Monday, July 4, 2011

Why Multiple Choices aren't Always Logical Choices

Generally a good read.
After reading such horrible work last week, this week I planned to read something enjoyable this week, and enjoyable it was. Mostly. As well as relaunching the X-Factor series (in a somewhat original take), this book offers a decent story from Peter David, reasonable art from Pablo Raimondi, and no bonus material (sometimes that's a plus, sometimes the extras are worthwhile if you aren't paying for them). At present Amazon seem to be out of stock (try their marketplace, the hardcover, what I have hold of, goes for upwards of $27 USD for 120 pages).

Obligatory Amazon pricing info out of the way let's get to the meat of the book. It's a detective story. A noir style one. No not that rubbish Marvel did a run of the other year, just something with the feel, but in continuity. In essence Jamie Maddrox (after leaving X-Corps in Paris) sets up his own detective agency (after sending duplicates all over the planet to learn things). During recruitment of Wolfsbane (he already has Strong Guy working for him), a near dead dupe shows up, and after absorbing him, Maddrox comes to with vague memories about his death. In Chicago. Here's my first minor gripe. Instead of sending a dupe to solve the case (safety first James), he leaves a dupe behind as cover (the dupe does get shot at, but only gets hit in the shoulder). Logically there's one reason to follow this approach: the dupes are flaky. What we're offered is "I take being murdered pretty personally." And it's almost believable.
Cue the second issue. Maddrox imposes himself on an old acquaintance, the psychic journalist type guy. He gets access to a computer, a place to stay, and the information that the guy is using his magnificent mind to write news articles of great worth. Also, cue my second minor gripe. Raimondi's art looks a little photo-tracey at times, and definitely is distracting. As is his lack of consistent height for dupes (they seem a little shorter than the original Jamie). The height thing may have been a deliberate act to imply the dupes are less than the original, or because they shrink as they are absorbed. Either way, distracting. The second issue also introduces the secondary plot thread (not sure why it was needed) of the X-Factor team back in Mutant town investigating a case of Astral Plane Adultery (you know it's a clanger when the Astral Plane is involved), and the rest of the core cast: The Hit-man, The Dame, and The Boss. Obviously Jamie goes to visit The Dame, and s captured by the goons of The Boss. It's predictable and inevitable, but David uses it to show that the dupes really aren't working out as well as Jamie might hope.
Issue three brings us Jamie not drowning himself, and escaping from a closet with his escape artist skills (before displaying his Bullseye skills). Throw in the couple pages that put doubt into the "I take being murdered pretty personally", line and evidence that The Hit-man has the same abilities as Multiple Man and you're doing okay. To keep the Mutant Town plot ticking along Wolfsbane is set up for her dramatic climax in issue four. Issue four lays out the final plot points. The Dame alleges she married the dupe. Jamie escapes with The Dame and comes to the conclusion that the psychic journalist type guy is behind it all. I'll grant Jamie his plot twist as it's a fair point for a noir story. However the better plot twist arrives with the final page (set amidst the burning fire of a paper factory) where The Dame reveals she can stab people to death with her bust. Truly marvellous. Additionally, Wolfsbane accidentally kills the Astral Plane Adulterer by slashing the throat of his astral form. See, I told you that the Astral plane always ends badly. Issue five closes up all the plot threads. Jamie gets to see The Hit-man die (assume it was a dupe, for all of our sakes: if he ever shows up again, it's a dupe that died), The Dame turn into a giant stabby insect monster thingy that's killed by The Boss, and The Boss lets Jamie go. Wolfsbane wraps up her end of things by not telling the newly widowed wife of the Astral Plane Adulterer that he was such, only for his lover to be in the bar and tell her himself. So key outcomes: none of the heroes died, X-Factor investigations has a verrrrry familiar logo on the door, and there's a book set-up in case Marvel want to run with it (I wonder if they did....).

The final score is mostly upsides. The logic is a little loose in places, as is Jamie's mental state, the art is serviceable for the most part (though it does drag you out of the story at times), but overall it's a worthwhile read. Problem is, it's not a cheap book to get hold of. The price I gave above for the hardcover is about what a used copy of the softcover goes for on Amazon market place (Amazon are out of that edition too). The question is therefore "do I need this book?" Answer "no, not really." See it's a good read. It sets up the ongoing X-Factor book of recent years. But you don't miss any major plot points if you don't read it.

Next week I may, astonishingly, have a bit more time to read, so I'll pick something a bit meatier, like the first half of some one's run on a book.


  1. I think what I like about David's X-Factor is he's mostly left alone to do whatever he wants. Shame we can't say that about the rest of the x-verse. Nice one Westy.

  2. On the theme of Westy costing Andy more money, another thing I need to buy! I didn't know this and that it has the seeds of the new X-Factor in it!

    Thanks Westy!