Wolverine: First Class #18

Issue Date: 
October 2009
Story Title: 
Identity Crisis

Peter David (writer), Francis Portela (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (lettering and production), Skottie Young (cover), Nathan Cosby (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Jamie Madrox, a.k.a. the Multiple Man, travels to Xavier’s School to track down a rogue dupe. He discovers the dupe in Wolverine’s company, but Kitty Pryde refuses to allow Madrox to reabsorb the dupe, deeming it murder. The dupe thanks Kitty for believing in his rights and escapes to New York City. While there, he saves a young girl from an apartment fire but receives mortal injuries in the process. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Kitty travel with Madrox to the city to find the dupe, lecturing him about his attitude and outlook along the way. Madrox has a change of heart when he finally finds the dying rogue dupe. He reabsorbs him, but only after acknowledging his independence as a human. Later, after deciding he needs to learn more about life, Madrox sends four dupes out into the world and asks them to return to him later to share their newfound knowledge.

Full Summary: 

Kitty Pryde stares at her reflection in the pool of water surrounding the fountain at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster. Who am I? She doesn't have an answer to that question, which shouldn't be a big deal. She's a teenager; that's when she's supposed to be sorting it all out. However, although she hates to brag, most teenagers aren't geniuses—and most aren't mutants who can phase through solid objects like ghosts, either. Most teens who are genius mutants aren't members of the X-Men and therefore always wondering when some new person is going to come after them.

Kitty continues running her finger through the stagnant water. So caught up is she in her own reflection that she doesn't sense the figure approaching behind her—not until she sees his reflection right behind hers, that is. The man lunges at her, but Kitty leaps up into the air and phases right through him. "Oh no you don't," she says. After passing through his body, she kicks him in the back and knocks him into the fountain.

Assuming a defensive stance, Kitty asks the man who he is and what he wants. However, she almost immediately recognizes him as Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. "What tipped you off?" Madrox asks as he and his newly formed dupe pick themselves up out of fountain. Water runs down their identical, green-and-yellow power-containment suits. After introducing herself, Kitty explains she read about him in the professor's mutant database; he creates duplicates upon impact. Madrox is honored she chose to read his file of all people's. However, Kitty quickly deflates his ego by telling him she actually read them all. Madrox has a hard time believing this; there must be hundreds of mutants in those files, he says. Kitty tells him it was more like a few thousand—but who's counting?

She looks at the Multiple Man for a moment. Although he's no Colossus, she admits he's cute. She asks what he's doing in Westchester; he's supposed to be out on Muir Island. Jamie claims he's looking for himself. "Kind of a whole Jack Kerouac, On the Road, soul-searching thing?" Kitty asks. Madrox has no idea who that is. He clarifies that he meant it literally; he's looking for a dupe. Kitty asks why he can't just make more. That isn't the point, Madrox tells her. When she insists she still doesn't understand, Madrox explains he's looking for a runaway dupe.

Inside the school's kitchen, Wolverine asks Madrox what he means by a runaway dupe. How does that even work? Madrox explains they had an invasion on Muir Island that he helped repel. "Good for you," Logan says as he makes his sandwich. Madrox elaborates, adding that one of his dupes grabbed a boat and headed for the mainland during the invasion. Logan asks if that sort of thing happens a lot; Madrox claims it never had before. He neither knows nor cares why his dupes chose to act up all of the sudden. Logan would care if he were him; if his powers are going haywire, he should know why. They're not going haywire, Jamie claims. He thinks it was just a fluke. "Whatever. So what makes you think he's here?" Logan asks as he cuts his sandwich. Jamie doesn't know for sure; he was hoping he could use the place as his headquarters while he monitored mutant activity in the United States.

"I might have to stay a few weeks—maybe months—if that's okay with…" Madrox says, pausing mid-sentence as something in the corner of the room catches his eye, "…you." He recoils. At the other end of the kitchen stands Kitty Pryde and... Jamie Madrox. At the table in the middle, Logan looks up at the new arrival, notes how awkward it is, and reaches for his sandwich.

Kitty tries to defuse the situation before it gets out of control. They obviously have themselves a situation and need to determine which of them is the original and which is the duplicate. Before she can state the next step of her plan, however, the Madrox on the other end of the kitchen grabs a knife from the butcher block, waves it in Kitty's direction and, with a look of terror on his face, begs her to keep that guy away from him.

Logan thinks the whole 'who's the dupe' ship just sailed. Assuming the guy wasn't looking for a headquarters as much as he was a hideout, he asks Madrox to take care of the situation. Madrox gladly consents; he just needs to touch the guy and absorb him. However, the knife-brandishing dupe resists. What they want to do is murder; don't they understand that? He wants to live his own life! He's entitled to do that just as much as they are! He warns them to keep back. Wolverine asks just what he plans to do. For starters, he's armed with a butter knife. He can't stab a guy with a butter knife; it's ridiculous.

