Ghost of Van Lente Past: Supervillain Team-Up/MODOK’s 11
Greg Burgas had a problem with the ending to this series, and I’ll admit that I had a problem with it, as well, but I think for a different reason than Greg. Otherwise, though, this was yet another fun series by Van Lente that is steeped in character-oriented storytelling, as usual.
The whole basis of this series, about a group of supervillains thrown together on a plot by MODOK, while pretty much EVERYone is double-crossing everyone else SOMEhow, is that you are supposed to get to know, and to get to ENJOY the characters involved, and I think Fred Van Lente does a nice job achieving this.
While some of the personalities may not be what you are used to (Rocket Racer, in particular, is way weirder than usual), everyone, in their own way, is pretty easy to root for. Heck, the Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing is even fairly charismatic!!
The plot of the comic is basically unimportant, as this is a basically a modern day It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, as the supervillains are on a mission to retrieve a MacGuffin, but who really cares? The reason you’re reading is to see how they interact with each other, and especially how they try to screw each other over.
Van Lente chose a pretty goofy cast – Armadillo, The Spot, Rocket Racer, The Living Laser (who Van Lente, oddly enough, in issue #5 has the Laser do something quite similar to what he does in a story Van Lente wrote for an almost simultaneously released issue of Marvel Adventures: Iron Man), Puma, Mentallo, Super-Adaptoid and Mandarin, Jr., but the choices allow him to do a lot more with the characters, and that freedom was quite helpful.
Issue #4 has a REALLY good twist regarding who Rocket Racer had been talking to through most of the series.
Francis Portella does a decent job with the artwork on the series.
Okay, as to the ending -
MODOK kills off his ex-girlfriend, the mother of Van Lente’s creation, The Scorpion (the ex-girlfriend was ALSO created by Van Lente). Burgas said:
Okay, so M.O.D.O.K.’s entire plan in this mini-series is to kill a woman he thought dumped him, even though they were never dating. Fuck the heck? I know he’s evil and all that, and this series just shows how evil while also showing how brilliant he is, and it’s nice, actually, to see him for a change, but that just left a bad taste in my mouth. Monica is surely evil, but does she deserve this? It just didn’t sit well with me, especially because the twists and turns of the plot have made this a fairly entertaining series. But all that to kill a woman simply because he once thought they were dating, but weren’t? Why does this bother me? I guess because it seems like a nerd thing to do, and I can’t help feeling that people reading this will cheer and think, “The bitch deserved it because she should have seen how much of a genius M.O.D.O.K. was (whatever his name was before the experiment) and thrown herself at him! Go, M.O.D.O.K.!” All those minions on the last page, hailing M.O.D.O.K. as he says, “Today I destroyed my ex-girlfriend! Tomorrow … the world!” They’re us. Comic book nerds. Or am I completely off-base?
I don’t think Greg is COMPLETELY off-base, but that’s not how I read the scene.
I don’t think we’re supposed to sympathize with MODOK at all. He’s just a crazy, evil bastard.
That being said, I also thought it was a poor decision to kill off Monica in this spot, mostly because I think she is a good character, but also because, yes, it DOES add a certain bitter flavor to an otherwise tasty series.
I think it was a bit of a bring-down (note, that’s the reason why I don’t think Greg’s COMPLETELY off-base, as I think part of his position is that the ending throws the series off a bit – I don’t agree with the whole “we are supposed to be the henchmen” thing).
But, all in all, I probably would still recommend the series. It had a lot of fun interactions, and interesting twists and turns.
Welcome to my Van Lente Day song
I’d like to thank you for the year
So I’m sending you this Van Lente card
To say it’s nice to have you here
I’d like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Van Lente Day with me
Step into Van Lente Day
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Van Lente Day
The admission’s free