Or – “Jamie Madrox, Agent of S.H.E.E.S.H.”

xf10.jpgreviewbubble.jpgEverybody knows what it’s like to be indecisive, unable to make a decision. I’ve spent the entire year 2007 barely capable of deciding fries vs. onion rings, one of the unpleasant side effects of the year from Aitch Ee Double Hockey Sticks. Imagine how much worse it would be if I could actually separate portions of my personality and let them fight it out among themselves… You really have to feel bad for James Madrox. Not only do his moods get the best of him, sometimes they go walkabout and dig holes that he has to climb out of. Given the sheer number of people I’ve wanted to throttle in the past two years, that sort of autonomy would be very bad… And now, Jamie’s stuck in the hands of Hydra, dragged away by a Girl Scout to parts unknown. How’ll he get out of THIS one?

xf1.jpgI’m predicting the standard Madrox mix of aplomb, dumb luck, and the notion that fortune favors the stupid… If you weren’t here last time (or if you read 57 comics a month like certain reviewers I could mention), here’s what you need to know: Jamie Madrox is on a mission to track down and reabsorb all his errants fragments, all his lost duplicates, many of which have long-established lives of their own. One of them has recently been discovered to be working with SHIELD, helping to track down unregistered superhumans. Since Jamie Prime has gone on the record as being fully against the Registration Act (at no small cost to himself and X-Factor Investigations), this particular backstabbing stings a bit more. Unfortunately, in the attempt to FIND his dupe, he’s been mistaken FOR said dupe, and captured by agents of Hydra.

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“Super Hero Intimidation and Evisceration Division,” indeed. Jimbo Mad is taken to a secret Hydra base (and I’m very entertained by the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ restraints) and introduced to one Doctor Locke, Hydra’s brainwasher du jour. More interestingly, he previously worked for Singularity Investigations, and handled the brainwashing of Guido Carosella (Jamie’s pal Strong Guy) causing Guido to kill an innocent man, and nearly ruining his life. When asked “Can I get you anything?” by the smarmy doc, Jamie replies in the affirmative. “A gun with a bullet I can put into your brain.” Locke laughs it off, (“You make Bruce Banner look like the mental health poster boy.” Heh…) and proceeds to lock Madrox into his Mind#@$er 2000, but Jamie interrupts his monologue.

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There are a very few superhumans in the Marvel Universe who I would really fear telling me they’re going to kill me: Gorilla-Man. Galactus. The aforementioned Mr. Banner. Colossus. I’d even be afraid of Peter Parker, but I don’t know how afeared I’d be of l’il ol’ Multiple Man, and Dr. Locke shares my skepticism. Meanwhile, in Paris, Siryn and M (known to their friends as Theresa and Monet) are enjoying a meal, having jetted off to Paris to cool down last month. Both women slept with different Jamie duplicates, and both are having trouble processing the weirdness thereof.

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More stunt-casting by Marvel pencillers, as Siryn looks eerily like Laura Prepon from That 70’s Show. I didn’t care for it in Thunderbolts, and I don’t care for it here. In any case, M’s arrogance just leaves Theresa bemused, until both are distracted by the smell of smoke. A short walk leads them to Paris’ version of Mutant Town, and a near-riot with humans burning a multi-armed effigy and chanting “Le Mutie Et Estupide” or whatever the heck the French for “Get Out Freak” would be. This development is startling, though not as disturbing as what’s going on inside the Brainwhisker Turbo, as Jamie imagines himself back on the farm where he grew up, facing his unhappy parents. Mommy Madrox slaps hell out of Baby, telling him how horrible a son he’s been, which is Fruedian and unnerving enough. But it’s not nearly as unpleasant as when Daddy arrives…

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Due to illness, the part of Daddy Madrox will be played by James Cromwell. If you think the sight of Zefram Cochrane whipping a superhero is weird, wrong, demented and sad, then you’ll be totally weirded out by Laura Prepon screaming a horde of racist Frenchies into next week, while Cher bounces bullets off her breasts. Part of me wonders if Marvel is opening themselves up for lawsuits involving unauthorized use of celebrity likenesses, though I hope not. In any case, I say, MAKE UP YOUR OWN DAMN FACES! Ranting aside, M and Siryn break the riot up, defending the poor mutants, but attract the attention of the gendarmes. They consider running, but Siryn has second thoughts.