"Not to mention Treyf," Kitty says. "Because, y'know, mixing dairy and meat—" Logan gets Kitty’s joke and tells her to shut up. The Madrox dupe, meanwhile, admits waving the knife was a bonehead move. He sets it back in the rack. However, he begs them to just listen for a moment; he'd like five minutes to plead his case. As he speaks, Kitty cannot help but notice how desperate—and sad—he sounds. It just doesn't seem fair somehow, she thinks. Madrox Prime seems to disagree; he tells his runaway dupe that he doesn't have a case. He's not even a real person; he's just an extension of the Prime Madrox, and the Prime Madrox doesn't want any copies of himself running free. If that's the case, the dupe responds, then he chose a pretty lousy power to have. Madrox-Prime insists he never chose this power! The dupe, for that matter, never asked to be called into existence! However, now that he's there, he doesn't want to lose that existence. He asks if that's so wrong. Madrox-Prime, reaching out to reabsorb the renegade copy, says it isn't about right and wrong.

As he places his hand to the dupe's chest, however, nothing happens—at least not what he expected. His hand actually passes through the dupe's body and comes out the other side, as if the dupe were a ghost. At that moment, Kitty speaks. "I have an idea. Let's make it about right and wrong," she says. The stupefied Madrox-Prime realizes she has just phased his dupe into intangibility. "See, I just love hearing how someone who lives and breathes and talks isn't a person," she snaps. "Because deciding someone isn't a person and deserving of all the protections a person should have... that's exactly the kind of hatred the X-Men face every day just for being mutants." With her hand still clamped to the dupe's wrist, she drifts closer to the kitchen window.

Madrox-Prime is stunned; is she really comparing him to anti-mutant bigots? Logan also takes umbrage at the comparison. It isn't at all like that, he says. "No. Of course not. It's never at all like that," Kitty replies. "Every time it's different. Which is why it keeps happening again and again. Well, not this time. Not on my watch." She gently pushes the intangible dupe through the mansion wall and follows him a moment later. After she leaves, Logan just rolls his eyes. Not on her watch, he sighs. Terrific.

Outside, Kitty Pryde and the Madrox dupe make a dash for the woods surrounding Xavier's School. As they run, the dupe explains he thought he had more time and that he had no idea Madrox was so close. He can't sense Madrox-Prime, but Madrox-Prime can sense him. Kitty tells him not to worry; it's okay. The Madrox dupe disagrees. It's actually a million yards from okay, he says. He gets her to stop running for a moment and places his hands on her shoulders. He tells her she's sweet and noble, but she's also just a kid. He can't drag her into this. Kitty informs him that kids grow up fast in the X-Men—and that nobody dragged her into this. She got herself into this. Fine, the dupe says, but now she needs to get herself out. That's not going to happen, Kitty replies. She informs him that a Manhattan-bound train leaves from the nearby station in just ten minutes. If they run, they can make it.

Once Kitty turns her back, however, the Madrox dupe cracks her across the back of the neck with the edge of his hand. She loses consciousness. Madrox catches her in his arms as she falls and gently lays her on the ground. He can't let her come along, he says to the unconscious girl. As he kisses her on the forehead, he apologizes but tells her he can't get her into any more trouble than he has already. However, he wants to thank her for taking his side. However this turns out, she has no idea how much that meant to him; she made him feel like a person. The Madrox dupe takes off running, leaving the unconscious Kitty on the sunny, forest floor.

She stirs awake some time later. When her eyes open, the first person she sees standing over her is Jamie Madrox. She asks why he did that—but immediately realizes she is talking to the wrong Madrox. Logan appears by his side and asked where the dupe went. Kitty says he's in her purse. "Yeah, this is exactly the time to get cute with me," Logan replies. Madrox asks Logan if he can't just track the guy's scent. "How? He smells just like you," Logan answers. Kitty, rubbing her forehead, states she may have told the dupe he could catch a city-bound train. Great, Logan says; he could get off anywhere. Madrox-Prime disagrees. His dupe will head into Manhattan and put even more distance between them. After all, that's what he would do. Logan tells him to grab his car and go after the guy, but Madrox tells him he had to take a cab to Westchester because he doesn't drive. Gritting his teeth, Logan offers to give him a ride—and Kitty enthusiastically chimes in that she's coming too. "No flippin' way," Logan sneers.

Shortly thereafter, Logan, Madrox and Kitty head toward New York City in Logan's GT 500. "Well, you certainly told her off. Laid down the law. Showed her who's boss," Madrox says to Logan while he drives. Logan asks if he wants to get out and walk. "I'm just sayin'," Madrox says. Logan knows what he's just saying and he wants him to stuff it. Kitty phased into the car; he could have wasted an hour arguing with her or they could have just hit the road. She may be aggravating, but she's also great at going where she's not wanted—which is useful in a fight, but it stinks in real life.

"You know I'm sitting right here, right?" Kitty says from the backseat. Unfortunately, yeah, Logan knows. Madrox takes his turn barking at her. This is all her fault, he says. If she had just let him— "Let you what? Kill him?" Kitty asks. Madrox claims it isn't killing him. The guy is a part of him. He's like a toenail clipping—or hair! If his hair started begging not to be cut, how seriously would she take it? If his hair started talking it would be pretty coolm Kitty says. Madrox begins to tell her that isn't the point—but then admits that would indeed be pretty cool.

