Marvel fatigue is a very real thing. While I loved WandaVision, I was thoroughly underwhelmed by Falcon and Winter Solider. Loki? I’ve not even started it yet.
There are really two reasons I haven’t given Loki a chance yet — and the decent pre-release trailers are not one of them. My exhaustion with the MCU is so bad that I need more time before I watch another main-line Marvel show, and there’s a certain large-headed character named MODOK that I’d rather view. Yes, MODOK is Marvel, but it’s different. Allow me to explain.
If you’ve never heard of him before MODOK (which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing) is an iconic Marvel villain who first debuted in 1967. Originally the character was an enemy of Captain America, but he’s fought multiple Avengers over the last five decades.
He’s not been used in any of Marvel Studios’ properties throughout the last decades, but Hulu saw fit to give him his own animated show. The MODOK series was originally announced alongside three other shows of lesser-known Marvel properties: Howard the Duck, Helstom and Tigra & Dazzler. Since then, Howard the Duck and Tigra & Dazzler have both reportedly been scrapped.
MODOK is a surprise in a sea of predictability
At the start of the year, MODOK wasn’t even on my radar. I only became aware of the Hulu series when a release date was announced in February. And the second I saw its aesthetic, I was instantly intrigued.
MODOK bears a style more or less pioneered by Robot Chicken, so it’s not surprising that the same animation house (Stoopid Buddy Stoodios) works on both shows. And, both offer a similar irreverent comedic tone. Very little in MODOK is taken seriously, just about everything is played for laughs, even some quite dark subject matters.
At a point where Disney Plus original MCU series are struggling to grab my attention, it’s the odd little sideshow that’s been shoved onto Hulu (at least in the U.S.; in the UK it’s on Disney Plus’ Star channel) that’s convincing me that Marvel has a small-screen future.
Why we need more MODOK
One of the things that makes MODOK so special is that it feels different from every other piece of Marvel content being thrown onto streaming services right now.
For starters, its stop-motion action-figure animation style, while not technically unique, lets it stand out from the recent glut of MCU content. WandaVision had its classic television eras motif to keep it fresh, but by its final episodes it was more traditional than unique. Of course, Falcon and the Winter Solider was exactly the standard Marvel comic book movie fare.
For obvious reasons, MODOK is not set within the MCU. it exists within its own canon and that is made very clear right from the start. This gives the series so much more flexibility than the Disney Plus Marvel shows are afforded. There are winking references to other comic book characters, and throwaway gags that play on Marvel’s often silly history.
MODOK’s first episode has a ridiculous scene where the main character steals Iron Man’s boot and then parades around with it like a victory trophy. This kind of tone just isn’t seen in the regular Marvel programming. Sure it’s utterly juvenile humor a lot of the time, but it’s very fun.
Patton Oswalt’s brilliant voice performance as MODOK really helps sell the show, but I think what I admire most is that it’s a clear labor of love. Oswalt also helped create the series, along with Jason Blum, and you can feel the passion for the material seeping out of every frame.
MODOK isn’t the most groundbreaking television series of all time. It’s not even my favorite show I’ve watched so far this year. But it feels refreshing compared to what is going on in the MCU right now, and that’s grabbing my attention more than another Disney Plus series.
Content created to fill a void
I’ve seen the phrase “filling a gap in the schedule” thrown around quite a lot lately when it comes to the MCU. To me, this is the current problem with the MCU. Some gaps don’t need to be filled. There’s nothing wrong with having a break in the schedule.
Some of Marvel’s recent output doesn’t feel like it’s been forged out of creative passion. Rather its content created to fulfill the purpose of ensuring Disney has plenty of new content to attract new subscribers to its streaming service.
MODOK feels like the opposite. It’s an odd show that will likely only attract a very limited audience, but the creator’s passion for this underserved Marvel character is very clear.
Looking for something new in the MCU
It’s perhaps telling that the upcoming MCU project I’m most excited about (bar Spider-Man: No Way Home, I’m a huge Spidey fan) is What If?. This alternative-timeline-focused animated series due out in August looks like something genuinely different from Marvel Studios.
It’s not another visually indistinguishable movie or series. It features (among other storylines) Marvel characters as Zombies, which is pretty out there for the MCU. Yes, it’s based on a famous comic book series and isn’t a wholly original idea, but I’m excited to see a Disney Plus series that injects something new into the MCU — even if it’s all non-canonical.
And since I’d rather watch something different, I have set a pretty high bar for Loki to vault over. That said, my editor tells me the show does feel like something different, though admittedly still very much a Marvel Studios joint.
Despite my complaining, I will eventually give Loki a chance. It deserves that much at least. However, I’ll wait till after I’ve finished MODOK and the Euro 2020 soccer tournament is over, because as it stands those two things are far more appealing to me than just another MCU series.