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As the ladies do the right thing, Jamie is poised to be the nastiest Hydra of all. “Cut off one arm, and three more bodies spring up to beat the snot out of you.” Locke has (supposedly) wiped Jamie’s mind clean, leaving him open to the reprogramming that will make him return to SHIELD as a double agent. The Hydras gather to see their new SHIELD plant, and Doctor Locke muses about his powers (more on that train of thought later) and thumps him, causing two Jamies to… well, just kinda stand there catatonic. Just ’cause the lights are off, doesn’t mean anybody’s home, though. Jamie is still hallucinating, and Doctor Locke (and I) are about to see why to fear l’il ol’ Multiple Man.

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And he’ll slap two friends, and they’ll slap two friends… and so on, and so on. Suddenly, Locke feels fear, as the room is filling with Madroxes, hundreds upon hundreds of him, and the Hydra agents are moments from being crushed to death. “Shoot the original!” screams Dr Locke… “Which one’s the original?” panicks back the Hydra sniper. Heh. Peter David, I salute you. That’s the most ingenious use of a mutant power since some random member of The Marauders pinned Angel up like a butterfly in the 80’s. Back in Paris, M is horrified, railing in French about the public toilet, while Siryn tries to calm her down. They did the right thing, the only thing they could do… Suddenly, the gendarmes drag in another prisoner, the ringmaster of Le Towne du Mutante riots. Siryn demands to know what happened, as a cold chill goes up my back. “You want to know what happened, mad’moiselle?”

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Oh, $#!+. That is most assuredly not good. Though, I think M’s father is a diplomat, maybe she has immunity? The most frightening thing is the complete lack of emotion on her face as she kills him. Granted, he needed killing, was culpable of at least inciting to riot and manslaughter, but that is as disturbing as Jamie squashing a room full of Hydras, if not more so. Back at Casa de Hydra, SHIELD has finally arrived, as usual, a day late and five bucks short. Agent Renegade Dupe Madrox leads a team in to find a room full of mighty dead Hydras (and there ain’t two more growing back in ANY of their places). It’s like a classic locked room mystery…

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Aaaaand, you’re screwed. Jamie’s renegade is absorbed (although, usually, when a duplicate is absorbed, the original Jamie, clothing and all, remains. In this case, he was actually able to reintegrate and leave himself in the DUPE’S clothing, better to scam SHIELD with), and mission accomplished. As Jamie thinks about it, he realizes that he just killed a couple dozen complete strangers, and “I don’t feel anything. No regret. No horror. No elation. Just… empty. And that’s bad. Very… very… bad.” That, my friends, is scary.

This was a VERY good issue, with some funny lines, especially Monet’s french rant about the toilet, and some creepy revelations about both Multiple Man and M. The members of X-Factor are shaping up to be entertainingly disfunctional, reminding me of how good X-Men used to be (circa 110-140ish, before the book started infinitely regressing into it’s own navel). And one of the unexplained (or, to be more honest, unexamined) aspects of Jamie’s power is taken to it’s logical, evil extreme. “Envision him holding a nuclear device…” *thumps Jamie, making an identical dupe, down to his clothing* “The duplicate would likewise be holding a nuclear device. Imagine a nuclear ARMY!” Even Hydra’s finest minds can’t figure out how Jamie’s powers work, but if you think about it, it makes him almost inhumanly powerful. Even the dark path we’re treading doesn’t diminish the quality of the work, with excellent, subtle art (marred only by the “stunt casting”), and excellent writing, earning a hard-fought 4 stars.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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