Jamie Madrox is back, baby, and it is… well, surprisingly awesome. Several X-folks have landed their own solo series over the last few years, with books like Jean Grey and Iceman focusing on two the oldest members of the X-Men. But a character like Multiple Man doesn’t exactly scream “give this guy his own book,” even for just the length of a miniseries.
While he’s an interesting character in his right, Jamie Madrox often works best in a supporting role or, conversely, as a guy who stirs the pot to get under fellow teammates’ skin. So color us shocked that Multiple Man #1 wasn’t just a great issue, it actually has us caring about the character more than ever (and yes, that includes the “They Keep Killing Madrox” storyline from X-Factor, which was arguably the best Multiple Man comic until now).
During the events of Death of X, Multiple Man fell victim to exposure of the Terrigen Mist. With Madrox prime dead, that should have been all she wrote, but as it turns out killing off a guy who can create presumably unlimited copies of himself is hard to keep down. A duplicate of Madrox is found by The New Mutants and is promptly brought to Hank McCoy (the go-to for all your weird science-related mutant needs). Beast reveals to Madrox that he’s wasting away at a rapid rate. With this upsetting revelation, Multiple Man takes things into his own hands in the hopes to stave of his enviable demise.
The setup is undeniably simple. If you were to distill Multiple Man #1 further, it’s a story of survival. But writer Matthew Rosenberg (The New Mutants: Dead Souls, The Punisher) is treating it almost as if it’s a crime story. As if Jamie finding a way to stay alive is akin to a heist. He has a plan in place…sort of…but how his plan will affect the world around him could lead to dire consequences. But Madrox being Madrox does not seemed too terribly concerned with that aspect of his plan. At least, not until he sees the physical ramifications of it.
Rosenberg’s ear for snappy dialogue is (mostly) great. The little snipes and snarky remarks between characters makes for some laugh out loud moments, but they aren’t without a dud here or there. It’s hard to fault him entirely when a joke doesn’t work, however. Balancing the deadpan humor of Magik, Beast’s subversive science jargon, Strong Guy’s big lug attitude, and Multiple Man’s sarcasm can be daunting, but Rosenberg makes it work for most of the panels in this issue. For the most part, Multiple Man #1 reads like an off shoot to Rosenberg’s run on The New Mutants.
Artist Andy MacDonald (Teen Titans: Earth One) also shines. MacDonald has a knack for capturing extraordinary characters in mundane situations like eating at a burrito at a kitchen table or reading through a tome in a library in order to ground them. The little glimpses into the everyday lives of superheroes that fill X-Men comics are what often what connects with diehard fans of the franchise. It humanizes these heroes and makes them relatable. MacDonald’s art maintains this world perfectly. He also seems to love drawing Strong Guy with his head cocked to the side like a dog watching television, which is something we can all appreciate.
Multiple Man #1 is the beginning of something beautiful. It also happens to be one of the best X-Men spinoff books in ages. Between this and The New Mutants: Dead Souls, Rosenberg might just be Marvel Comics’ go-to guy when they want to bring back dead or sidelined X-Men characters to the forefront. The most exciting aspect of this comic is that we have no idea how it’s going to play out. With so many superhero books, you can see the string. After all, we’ve been trained to see them for nearly a century. But the minutia in storytelling is what makes or breaks a truly compelling and surprising book. With characters like Jamie Madrox, anything is possible. He’s not a top tier X-Man like Wolverine or Storm, so getting thing back to the status quo isn’t necessarily a given.