Madrox: Multiple Choice
In Madrox: Multiple Choice, writer Peter David refreshes the superhero story by combining it with elements of detective noir. Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, has the ability to create duplicates of himself. He’s opened a investigation agency, staffed by other mutants, but the case here is a little more personal. He’s got to figure out who killed one of his bodies.
Jamie’s been expanding his skills by sending out duplicates to learn new things and try different experiences. One of them returns after being stabbed, only to pass away on the doorstep. The main Jamie sets out to find who and why, while the duplicate he leaves behind is hired by a woman who thinks her husband is cheating on her via astral projection.
Rahne Sinclair, a werewolf and one of his former superhero teammates, works for Jamie, as does Strong Guy. The characterization is great; although Peter David has worked with these characters before, on the title X-Factor, the new reader doesn’t need to know anything but what’s provided. There’s a lot of information packed into the story about the way these personalities relate to and care about each other. The art by Pablo Raimondi and Drew Hennessy is nicely realistic, which grounds the more fantastic occurrences, and quite attractive.
The noir overtones range from Madrox’s failure as a detective (he relies on bad guys telling him things instead of actual investigation) to the smoky narration and his speech about how “it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it.” He puts himself into situations he doesn’t know how to get out of and hopes it will all work out. It’s a surprising cherry of optimism inside a dark and moody setting. Together, they make for a tasty treat.
The crime and the resulting investigation is just a mechanism to explore what it would be like to live with multiple personalities with physical lives of their own. David’s clearly put a lot of thought into Madrox’s abilities and their ramifications, extrapolating from them philosophical debates about the nature of choice and whether to take positive action or be more reactive. Too many choices can be paralyzing, and when this character argues with himself, it’s literal. This entertaining mystery has plenty of humor to lighten the darker aspects, but it’s also thought-provoking, raising questions of identity and individuality.