Or – “Multiple Maaan, Multiple Maaan, Doin’ The Things A Multiple Caaan…”


It’s no coincidence that, in addition to titling this particular book, “x-factor” refers to that certain something that raises a particular person, place or thing above the average and mundane. Every time I feel like I’ve gotten the whole story on the characters, they throw me a curve and I have to start all over. From Guido’s sudden murderous turn (he was brainwashed) to the Siryn/M/Madrox triangle (they weren’t) to the strange vibe surrounding “House of M” plot device Layla Miller (she’s more than she seems, but we still don’t know what that is), X-Factor has taken us on a tilt-a-whirl of life in the Marvel Universe, and it’s still the only thing Marvel publishes that even seems to acknowledge that the Decimation ever happened…

What has gone before: Jamie Madrox formed his own private investigating firm in Mutant Town, the New York ghetto where the city’s mutants have gravitated. Then, The xf1.jpgScarlet Witch slipped a gear, and only 198 mutants worldwide maintained their powers. Mutant Town was sent higgledy-piggledy, and former X-team members Wolfsbane, M, Siryn, Rictor (now depowered), Layla, and Jamie’s best friend Guido Carosella, the prosaically named Strong Guy joined him in his firm. Recent issues have led Madrox to think that his flightiness has been the result of “missing pieces,” the bits of his mind and self that are contained in rogue duplicates that are running free. He managed to absorb his rogue SHIELD agent alter-ego and this issue finds a challenge less dangerous to his physical health, but just as torturous from a psychological standpoint. Siryn and M, shopping in Paris, have found themselves in the middle of a riot, as French citizens finally gained the upper hand and burned out their city’s “Mutant Town,” leaving the women in jail, and Siryn making a “political statement” by impaling one of the arsonists with a piece of her cell door.

This month’s festivities begin on a Sunday, in a small town in Vermont. It’s the kind of tableau that you never see in a Marvel comic: an episcopal church, filled with parishioners of all ages, come to worship together the way normal folk do. There isn’t much seemingly odd about this particular congregation, and the minister has a sermon in mind that is mightily apropos to one Mr. James Madrox…


While I’m sure that advice works for some people, it’s kind of what got Jamie in trouble in the first place. We pan in, stopping to see a young boy, maybe three years old, picking his nose for a moment until Mommy stops him. The sermon continues as planned, on the subject of “dominion,” and the responsibilities that come with it. We are not masters of the world, only it’s caretakers, says the pastor and we only live in the world by the lord’s permission. As if on cue, the door opens, and the minister falters a bit as he sees the latest member of his flock, Multiple Man himself. Why would the minister get thrown by the presence of one man?


Because, my friends, Pastor John Maddox is not as he seems. The pastor excuses himself, and literally runs away, a dead run, with Madrox quickly in pursuit. Jamie almost corners John, but is himself intercepted by one of the parishioners (the mommy with nose-picking son), who asks if he’s okay before suddenly noticing his strange mode of dress. Jamie, being Jamie, plays along to buy some time.


Suddenly, it’s not so clear cut. This duplicate has done what Jamie never imagined he could do: settled down, made a life and a family, actually reproducing the Madrox genes. It may also be worth pointing out that recent issues have made it clear that those genes are pretty darned special, and you wonder what effect losing Daddy will have on a young boy like this. The horror in Jamie’s face is clear… for the first time, he wonders if he has the right to reclaim a piece of his own soul, and it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. Meanwhile, in gay Par-eee (where the mademoiselles go “Ooh! La la!”) Siryn and M have had their fill of the gendarmes hospitality, and discussing something we don’t see. “Monet… that’s… that’s horrific! Not to mention sacriligious,” accuses Siryn. “Nonsense. it was a penalty used by Persian kings and Alexander the Great hundreds of years before the church co-opted it.” I have a horrible suspicion that I know what she’s talking about, as the ladies knock down a wall and soar away (“I really used to love Paris,” sneers Monet in that Monet way), leaving behind a multiple-murdering arsonist with a touch of social commentary.


On the one hand, I’m glad she didn’t KILL him, which was my assumption last issue, but I have to say I’m with Siryn on the “horrific” aspect of crucifixtion as punishment. M’s rationale, though, does strike a chord for me: “He killed people, Theresa. Helpless ex-mutants. And then, he laughed about it. Our people’s blood is on his hands. Now, so is HIS.” There’s a gruesome sort of symmetry to it. Back in Vermont, Jamie spends some time with ‘his’ son (named “Daniel” after Madrox’s own father), and even flirts with ‘his’ wife. “Oh, I’m going to hell for this one,” he laments after a deep kiss from Mrs. Maddox. He retreats into Maddox’s study as mother and son prepare for Daniel’s bath, and is interrupted by… himself. “That’s my wife’s picture and I’m asking you to put it down.” John is a brave one, knowing that Jamie can absorb him back at the speed of thought, but willing to step up to protect his family. “Looks like we have a dilemma here,” says Jamie. “Appropriate choice of word. ‘Dilemma,’ coming from the Greek meaning two assumptions,” replies John. And Jamie is here to assume John’s life again, isn’t he?


