationships being not distractions from your professional goals, they are important to become a better, stronger person. It takes a while to come to love MODOK or his family enough to care about their happiness, but the writers manage to deliver some pretty fulfilling character arcs in their tight 25-minute episodes.
MODOK’s sociopathic naughty girl Melissa (Melissa Fumero from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is immediately hilarious, but his wacky little brother (Ben Schwartz from Parks and recreation) looks like a mediocre pastiche from Hank Venture and Bojack HorsemanIt’s Todd Chavez. Jodie is getting the best growth of the season, as her quest for fame as a self-help guru and blogger mom pushes her to be just as manipulative and self-centered as her husband.
AIM plots are also a mixed bag. Everything about MODOK’s henchmen looks like a pale imitation of a similar dynamic involving the monarch’s henchmen in The Venture Bros. But MODOK’s professional rival Monica Rappaccini (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a female super-scientist driven to evil by sexism, is hugely entertaining and she produces some of the most bizarre and grotesque displays of the show’s visual prowess with her horrible biological experiments. She and MODOK are villains, but they face real evil in the form of supporting Austin, who is actually a Lovecraftian horror who embodies late stage capitalism.
MODOK Also benefits from being completely free to ignore the MCU canon when picking and choosing the weirder characters from the Marvel Comics portfolio. In an episode reminiscent of the animated series The tick, MODOK is denied entry to a trendy club for supervillains by Hulk’s nemesis, the leader (Bill Hader), and sneaks into a dive bar for D-listers like the rock singer at sound power David Angar (also Hader). The episode embraces the wackiest aspects of the MCU as the villains unite to steal Captain America’s shield from Avengers Tower, which turns into a drunken journey where each character faces an unsolved pathos.
There are plenty of other great cameos including Nathan Fillion playing the Avenger Wonder Man as a himbo actor with Wakandan tattoos. In one of the first real clues about Marvel properties reuniting after the Disney / Fox merger, X-Men villain Mister Sinister (Kevin Michael Richardson) also makes an appearance. While you don’t really have to be deep into Marvel lore to enjoy the show, it’s absolutely littered with Easter eggs for those who are.
MODOK is hosted by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the production company behind Adult Swim’s Robot chicken, and the tone and visual style are quite similar. MODOK The figures have a distinctly figurine style and they are covered in great details, like the sparkling rivets on Melissa’s hoverchair. The show features spectacular visual settings, such as AIM’s clifftop headquarters inspired by Tony Stark’s home in Iron Man, and the ridiculous fight scenes have a fluid quality reminiscent of the The Lego moviesmix of computer animation and real toys.
It takes a little to MODOK to get really entertaining, but Season 1 comes to a satisfying conclusion that hints at more adventures to come. This is unlikely to happen, given that MODOK was originally planned as part of an animated shared world on Hulu, and most other shows were dropped as part of a consolidation under Disney Plus. But after being canceled last year, The Venture Bros. get a movie so hopefully MODOK will not only capture the eerily tender humor of this show, but its awe-inspiring tenacity.
The 10 episodes of MODOK de Marvel are available to stream on Hulu on May 21.