Captain America #313
Issue(s): Captain America #313
And both come across pretty cool. I have to tell you that i had no idea MODOK was considered something of a joke character until after the invention of the internet. Before that, he was clearly just awesome and weird. Diamondback and Bushmaster first find him while he's giving himself an energy recharge, which is already unusual...
...and here he is scurrying into his floating chair for the first time in this issue.
Dialogue like "I don't know you - you must die." and the combination of assured confidence mixed with the pragmatic retreat thanks to not being at full strength was interesting, and he actually becomes sympathetic. Plus definitely powerful; here is he blasting the Bushmaster's arms off.
Later he's forced to hide in a warehouse full of toys, which he describes as "children's playthings", a phrasing that came across as really alien to me, making me wonder just what sort of creature MODOK was.
The Serpent Society, meanwhile, come across as an effective, well organized unit.
There is some in-fighting, and even a defection (Princess Python, who correctly notes that she has no business fighting MODOK, especially without her snake)...
...but the group is nonetheless cohesive and coordinated. And probably most importantly, allowed to be successful. Despite the fact that Captain America arrives in time to capture most of them, they do succeed in their goal of assassinating MODOK.
So definitely a great introduction to a bunch of cool characters for me. And still a story that feels like it has some gravitas today, even though we all know MODOK will be back.
Some scenes read even better in retrospect, like that scene above with Cap talking gently to a dying MODOK, since i now know the extent of his murderous villainy. Only Captain America could gently cradle his giant head while he was dying.
I don't know if MODOK's death falls into the category of "disposing disposable characters". MODOK was no piker with just a few scattered appearances prior to this - he was a major player that appeared in Hulk, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Sub-Mariner, and others in addition to Captain America's book. But i could certainly see eliminating MODOK as being part of an attempt to clean out some of the weirder Silver Age stuff from the Marvel Universe. In any event, it made for a great story.
Somewhat less impressive is the introduction of Hiram "RAM" Riddley, a computer hacker. We saw earlier that Cap got backpay from the military and used it to put together an answering service that would allow him to respond directly to tips and calls for help from regular people. The problem is that the response to the service was overwhelming, and Cap didn't have anyone to help sort through the audio message or paper transcripts (Bernie is helping out but doesn't intend to make a career of it). But Cap finds that someone is tapping into his network, and it turns out to be Hiram and a group of friends, all of whom are hackers and Captain America fans, and Cap recruits them to help filter his call messages.
It's thanks to their preliminary efforts that Cap is able to show up while the Serpents are assassinating MODOK, thanks to reports of UFOs and flying armchairs.
Having a bunch of kids help Cap is kind of cringe-worthy. That said, there's a certain prescience to this unlike, say, Bill Mantlo's attempt to revive the Teen Brigade as a bunch of ham radio enthusiasts in Hulk #264. I had forgotten about Hiram and when i re-read this recently and saw Cap and Bernie struggling with the paperwork generated from Cap's answering service, my first thought was that it's the kind of problem you just wouldn't see today thanks to modern technology. And then later in the book we're shown a solution that is exactly what i had in mind, except that it's being done by a bunch of kids with dial-up modems and CGA monitors.
Still, i'd rather not have Cap hanging out with and taking missions from a bunch of kids.
The other slight annoyance, and unfortunately a sign of things to come, is Diamondback's first interaction with Cap.
Really? He's too much of a "hunk" to attack?
From the same fight, we're reminded that the colors on Cap's shield are actually painted on and not indestructible like the shield itself. Considering that, it's amazing how often the paint isn't damaged.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Avengers #262-263.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (14): show
Like you, this was my first exposure to MODOK although I picked it up in real time. I agree that this issue had some real highlights. MODOK was awesome, and the Serpent Society seemed badass. One odd thing I particularly liked was how certain Society members were teamed up in subsequent issues. I think Asp and Cottonmouth often appeared together. Seems like in reality, people would want to team up with or be assigned to other people again and again. The MODOK death scene was awesome too. Really showed how brutal both Death Adder and Cottonmouth were.
I happened to like Diamondback and her crush on Cap. I just never liked that eventually Cap would reciprocate it. DB was just not his type. Considering that Gruenwald's Quasar would hook up with Kayla Ballantine, I wonder if Gruenwald had a thing to hook straight laced, boy scout type men with punk girls.
MODOK is a grotesque character, and its easy to see why he would be mocked. Yet when handled right, his very bizarreness delves the reader into the weird and makes him very unsettling. It won't be long after this that he comes back in other forms anyway. I wonder if this issue, meant to get rid of him, somehow revived interest in him?
Posted by: Chris | October 12, 2013 1:28 AM
I think the "disposing of disposable characters" phase was over with by this point; MODOK's death probably was intended for genuine drama. Likewise, I think the villains killed by Scourge was more Gruenwald and others asking "Are there any minor villains that nobody has any plans for?" rather than a top-down directive to clean house.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 12, 2013 5:02 PM
I don't think the "disposing disposables" was quite up. The culmination of that trend, the bar massacre, is only a half dozen issues into the future from this issue. Something Grunwald himself called excessive, after the fact.
I liked diamondback's crush as well. She made the bloodstone hunt (along with Batroc's brigade) great fun and gave it a great retro feel.
this was my first exposure to Modok and I thought he seemed a bit too silly. I've since learnt to appreciate him.
And taken out of context, that "fishnet stockings" panel could make Cap look like a really creepy pick-up artist.
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 13, 2013 4:56 PM
I once read a Grunwald letter col where he justified Scourge. It appeared to be his own means of cleaning up the deadwood so I agree it wasn't "from the top"
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 13, 2013 5:00 PM
MODOK's credibility had suffered over the years, and the Ms. MODOK story right before this might have hastened his end.
Grunwald acknowledged his remorse over the Scourge kill offs, but I wonder if he didn't especially regret offing MODOK. He introduces MODAM about four years later and brings back a MODOK right at the end of his run in the "Taking AIM" story circa '95.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 13, 2013 11:32 PM
I actually made a friend because of this comic. In sixth grade a new kid in our class heard me talking about comics with some other kids. The next day he gives me this issue and an issue of Star Comics' Heathcliff. They were both in rough shape and rolled up like a newspaper. And I really didn't care for Cap a lot at the time and certainly not Heathcliff. But comics were gold to me and I appreciated the gift. We were friends from that day until I lost touch with him after high school.
Posted by: Robert | April 8, 2015 1:20 AM
This is one of my favorite issues in Gru's run. I love seeing how well organized the Serpent Society is. I love how certain members (like the prior S Squad) get along with each other better than others. These aren't just nameless goons, each individual member gets little personality traits that differentiate them from the others. Gru doesn't get enough credit for this. I always felt like he gave even the most minor characters three dimensions, even if it's just little tidbits like Anaconda being a wrestling fan, or Death Adder having seemingly normal parents. Everyone felt like a real person.
And is it just me or does anyone else get serious Metamorphosis vibes from MODOK? I wonder if Kirby was a Kafka fan.
Posted by: bigvis497 | August 31, 2017 9:03 AM
"To me, my chair." When was Modok a herald of Galactus?
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 23, 2017 6:17 AM
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