I love Peter David’s work, and the art is beautiful, conveying tension while only showing two men standing in a room… In Paris, the dynamic duo returns to the mutant ghetto, to find that the man wasn’t lying. The mob did, indeed, burn the entire place, killing everyone inside. Well, not quite everyone. Monet finds a young girl named Nicole, crying on the steps of her former home. When asked about her parents, Nicole sniffs that the police “took their bodies away.” I tear up a little, as she cries that she has no one left in the world. “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll bring you to the proper authorities,” says Siryn, the daughter of a policeman. “Screw THAT,” snorts M, the emotionally abused child with solitude issues…


Holy crap… Is that Gambit? This just got interesting… And it’s very sweet to see M, always close to the vest with her emotions, to the point of being known as a “cold bitch,” refusing to let a little girl go off alone into French orphanages. Sure, it’s irresponsible and probably illegal, but it’s touching, in a bull-headed sort of way. My only hope is that her diplomatic immunity will keep them from spending the rest of their life in women’s prison. Though that might be interesting: two young nubile mutants, serving a life sentence in a super-powered prison in a post-Registration act world. They can call it “Cellblock X!” See, good @#*!$ ideas, I got over here. The Mexican standoff continues in the Northeast, as John fights for the life he’s made, and to protect the family. Jamie snorts that nothing will happen to wife and son, but John makes the real point: if he disappears, their life, their family is gone forever, and they won’t even know WHY. Jamie responds with his own drama, screaming that if John thinks that’s the way to go, he should just shoot and kill Madrox right now. Will you protect your family at the cost of another life, John? He slumps to the floor, in tears, knowing that he can’t do it. “You have dominion over me. Make it quick.”

Back to Paris, where M, Nicole, and Theresa have boarded Monet’s jet to come home, but the local police have a few questions, arriving in force with their “OOOWWEEE OOOOWWEEEE” noises and knee-bent running around all the time. No, wait, sorry, that’s the silly English Kuh-Niggits. My bad. Suddenly, something happens…


Okay… if that is Gambit, his powers have certainly changed a bit. But I stand by my initial thought, and wonder what the deal is with Nicole that he’s watching over her. Or, is he watching over Monet and Theresa? This is interesting. In either case, it’s make or break time at the Maddox household, as an unknowing Mrs. Maddox walks down the stairs, unaware that her life as she knows it is over, that her beloved John was only an echo of another man, and nothing will ever be the same again. “John… you look different,” she says…


“That’s worth a small piece of my soul any day.” As a father myself, I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at the Maddox family reunion, and I cheer for Madrox for making the right decision. He may have “given up” a piece of his soul, but it seems to me that by doing so, he earned back much more. I love this book, and the subtle way that the two plots intertwine with their themes of family, and loss, and identity. I don’t know if anything will actually be better for Jamie from now on, but this is a small victory, and a heroic moment and that is something to be proud of.

There’s no “big event” here, nothing special to make speculator clamor for this issue, other than Peter David’s name on the cover and some nice art, but this may be the best individual issue Marvel has put out this year, more touching than even the death of Captain America, with an emotional core that puts the flashier books to shame. If they still did the “Best of The Year” collections, this could easily be the capstone. Even my co-worker Jason (an anime fan who shows a preference towards the DCU) said this issue was beyond excellent. Peter David, I salute you. It’s books like this that keep me collecting comics, the moments that put the “human” back in superhuman. X-Factor gets 4.5 stars, and deservedly so, words and pictures seamlessly merging into a smooth, satisfying, and beautiful story.



About Author

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.


  1. I am almost certain that the shadowy figure is Mr. Sinister. What with his recent ‘X-Men Annual’ appearance, he’ll probably be scouting around looking for undepowered Mutants to use in his…his vile plot! Or whatever.

  2. Matthew Peterson on

    That’s interesting… I hadn’t considered that. Mostly because I think Mister Sinister is ridiculous, but, still, the resemblance is there.

    Also, it’s funnier if you say his name to rhyme, with the accent on the third syllable: MISter sinISter.

  3. Hands down, X-Factor is the best bookMarvel has with an “X” in the title. The only problem with the Mr. Sinister theory is that his hand doesn’t look like Mr. Sinister’s. But then again, Mr. Sinister played a prominent role in Peter David’s first X-Factor run a while ago. I remember it was a plot line involving Val Cooper that got dropped back when all X-titles were still good.

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