Multiple Multiple Men in Multiple Man 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Multiple Man 1

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 am so annoyed right now.

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:

What is going on here?

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?

2 comments on “Multiple Multiple Men in Multiple Man 1

  1. I think I’m being pretty charitable in calling myself a “relative neophyte.” I’ve been reading X-titles pretty regularly for about five years. I get that that’s a drop in the bucket in terms of history to draw from, but jesus, if that’s not enough to catch me up, there’s something wrong with the writing.

  2. I didn’t have a problem with some of the anonymous X-Men, as they are meaningless to thise issue itself. Rictor is a nice touch considering his close relationship with Madrox, but that doesn’t affect the narrative so it doesn’t matter that many people won’t recognise him. Same as the other two, that I couldn’t identify. Who cares, they are unimportant.
    I also didn’t have a problem with that Hulk scene, though that may be because I do know which hero that was. It was Cloak, from Cloak and Dagger. Surprised you didn’t recognise Cloak and Dagger, Drew, as to me Cloak and Dagger always felt like iconic b-list characters that would always eventually turn up somewhere, especially in street level New York books like Spiderman. Though now that I think about it, other than the brand new series by Hopeless that just started and was announced a day before release, the most notable example of Cloak and Dagger being in comics recently I can think of is Noelle Stevenson’s masterpiece Secret War: Runaways, which unfortunately reverses the roles as part of multiversal weirdness (it is tragic that that book was never spun off into a new Exiles series after Secret Wars. Would have been incredible). And honestly, while Marvel can never know exactly which characters are obscure and which aren’t, I think “Do they have their own movie or TV Show?” is a good guide for which characters count as not obscure.So I don’t think that is the issue

    But the real problem is the lack of fezes. There is a massive lack of fezes in this issue.

    The Doctor Who episode the Big Bang begins with future best Marvel actress, Karen Gillan, saying “Okay, kid, this is where it gets complicated…”, as part of a truly elaborate 25 minute time travel sequence that involves three different timelines for the Doctor and two different timelines for Amy Pond. And so, a fez is used. The Doctor from the future wears a fez, so that we can tell the difference between that Doctor and the present Doctor. Because the present Doctor doesn’t have a fez. And we understandably instinctively when the present Doctor becomes the Fez Doctor, as he finds a fez. And the third Doctor we meet, from even further in the future than the Fez Doctor, has his clothes burnt and battle damaged. And so we know that this future Doctor that has time travelled in is a future Doctor because his clothes currently aren’t battle damaged. Meanwhile, the two Amy Ponds are performed by different actresses representing the character at different ages. In fact, the young one uses the full name Amelia specifically to make it easier to tell the difference between them in conversation.

    Which is to say, fezes and similar superficial traits are used throughout the episode to help keep track of the characters and make sure you understand who is who (while previous Madrox stories didn’t have as much time travel as this one, if I remember correctly, the way they usually told signified the difference between Madrox Prime and a dupe in X-Factor, when required, was that Madrox Prime would be the only one wearing the coat, while the others just had the shirt).

    And this issue fails miserably at this. It is hard to tell which Madrox is which. There is no way to tell the difference between the two Madroxes, which creates all sorts of confusion. For example, which Madrox absorbed which Madrox back into himself? The scene reads like the Madrox who stole from Bishop absorbed the other one, but then he says he’s from the future. This feels like an important distinction to make, and the fact that that scene is so painfully unclear is a real problem. There is such a horrendous lack of clarity with respect to the Madroxes, it makes the rest of the issue too hard to understand. The basics of the story should be easy. The procedural elements are relatively clear. But with such little clarity of which Madrox did what and who each Madrox is, the story turns into a confusing mess.

    The solution is simple. This story needs a lot more fezes. A lot more cues designed to help you tell which character is which. With that, we would have the clarity to properly track how the characters despite the timelines and dupes

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