Since Brian Michael Bendis abducted Jeff Parker's main character for his Avengers story where the possessed Ben Grimm beats the snot out of the Red Hulk and punts him from Yancy Street to Vermont, Parker's devoted his Hulk books to working around that, focusing on the looming threats that were closing in on Thaddeus Ross before this whole Fear Itself mess began. Since he can't write about his protagonist, the antagonists get the spotlight, and even M.O.D.O.K. and Zero/One find reasons to start beating back the Nazi hordes.
That's right. In Hulk #38, M.O.D.O.K. fights Nazis! MODOK JOINS THE FIGHT!
Really, that's all you need out of comics – a giant headed guy with a tiny body in a big spidery yellow battlesuit fighting Nazis. But Parker gives us more – the dual threats of MODOK and Zero/One, who up until this point had been eerily creepy creatures of technology, discover each other's existences, how well their goals complement each other's, and unite the threats they pose into a greater one that will spell hell for the Red Hulk eventually, but right now, they're fighting Nazis, and it's so rare where everyone gets the occasion to genuinely root for MODOK.
Seriously, MODOK is pretty much nothing but badass here. He descends on a battered Ross to try and kill him, preventing Zero/One's assassin Black Fog from doing the same before he can, but he's supervillain smart enough to fall back and phase out of sight when Evil Thing returns with his limitless power. In other words: "CONCLUSION: THIS IS NOT AN OPTIMAL TIME FOR ENGAGEMENT." And yet, once Ross is hammer-spanked out of town, MODOK surmises the attack plan of the Serpent's forces – hammer-guys first to break ranks, then the Nazi robot ground forces march in for conquest. In a great moment, the kind we never see, MODOK stares down the robo-hordes marching in lockstep towards him, while his LMD lackeys are in a mild panic about convincing him to retreat or phase out of the way again, since "Manhattan will fall in a projected 2.3 hours." Instead, MODOK just gets an angry Clint Eastwood glare, and slowly responds… "No. It. Will… NOT!!!" And the big headed bastard starts tearing into the Nazibots!
Hot damn, you could almost swear the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing was a hero! He even wisecracks to a cop he saves by blasting a Nazi mech and hearing his death screech. "Quite literally a Wilhelm scream." Seriously, that's a Spider-Man joke if ever there was one. Sure, that heroism notion gets undercut a little later when he hooks up with Zero/One and we see their motivation for attacking them is because the Nazis are brute force throwbacks who "had their chance to conquer the world years ago," and that the big head man and the creepy computo-lass represent the progression towards the future, but still! MODOK is fighting Nazis! YAY!
Parker's love for MODOK is transparent and wonderful, since even after constructing the massive Fall of the Hulks event with him as one of the main focal points, he's still employing the wonderfulness of him with entirely welcome regularity – and there's even teasing that Zero/One is potentially a love interest for him. A love interest! For MODOK! Give Jeff Parker a MODOK solo title! I want to see him juggle techno-terrorist aims, his robot pals and his unrequited crush on an emotionless robo-lady while trying to hold down a job at the Daily Bugle! Wait, uh… aw, Parker would have a better pitch than that, and it almost seems like he's making one in Hulk #38.
I like what Elena Casagrande is doing artistically, too. I don't love her Red Hulk, but I love just about everything else. Zero/One's creepy stripe-wave effect works, Black Fog is murderously scary, Zzzax is a giant electrical beast who looks like some kind of Dragonball villain, but it completely works, and MODOK… well, MODOK is just badass, and it's very rare that one gets to say that. My only wish was that he still had the bowl haircut, but if that's the sacrifice necessary to make MODOK rule this hard, I'll take it.
The Red Hulk wakes up at the end of the issue, and we're promised that Omegex action that had to be put off for Fear Itself, but after this issue, there's no way MODOK can stay on the back burner for very long, and being a complete mark for the big brain, I may be biased, but I'm on board for the long haul.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9/10