by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The X-Men represent a particularly confusing corner of the Marvel Universe. It would be hard enough to keep the ever-growing list of characters straight even without all of the time travel, shape-shifting, and body-doubling shenanigans. I suppose mileage varies depending on how familiar one is with all of those characters and timelines, but for me, the most readable X-Men stories tend to strip things down: a few characters, a specific problem, and clearly defined parameters that limit the solutions. Unfortunately, Multiple Man 1 doesn’t do a great job of laying out any of those components.
I mean, the inciting incident is convoluted enough even without any of the complicating events of this issue: one copy of Jamie Madrox survived the terrigen mists by hiding out in a bunker, but he’s still dying, and has just been discovered by the X-Men. But who are those X-Men? Magick and Strong Guy are kind of unmistakable, but Rictor is a deep enough cut that some more information might have been helpful, and the other two members of that team aren’t ever mentioned by name, so I have no clue who they are. And things only get more disorienting from there, as Madrox’s plan finds him traveling through time to skip to the part where Beast has discovered a cure for what’s killing him. But he only skips fifteen minutes into the future?
I think the Jamie at the start of this scene is the one we’ve been with from the start, and he just messed up his time travel. And I think the Jamie that tackles him is from further in the future, trying to prevent Beast from making a cure. But writer Matt Rosenberg and artist Andy MacDonald almost go out of their way to avoid giving us any orienting information. When we see Madrox disappear into the time stream, he’s not wearing a jacket, so I’m legitimately not sure either of these are the one we’d been following all along, but giving only one a jacket sure would have been an easy shorthand for keeping them straight.
I’m similarly confused when (what turns out to be) the Madrox brigade shows up. We see Madrox-ed versions of Deadpool, Cable, Hulk, and the Shroud(?), but there’s one introduction that straight-up baffled me. Look at how Hulk enters the scene:
Maybe this is more obvious to anyone who immediately recognizes the power-set that goes with that purple hood, but I think I can be forgiven for thinking this is depicting the hood guy hulking out. I mean, you see arms and legs emerge from within a cape, you assume they’re the limbs of the person wearing the cape. Moreover, the next page makes it look like Hulk is throwing off the cape, so I had to flip back to re-form a theory when the dude in the purple cape shows up again a few panels later.
There’s too much to keep straight in this issue for Rosenberg and MacDonald to leave us in the lurch like this. I get that they wanted some of these things to be surprising or confusing, but simple costuming changes or demonstrations of powers are all I really need to be able to keep up. I can’t speak to how well it’s accommodating X-Men die-hards, but this series sure doesn’t seem designed for relative neophytes like myself.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?