M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #s 1 & 2
Writer: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Amilcar Pinna
Inks: Amilcar Pinna, Terry Pallot & Ed Tadeo
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: David Lafuente (regular)/Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Christian Wars (variants)
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US each
My latest perusal of a deep-discount bundle from my local comic shop takes us back again to the 2015 “Secret Wars” event, in which Marvel offered up a litany of alt-reality worlds and interpretations of its characters. M.O.D.O.K., thanks to his unusual and striking design, is a popular Marvel villain among many fans, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise that one of these limited series might focus on him. I really wasn’t expecting much from these two comics; after all, comics spotlighting villains can be a challenge, as the reader rarely has someone for whom s/he can cheer. But writer Christopher Yost, best known for his animation scripts but no stranger to comics, delivers a wonderfully fun concept that makes the most of the temporary, anything-can-happen premise of the patchwork Battleworld that serves as the backdrop for all of these “Secret Wars” spinoff titles. The bargain bundle that contained these comics only included the first two issues of the run. I was surprised to find there are three more episodes to the title (the story seems like a four-partner would have been plenty), but I’ll be keeping an eye out for those other chapters, given how entertaining the first was.
Killville, a murderous metropolis on the god-like Dr. Doom’s domain of Battleworld, is governed by Baron Mordo, but it’s really the three leaders of the Assassin’s Guild that influences the day-to-day machinations of the dangerous landscape. And among the most deadly and odd killers roaming the streets is M.O.D.O.K., who delights in his homicidal programming, turning his psychokinetic powers even on other killers, as his mood suits him. That makes him an unstable element of concern to his betters. Furthermore complicating matters is the appearance of a member of the paramilitary Thor Corps in his weird life, but M.O.D.O.K. is puzzled when his sadistic and deadly leanings give way to other feelings when he spies her shapely form.
Amilcar Pinna’s linework is capable, and occasionally really grabs the eye. However, the biggest problem with the visuals for these comics is the fact that the regular cover artwork by David Lafuente outshines by an exponential factor. Lafuente’s unrestrained exaggeration and bombastic detail leave the reader wishing he’d been the one tasked with rendering the interiors. Still, Pinna does a great job of conveying the title character’s misshapen and distorted form. Unfortunately, the distortions don’t seem limited to his squat shape. Other, more conventional characters look off at times as well. We see Bullseye at one point with a bubble-like cranium and Magneto with a nose that appears to run almost a foot down his face, for example.
Another visual aspect of the book that worked well was lettering, specifically how Travis Lanham conveyed M.O.D.O.K.’S dichotomous voice, divided between human expressions and a cold, computerized brain. Ultimately, the different aspects of his dialogue reflect how the character is torn between his psychopathic side and his smitten status by the second issue.
Yost offers up a rather twisted and funny script, but what makes it work is the fact that the audience can relate to M.O.D.O.K. despite his vile nature. Anyone can understand someone who’s distracted from his job or everyday life when dazzled by someone whose looks and attitude seem perfect and lovely. M.O.D.O.K.’s awkwardness in the face of infatuation is universal in tone, and his determination to try to connect with someone who’s out of his league is oddly admirable. Despite his ego, sadism and evil, the reader finds himself or herself on M.O.D.O.K.’S side, and that’s an impressive bit of storytelling trickery. 7/10