Ant-Man 3: Corey Stoll's Surprise Return Explained: Who Is MODOK?

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Ant-Man, MODOK, Yellowjacket, Darren Cross, Corey Stoll

The new Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer arrived, and it’s brought fans more than a few things to obsess over—including the first look at the MCU's MODOK.

The movie’s second teaser showcased multiple reasons to be excited about the upcoming adventure. Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror remains awesome, Kathryn Newton looks great suiting up in her own suit, and there’s even a direct nod to the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.

But there was also MODOK, a villain many thought could never properly be adapted to screen. Yet, here he is, interpreted to perfection while still maintaining the serious stakes of the situation.

However, the most surprising part of the big MODOK reveal wasn’t just his extremely comic-accurate design, but rather, something only eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed: the villain's giant floating head is none other than Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross.

Yes, the very same one who supposedly died at the end of Scott’s debut adventure. So what’s that all about?

What Has Darren Cross Been up To?

Ant-Man, Corey Stoll

Correy Stoll first made his appearance in the MCU as Darren Cross, eventually becoming the Yellowjacket in the original Ant-Man movie. By the film's end, however, he’s supposedly lethally shrunk down thanks to Scott Lang’s risky maneuvers. Clearly, however, that wasn’t the end of the villain’s journey like many assumed.

So what exactly happened to him, and what’s his role to play in Quantumania?

One thing that’s important to remember is how time works differently in the Quantum Realm. The effects seem very sporadic as well—that is to say, the writers can basically manipulate it however they want.

Has Cross been stuck there for months? Years? Decades? It’s impossible to say. In fact, given the Multiversal focus of these current MCU films, it’s entirely possible that this Darren Cross is a Variant and not the same one who Scott went up against in Ant-Man.

One of the biggest questions is, what will he do in the film? Is he on Kang’s side or against him? Perhaps this is one of those situations where Scott has to team up with an old villain against a common enemy.

Some might be wondering if the source material potentially helps fans paint a better picture of what to expect. Simply put, the answer is a solid no.

The Differences of MODOK From the Page to Screen

Corey Stoll, MODOK

MODOK has been a character fans have wanted to see in the MCU for a long time. However, despite visually being on the money when it comes to accuracy, this version of the villain is not the same as the source material. 

In the comics, the floating antagonist is instead someone named George Tarleton.

Darren Cross becoming MODOK instead is an entirely unique change for Marvel Studios, and there’s no precedent for it—meaning, there’s no way to truly predict the trajectory of the character.

No doubt there’ll be some fans upset that Cross’s character will be fused with Tarleton's, which is understandable. But, the character is a hard one to pull off—and clearly, this change played a big part in Marvel feeling comfortable enough to bring such a ridiculous villain to life.

What’s great about Stoll returning for this Kang-centric movie is how there’s actually a massive nod toward MODOK and his identity twist in the fifth episode of Loki. When Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief is at the end of time itself, a massive Yellowjack helmet can be seen in the background.

Little did fans know at the time that this seemingly was a direct reference to the character’s next appearance.

Borrowing From the Source Material

While Cross’ time as the villain is completely new, there are elements of the source material the movies could still play off of. The biggest of them being his involvement with Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM).

The mysterious science organization was technically introduced in Iron Man 3, but AIM never really became the evil group they are in the comics. Over a decade of in-universe time has passed since they were last seen, so there’s plenty of space for the writers to take them in whatever direction they choose.

In the comics, MODOK is often associated with AIM (and Intelligencia for those She-Hulk fans), usually finding himself in a leadership position within its ranks. This is even incorporated into the story of the recent Avengers video game.

While it’s highly unlikely they’re involved in anything happening in the Quantum Realm, if the villain does happen to make it out of Quantumania alive and into Earth-616, his arrival could lead to a revamp at AIM. Maybe those yellow beekeeper outfits can finally make it on screen.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Meet MODOK

Corey Stoll, MODOK

Just knowing that MODOK is getting a live-action is something nearly all comic book fans would have never believed, even a decade ago. Yet, here the world is, with a massive movie starring Ant-Man and his family going up against one of the most dangerous Marvel villains to ever exist while also having to deal with the return of the hero’s first proper big bad.

Needless to say, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is going to be quite the trip.

With Kang taking most of the spotlight for the film’s marketing, it’s hard to grasp just how much of a presence MODOK will have. It’s unlikely he’ll overpower Kang in this regard, but there’s no way Marvel brought back Corey Stoll for the role only for a few select scenes.

Fingers crossed that the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is being set up for a long journey in the MCU over the next few years—provided he doesn’t get wiped off the map in Scott Lang’s conflict with Kang.

Quantumania hits theaters on February 17, later this year.

Release Date
February 17, 2023
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.