MULTIPLE MAN #1 / Writer: Matt Rosenberg / Artist: Andy McDonald / Color Artist: Tamra Bonvillain / Letterer: Travis Lanham / Released: June 27, 2018 / Marvel
“One does not simply resurrect Jamie Madrox.” That sentence, spoken in my head, with perfect Sean Bean inflection, has been bouncing around my head ever since I saw there was an upcoming Madrox mini-series written by someone other than Peter David. Full disclosure: I rather liked, on an entertainment and critical level, David’s last run on X-Factor. The truth is that, while Peter David wasn’t responsible for creating Jamie Madrox, he was responsible for making Jamie Madrox into the strong character he became. Fair or not, Multiple Man #1 has to either live up to that predecessor or escape its shadow. The big question is whether or not it does either.
Jamie Madrox is alive! Sort of. Multiple Man #1 opens with Illyana’s team finding a Jamie dupe locked away, looking for a solution to the problem of all Jamie’s dupes: disappearing when he dies. This dupe has succeeded to a point, but as Beast soon learns, the dupe is very slowly decomposing. He will disappear in short order, like all the others. The dupe proceeds to steal a time traveling device from Bishop, which he uses to—wait for it—time travel. Upon his return, he is accosted by another Jamie Madrox—presumably having arrived through another time vortex. The two fight for a time in Beast’s lab, which Beast finds highly annoying, as he remarks that Madrox needs to stop hitting himself. To end the fight, the real Jamie absorbs the dupe. Before Jamie can explain to the X-Men why he’s traveled back in time, the mansion is attacked by strange variations of Deadpool, Cable, Hulk, and Cloak—all of whom, it turns out, are Jamie Madrox.
My head hurts after trying to recap this book, so I’m going to look at the least bizarre part of the issue first—Andy MacDonald’s art. The assorted X-Men in this book are all largely recognizable—an important first step, when handling long established characters, especially those with an almost cult following, like the cast of the previous X-Factor. Beyond that, what stands out most is Jamie Madrox. MacDonald gives him an almost impish quality in everything from posture to facial expression. This Madrox is a trickster in most of the traditional ways, and MacDonald telegraphs this perfectly through his drawing of the character. In a story that moved fast and isn’t filled with character exposition, MacDonald keeps readers ahead of the game if they pay attention to the art.
Aided by this superior art work is Matt Rosenberg, writer of a whiplash-inducing time-travel caper. Multiple Man #1 moves fast—so fast, it feels, that one could blink and miss the entire issue. This pacing is a benefit to Rosenberg’s story which has a lot of moving pieces and, while passing scrutiny, will not benefit from being thought about—a case of “if they’re thinking about the movie while they’re watching it I’m not entertaining them”. Rosenberg’s pacing keeps the reader reading, so when they start actively thinking about the story, they are thinking about the whole story, rather than an incomplete part of it.
The complexities of the time travel story notwithstanding, the real question here is how Rosenberg handles Madrox. The answer is that he writes a high-wire comedy that is his own, while simultaneously being a continuation of Peter David’s style from X-Factor. Madrox is key. If Rosenberg’s Madrox characterization is too far afield of what X-Factor readers expect, a big chunk of the issue’s readership will be lost right out of the gate. Rosenberg eases the reader in with a weakened Madrox dupe that displays his past offbeat sense of humor. Once the time-traveling begins and Madrox has become more a trickster-type, the reader has been brought along gently and isn’t shocked. What makes Madrox’s characterization even better is the sudden humor that seems to infect the X-Men in the story. Beast is the best example as, with dry commentary, he observes and eventually referees the fight between the two Madroxes. Rictor breaking and clearing away all of Beast’s equipment so Jamie can be put down on the table is another example. The simple image of Bishop with a bandage on his head saying, “I’m gonna kick your ass”. The interrogation of Madrox that borders on the absurd and, when interrupted by an alarm, results in this reaction:
Had I not known the issue’s writer, I doubt I would have guessed Peter David. While the characters are recognizable, David’s humor is not so broad. This isn’t a negative, though. Rosenberg charts his own path with Multiple Man #1, but he knows where his characters came from and he makes sure readers can feel that connective tissue. Rosenberg starts small and more David-esque before going big in his own style. He doesn’t try to live up to David’s X-Factor nor does he ignore it completely. He chooses the harder course—acknowledging and moving beyond. With the help of MacDonald’s art, Rosenberg succeeds. Multiple Man #1 is both an excellent continuation of Jamie Madrox’s story and a rip-roaring good time in its own right.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 crazy dupes
Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.