Review: ‘MODOK: Head Games’ #3 Has A Surprising & Hilarious Heart
by Tony Thornley
Of all the characters in Marvel’s pantheon, MODOK might be the last anyone would expect to get a television series, but here we are. And with the show on the way, naturally the character would get a mini-series to take advantage of it.
Sure, the series is halfway in, but let’s be real. With a cover like what Cully Hamner & Tamra Bonvillain created, it can’t help but pull you in. It’s the sort of metaphorical cover that the comic industry doesn’t do often anymore, but it tells a story on its own. Despite recommendations from colleagues at multiple sites I work for, it was this delightfully macabre image that finally pushed me over the edge.
So how does the interior- by Patton Oswalt, Jordan Blum, Scott Hepburn, Carlos Lopez, and Travis Lanham– stack up to the cover? Well it surprised me.
First of all, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book drawn by Hepburn. His style straddles the line between Looney Tunes-esque madcap cartooning and Big Two house styles incredibly well. There’s a lot of comedy in the issue, and he sells it incredibly well, with a gloriously slapstick sensibility.
He also does a good job depicting Gwenpool’s incredibly abstract powers. The scene on Krakoa is extremely funny, and Hepburn and Lanham deserve a lot of credit for pulling off a gag using editor’s notes that could have just fallen flat. Then late in the issue, Hepburn pulls back the curtain, and lets Gwen shine as she shows off her powers in an extremely unconventional sequence.
As for the story- in which Gwenpool hunts MODOK while MODOK continues to investigate new memories he’s experienced- Blum and Oswalt give MODOK himself an emotional core that he’s seldom had before. On one level, it’s clearly anger that someone has messed with his head, but on another there’s clear pathos here. These visions he’s been seeing are of a family, and MODOK is missing something that he’s not sure if he had. The duo captures the pathos and desire for happiness really well, even if a lot of it is subtext.
I also really enjoyed how they depicted Gwenpool. At first, it seemed like a step backwards. Then as the issue progresses, they make it clear that it’s at least in part because of her past relationship with MODOK. To see the character literally stop, take a breath, and use her reality altering/fourth wall breaking powers to solve the conflict was an acknowledgement of her growth and not just a silly gag. The only issue is that the solution works better in print than it does reading the story digitally, an issue worth mentioning, but is ultimately minor.
It’s always interesting to go into a mini-series mid-stream, and it’s even better when the penultimate issue is strong enough to motivate you not just to jump on the first two issues immediately, but also get excited for the conclusion.
MODOK: Head Games #3 is available now from Marvel Comics.
The creative team pulls off a tricky issue as they give both the lead and the guest star equal weight in the issue.