25 March 2008

Super-Villain Team Up: MODOK'S 11 tpb (Marvel, 2008)

The title sold me. "Super-Villain"? "MODOK"? "11"? A big giant head is recruiting eleven (well, actually just eight but MODOK'S 8 doesn't have the same pizzaz and can't be considered an homage to an old movie starring Frank Sinatra) C-list Marvel villains to pull one mother of a heist: to steal a hypernova that acts as a power source for a spaceship piloted by aliens called the Infinicide. Or so it seems. Without giving anything away, MODOK's true scheme is amusingly shallow and is only revealed at the very end. In between, we get lots of fisticuffs, double and triple crosses and some great lines from series scribe Fred Van Lente.

When you write a book featuring bad guys, you can either go the serious, gritty route or you can do it the funny way. I'm glad that Van Lente chose the latter because there's no way readers are going to take a giant head seriously. And other than the Puma, Armadillo and the Chameleon, who I personally have a soft spot for, the rest of MODOK's posse ring no bells in my head. Like the SPOT? Who? Did he fight Spider-Man one time?

But not to worry because MODOK'S 11 is not only fun to read, it's also newbie friendly. Enough back story is given to most of the bad guys so you know who everyone is and what motivates them. Not much in the way of a detailed origin flashback (hey, it's only five issues long) but enough is given for the reader to play catch up. And it is to Fred Van Lente's credit that he managed to give at least three of the villains here more depth to their character and make the reader root for them to succeed. Or at least not to end up dead or captured.

All the villains invited by MODOK to join his team have one thing in common: they don't have a dime amongst themselves. So when MODOK offers them 5 million dollars each to become his "minions", they all jumped onboard without a second thought. They are so desperate they don't even wonder why a giant head with an IQ of a million needs them anyway. This question is answered but like the eight villains, the reader is also fooled by MODOK whose true complex scheme is so much more selfish than mere theft of a hypernova. But MODOK himself is seemingly fooled when it turns out that more than one of his recruits are working for someone else on the side. With almost everyone betraying everyone else, the reader is kept guessing at almost every page on how the damn thing is gonna work out in the end.

On the visual side, Francis Portela does fine work pencilling this mini series. He gets it that MODOK'S 11 is a fun book not to be taken too seriously and it shows in his work. It's vibrant but not too realistic.

Super-Villain Team Up: MODOK'S 11 is a nice little book that actually succeeds in making the reader appreciate MODOK (well, it succeeded on me anyway). The writing is tight, the art is perfect and the plot is a roller coaster ride with an amusing pay off at the end. It sure is a refreshing change from reading about Marvel heroes turning Tony Stark into their personal bitch (not that the guy doesn't deserve it but you know what I mean).

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