Or – “There Is No Character Who Cannot Be Interesting In The Right Hands.”

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It always makes me angry when the major comics companies decide that it’s time to “clear the decks” and off a bunch of characters in a crossover cluster-schmozz. Sure, it reinforces the illusion that comic stories have lasting consequences, but it usually just leads to an eventual series of resurrections or revamps that make the initial attempt to “clean up” continuity ridiculously laughable. Marvel is in a period of experimentation right now, and the racks are literally flooded with titles whose membership consists of random samplings from the Marvel Universe, but this one is something different. A good rule of thumb is that anything with MODOK, Nightshade, or Rocket Racer is worth a look in my book, so this series hits the rare hat trick…

Previously, on Super-Villain Team-Up: Modok’s 11: George Tarleton became a 111.jpgbeekeeper of AIM out of a deep-seated need to be cannon-fodder, presumably, but he never expected to be chosen for a sinister experiment. Mutated beyond recognition, the former George became MODOC, the mental orgainism designed only for computing. ‘Course, if your head was the size of a Pinto hatchback, you’d snap like a Slim Jim too, so you can’t blame him for turning his frown upside-down and changing his designation to MODOK (the ‘k’ don’t stand for ‘kissin.’) Last time out, eight of Marvel’s ne’er do wells from various levels of the evil spectrum were called to an abandoned warehouse in New York, and promised some of that proverbial Fat Cash to be a part of villain history. Unfortunately, for them, only Marvin Flumm (Mentallo) had the wherewithal to realize the money was an illusion. This issue begins with an all-out assault by Armadillo, Chameleon, Nightshade, Puma, Rocket Racer and the Spot on a strange fortress. As quickly as they break in, the defense droids are on top of them…

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I seriously LOVE the prismatic effect on the Laser in that last panel. Puma is seriously irritated, cursing “#$*ing super-villains! It’s like herding cats!” Heh. Armadillo points out the irony, since Puma is both, but Mr. Fireheart cracks, “I’m an Idian, ‘Dillo… We live on irony!” They’re both overwhelmed, and Rocket Racer goes down again, leaving the Spot to get to their target and gloat before being cut down as well. The whole team lies dead, and the remaining pages (as well as the next three issues) will be cheesecake shots of Tigra in a french maid outfit. Oh, wait… It’s all a MODOK induced delusion! And… uh… that Tigra thing was… too. He… he used his mental telegraph powers to MAKE me think that… Yeah, that’s the ticket! Anyway, the big, giant head is not amused. “We steal from the Infinicide, temporal cartographers from the end of time! Their technology and super-powers are BEYOND your imagining! We cannot possible hope to prevail by force! It is only through the fractally briliant PLAN of a mind designed only for ki… ki… ki… COMPUTING… that we can evade their defenses.” I love that little stutter. Reminds me of the scene in ‘Psycho II’ where Norman Bates says “I’m not allowed to handle c-c-c-c-cutlery.” Heh. MODOK spills the beans on what they’re getting ready to steal.

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Heh. The dialogue is cracking me up, here. Now that the reveal has been made, we can figure why Giant-head Georgie chose the folks that he did. With the exception of Mentallo (and possibly Chameleon) everyone there is chosen not just for their specific skills, but for their psychological tractability. In fact, you may have noticed a decided lack of Mentallo during the simulation sequences, and you wouldn’t be alone, as Deadly Nightshade shoots him a look that would wilt a lamppost…

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This does raise the question: Why WOULD MODOK need Mentallo? Everything that Marvin can do, MODOK himself can simulate. For all his palaver about mental superiority, this thought doesn’t occur to ‘Tallo, as he starts checking the brains of his erstwhile teammates for someone he can manipulate. The Living Laser’s entire consciousness is devoted to holding his light-form together, and Puma, while promising, somehow recognizes the intrusion. And as for the mind of the Chameleon, Mentallo is somewhat surprised to find his mind shielded against any and all psychic attack with the equivalent of a barred steel door. Mentallo’s job is to create a mental shield around the Chameleon, to mask him as one of the humans the Infinicide is trying to examine… They’re calling people from around the globe who have been affected by the constant in-fighting among the superhumans to China, and if Chameleon’s mind-block isn’t perfect they’re all dead men.

