After a three-issue run by Tony Bedard, Jeff Parker returns to the writing duties on the title with a gem of a story.
The issue opens with the Avengers busting into the hidden lair of Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), and I mean busting in quite literally: Giant-girl and the Hulk rip off the roof while the other Avengers dive through the hole. It seems that AIM, a criminal organization of scientists, has purloined some of Stark International's technology, and the Avengers want it back. The Avengers quickly tear through the hapless hordes of AIM flunkies, but they are stopped in their tracks when they encounter AIM's leader, MODOC.
(Yes, MODOC with a C. Bear with us for a moment.)
Again, when I say the Avengers are stopped in their tracks, I mean it literally: they are taken aback when they see MODOC, a giant head suspended in the air by a rocket chair, but they are also paralyzed by MODOC's brainblasts, which freeze them in place. MODOC reveals that he is the result of exposure to a process AIM developed that maximizes brain mass to the limits the organ will permit. AIM experimented on him without his consent--"no doubt because I didn't bring the right kind of snacks to AIM barbecues"--but, fortunately for him, as a result of the process he gained the ability to control the minds of others. He used this ability to take control of AIM, force the organization to build him his hoverchair (his body is too weak to support the weight of his head), and is now prepared to take over the world, as befits a Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest.
(Conquest, see, not Killing. It's a family-friendly book.)
Thanks to the devices built into his armour, Iron Man frees himself from MODOC's mental grip, but the other Avengers, forced to do MODOC's will, quickly subdue him. MODOC decides that he can't hold the Avengers, who would certainly escape, but will instead persuade them to see the world from his perspective. And the best way to do that is to force them to undergo the same procedure he did.
MODOC escorts the Avengers to the newly-built cellular restructuring chamber, where they, still under his control, strap themselves into hoverchairs and await the machine to do its grisly work. Unfortunately for MODOC, his bumbling staff have failed to bolster the chamber to survive the stress that the bodies of the Hulk and Giant-girl impose upon it. MODOC decides not to wait around for the inevitable gigantic explosion and flees in an escape pod. The inevitable gigantic explosion quickly follows.
Slowly, the Avengers free themselves from the rubble. Thanks to Iron Man's quick thinking, his armour created a forcefield which protected the Avengers from the blast. There's no time to worry about AIM or MODOC, however, as a distress call has just come in over the armour's communication network: the Atlantean warlord Attuma has invaded Boston. The Avengers, none of whom we've seen clearly since the explosion, assemble to repulse him and his army of soldiers and monsters. "They have made a fatal calculation invading our domain," they cry.
Cut to Attuma, tearing up Boston and loving every minute of it. At least, until the Avengers arrive in splash-page glory. You need a splash-page to portray the Avengers now, given their gigantic heads and hoverchairs: despite the explosion, MODOC's exercise was a success, transforming the Avengers into macroencephalitic monstrosities.
Firing brainblasts from their engorged foreheads, the Avengers quickly rout the Atlantean soldiers. Attuma's undersea monsters fare even worse, as SPIDOC uses his mental powers to take control of them and turn them against Attuma. Realizing that they've defeated the entire Atlantean military, the MODAVENGERs see an opportunity for conquest and rocket off to Atlantis to capture it.
(Yes, the MODAVENGERs. The big splash page parodies the opening page of the Marvel Adventures: Avengers title by providing portraits and codenames of the Avengers that suit their cranially-engorged condition.)
From his backup base, MODOC observes the MODAVENGERs' activities with concern. Despite their transformation, the Avengers continue to fight crime and supervillainy, "in a more conquery sort of way." Even now the MODAVENGERs, having captured Atlantis, are anticipating a jailbreak by the Leader and are rocketing to intercept him before his plans reach fruition. Concerned, MODOC decides to lie low for now.
Cut to the Leader, who is ensconced in his secret laboratory, where he aims to give his monstrous flunky, the Abomination, even more physical power. His ranting is interrupted by the MODAVENGERs, who blast a whole in the wall and float in, making snide remarks about the Leader and what they regard as his pathetically small cranium. The Abomination rushes in to defend his master's honour, breaking apart HULKDOC's hoverchair. HULKDOC is unfazed, as he, alone among the MODAVENGERs, has the neck muscles to support the weight of his own head. He uses the weight of that head to good effect, headbutting the Abomination through a nearby wall.
While this is going on, WOLDOC has made an unsettling discovery: he's rapidly losing brainmass! It seems his mutant healing factor is undoing MODOC's tinkering with his body. The other MODAVENGERs are concerned, as Wolverine's loss of brainmass indicates that they, too, will eventually revert to their old selves, albeit more slowly.
There's a solution at hand, though. The Abomination's passage through the walls has smashed open an entryway into MODOC's hidden base. MODOC is not really surprised by this turn of events, given how incompetent his flunkies have proved: "Of course we're next to the Leader's secret base," he sighs. But at least he can turn this negative into a positive, by offering to make the MODAVENGERs' transformation permanent. All they have to do is help him conquer the world.
That's a proposal that the MODAVENGERs take seriously. "Our mission is to keep the peace and save lives! Then how better to have order than to run the planet...? That will make everyone safer. We would be excellent masters."
By now Wolverine has fully reverted to his old self, and he doesn't like this talk one bit. With a classic "NOOOO!" he smashes MODOC's hoverchair apart, knocking himself unconscious. He wakes to find himself surrounded by the Avengers, themselves back in their own bodies. It seems that, without the benefit of MODOC's expertise, the MODAVENGERs were unable to halt their reversions, and once the transformation was undone they quickly subdued the incapacitated MODOC and his AIM henchmen, all of whom are on their way to jail. Wolverine makes a (lame) joke to go out on, and we're done.
Haven't we all wondered what the Avengers would be like if they were all transformed into MODOK-style monstrosities?
No, none of us have, except for Jeff Parker. And I'm glad that he did.
A creative, original, and funny story. Bravo.
Flawless. This one gets five webs from me. I've never given out a grade that high before, but this one deserves it. Pick up a back issue if you can.