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Look Back: M.O.D.O.K. Returns to His Hometown to Cash in on Dark Reign!

This is "Look Back," a feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first week of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second week looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third week looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth week looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

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For our 2009 entry, we look at September 2009's M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay by Ryan Dunlavey.

Dunlavey, of course, is the brilliant artist on Action Philosophers, Action Presidents and Comic Book History of Comics, all of which he worked on with writer Fred Van Lente. This project, though, he wrote himself (and drew and colored and lettered).

Dark Reign, if you don't recall, was an interesting period in Marvel history following Civil War and Secret Invasion where Norman Osborn had taken control of SHIELD from Tony Stark (re-naming it HAMMER) and, in effect, evil had taken over control of the Marvel Universe. Osborn put together a "Cabal" of other major villains and they sort of divvied up control of the world until such a point where the superheroes were able to wrest control away from Osborn (of course, Stark aided Osborn in this by helping to establish the Superhuman Registration Act into effect, thereby giving Osborn a lot more power than normal). However, during this point, things still looked pretty bad and M.O.D.O.K. wanted to get in on this new world order, leading to this one-shot.

I love Dunlavey's use of the space of the cover to explain to readers just what to expect from this comic...

It's definitely not going to be a serious drama. Dunlavey's artwork is excellent throughout the book. His style really lends itself to the sort of bizarre humor that is at the centerpiece of the book. Ryan Penagos wrote an interesting article in the back matter of this issue about why M.O.D.O.K. is such an interesting character, because he can be played so many different ways. He can be a disturbingly evil character but he can also be a fun character - he's one of those rare villains who fits into a number of different approaches without ruining him for one or the other.

Anyhow, M.O.D.O.K. bombards Osborn with requests for inclusion in Osborn's "dark reign"...

A frustrated Osborn ultimately decides to send M.O.D.O.K. on a "mission" to M.O.D.O.K's own hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania...

Dunlavey does a great job with M.O.D.O.K.'s manner of speech, where he talks about himself in the third person a lot and calls everyone minion.

He gets there just in time for his 10th high school reunion and things go awkwardly...

He tries to avoid two bullies. He hides with his dad and Dunlavey gets in an interesting "Trump is evil" joke from TEN YEARS AGO...

The bullies hire Box, from Alpha Flight, to come beat up M.O.D.O.K...

Of course, after a fight that M.O.D.O.K. barely wins, we see that the world is really messed up when the un-registerd Canadian (thereby "foreigner") superhero is considered the bad guy and thus M.O.D.O.K. inadvertently becomes a local SUPERHERO!

It is a delightfully twisted take on how messed up things were in the Marvel Universe at the time.

If you have any suggestions for September (or any other later months) 2009, 1994, 1969 and 1944 comic books for me to spotlight, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com! Here is the guide, though, for the cover dates of books so that you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional amount of time between the cover date and the release date of a comic book throughout most of comic history has been two months (it was three months at times, but not during the times we're discussing here). So the comic books will have a cover date that is two months ahead of the actual release date (so October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago was released, since there was internet coverage of books back then.

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