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That is officially the line of the issue, possibly even the best line of the WEEK. Back in Arizona, the elders of Puma’s tribe find out that he skipped town, and the leader vows that they must strip him of the powers of the Puma… forever! And certainly, I’m sure, at the worst possible time. Mentallo and Chameleon have retreated to Central Park, where Flumm implants a false memory of World War Hulk to fool any psychic scans. Chameleon wants to be certain that it’ll stand up, and Mentallo reminds him of his psionic pedigree…

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Chameleon is so distracted by the woman nearly catching him, that he doesn’t see an oncoming BUS, but his spider-sense goes off, and he leaps back using his insect agility. BUHAMINAH? He did what with the which, now? Mentallo’s face nearly breaks in two from the wicked smile that results from the familiar mental trace. “Chammy. Bubeleh. We need to TALK…” He shows his cards, telling “Chameleon” that the mental block he has may be complete, but there’s a reason they call it the sixth sense…

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Quoth the Meatwad, “Do WHUT now??” This ain’t the Chameleon… Whomever it is sets Mentallo on fire, and his charred form falls into the river, seemingly dead. The mystery man calmly walks away, while his teammates go about their business. Later that evening, they all assemble for their trip to China, swapping super-villain stories on the docks as they wait for their ride…

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There’s a distinct possibility that the Spot’s brain has as many holes in it as his body… The ‘flagpole up the butt’ line is a close second in the best line category. The Living Laser detects somebody approaching, and nearly fries “Chameleon” upon his return. Chammy claims that Mentallo skipped out because Nightshade spoke to him harshly, and she snorts “What? I was just talkin’ smack! Who’d he pull his last job with? Mormons?” Heh. MODOK scans Chameleon’s mind, and the scene shifts… to AIM central command. “The psychic shielding you provided the Ultra-Adaptoid has not been compromised, Dr. Rappaccini.” The questions of why Chameleon has been acting a bit odd, even without his Human Torch and Spider-Man schticks, are answered. George’s former fling, Monica has apparently made a deal with the real Chameleon to infilitrate and figure out MODOK’s plan. She remarks that reports had him dead, or in an insane asylum, and Chameleon smiles. “Yes, well… that would be exactly what I wanted you to think.” Monica is concerned about what MODOK is up to, realizing that he could only want the power source for one reason…

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Well, that’s probably not good. I have to say, this was the best read of the week for me, maintaining the fun and fast dialogue from last issue, and combining it with a tightly woven plot, a must for the comic book equivalent of a caper movie. I’m hoping that Mentallo isn’t really out of the running, and I’m still wondering who the last two members of the team are.

I have to say, Fred Van Lente is my new favorite Marvel Assclown, and his name is right up there with Jeff Parker, Peter David, Judd Winick, and Mark Waid on my “If he wrote it, I better at least check it out” list. The art is superb, with the only thing that doesn’t look incredible being Rocket Racer’s helmet, and I suspect that it’s drawn that way intentionally, to play up his “techno-savvy geek with no social skills” part in this story. My copy of the book is missing some word in the credit box, but I think the work is by Francis Portela and Terry Pallot, and it is well done, indeed. From the first time I read about this series, I suspected that it could be fun, but I’m happily surprised that it’s also well-crafted and intriguing. Someone at the House of Ideas should take note: it’s all well and good to have that ‘high-concept’ story hook, but unless the execution is up to par, it’ll never fly. MODOK’s 11 #2 hits the mark, and then some, nailing a much-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. Sanlear
    August 17, 2007 at 1:51 pm — Reply

    Or – “There Is No Character Who Cannot Be Interesting In The Right Hands.”

    I’d like to see someone a writer try and make Stilt-Man interesting. :)

    Great issue. I’m loving the humor. Marvel superheroes take themselves so seriously these days. It’s nice to see the bad guys don’t. Well some of them, anyways.

  2. Brother129
    August 17, 2007 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    Makes you wonder if Marvel has thought about letting other people write major books/storylines who don’t have the names JMS, Bendis, or Millar…

  3. Randallw
    August 17, 2007 at 9:56 pm — Reply

    How do you break the living laser down into his component DNA?. He’s made of energy. No DNA.

  4. Mark I.
    August 19, 2007 at 2:00 am — Reply

    I just realized that if M.O.D.O.K. is ever animated, he needs to have the same voice as the Ghost of Christmas Past From The Future. The Meatwad reference clinched it.

    “Thousands of years ago, before Sigourney Weaver…”

  5. August 19, 2007 at 9:54 am — Reply

    Heh… That would be pretty awesome, now that I think about it, especially the echo effect.

  6. August 19, 2007 at 9:55 am — Reply

    How do you break the living laser down into his component DNA?. He’s made of energy. No DNA.

    I read that last panel as dissolving them into their component molecules, rather than breaking down the DNA. Either way, it’s a disturbing image, especially the fear on the face of Rocket Racer.

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