Still hoping to make her point, Kitty compares the situation to an old saying: if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. Jamie's asking her to look at someone who walks like a person, talks like a person and who seems so much like a person that even Logan, with his hyper-senses, couldn't distinguish them from each other. How can he say that that guy isn't a person? How is Kitty supposed to believe that? How is she supposed to say that this guy is less deserving of life than the guy sitting in front of her in the car—just because he was there first? She just doesn't understand; why can't he leave him alone?

While they talk, the Madrox dupe wanders around in Central Park, enjoying the day. He feeds the ducks in the pond. Because of the conspicuous, full-body suit he wears, he attracts the confused look of a young boy. The boy, however, waves at him and runs off with his mother. The Madrox dupe continues on his way.

Back in the car, Madrox-Prime explains to Kitty that he can't let the dupe alone because he's responsible for him. Doesn't she see that? What if the dupe does something wrong—something criminal? What if he turns to the dark side? It could happen; he wouldn't be the first hero to go off the rails. Any sins this guy commits—anyone he hurts—would be laid at Madrox's doorstep. If he developed this power to disobey his creator and run off, who knows what else he's capable of doing? Right now, he could be doing anything to anybody.

At that moment, the Madrox dupe wanders into an open field in the park, peels off his hood, lifts his head skyward and smiles at the sun.

In the car, Kitty sums up what he thinks Madrox is saying: he doesn't trust the dupe. Exactly, Madrox says. "But he's you. So you don't trust yourself," Kitty rebuts. Madrox almost agrees with her, but then realizes what she's saying. That's not what he meant, he shouts; she's twisting it! Kitty asks him if he even knows himself. Incredulous, Madrox begs Wolverine to ask her to knock it off. Wolverine, however, is kind of interested in hearing the answer. Madrox frantically insists he knows himself—as well as anyone can. Logan thinks that might be the problem. When Madrox asks what that means, Logan explains that maybe a guy with his particular skill set needs to know himself better than anyone can. In fact, maybe the guy who knows himself the best is the guy who admits he knows nothing—and then does something about it. He asks if Madrox understands. He doesn't. Scrunching his face, he tells Logan his dupe is somewhere on the West Side. He just wants to get this over with.

Their search takes them late into the night and brings them to 54th and Broadway, where they encounter a guy selling bootlegged movie scripts on the sidewalk. These movies aren't even in theaters yet, the vendor loudly proclaims! Logan approaches the punkish man and asks where he got these scripts. Sources, the guy blithely tells him. He asks if Logan also wants videos; he's got those too. Some of them are rough-cuts of films months away from release. Unsheathing his claws, Logan gets in the guy's face and asks if he wants rough cuts; if he does, Logan has some rough cuts for him. He slices the papers in the man's hand to shreds. If people want to see movies, Wolverine says, they should respect copyright laws, wait until they're in the theaters, pay their admission and judge the final product! Anything else is just insulting and unfair to movie-makers! He asks the bootlegger if he understands; from behind clenched eyes, he claims he does.

Wolverine, Kitty and Madrox leave the bootlegger on 54th and Broadway with a broken table and a pile of worthless, shredded papers. As they walk away, Kitty asks if he feels better having gotten that off his chest. She has no idea, Logan says.

Meanwhile, the Madrox dupe spots them from the other side of the intersection. Immediately growing worried, he begins to run for his life. He tries to hail a taxi before they spot him. However, a frantic, blonde-haired woman grabs him by the arm and, thinking he's a superhero because of his unusual attire, begs for his help. She says her name is Maddie. Madrox assumes she wants an autograph and tells her he doesn't have the time. Maddie, however, insists she doesn't want an autograph. There's a fire, she says! There's a fire, and her little sister Elise is still inside! She tried to get but she couldn't, and the fire-truck hasn't arrived yet. She begs him to help.

For a moment, Madrox stands torn. The taxi driver asks where he wants to go, but in the distance, he sees the apartment building burning. Maddie begs for him to help; he's a superhero and superheroes help people!

The Madrox dupe doesn't waste any more time formulating his decision. He runs over to the burning building, charges inside and finds the young Elise cowering under a table in the middle of the burning kitchen. When he finds her, he takes her in his arms. However, at that moment, a burning beam snaps and comes crashing toward them. The Madrox dupe manages to push Elise out of the way in time—but the burning beam smashes into his back. He falls to the floor, pinned under its weight.

Elise looks toward her rescuer with grief. However, Kitty Pryde soon phases into the room, grabs her by the waist and begins to phase her out of the building. Elise insists they go back for the man, but Kitty swears he will be all right; help is on the way.

At that moment, Logan slices his way through the bars on the window and comes leaping into the burning kitchen. Kitty tells him where he can find the Madrox dupe and begs him to do something, regardless of his personal feelings on the matter. "Shut up, Pryde. He's a hero, or tried t'be, at least. That's good enough for me."

After what seems like forever, sirens begin sounding in the distance. They should arrive in just a few minutes—but unfortunately, the dupe doesn't have minutes. Madrox-Prime approaches his mortally wounded duplicate and covers him with a blanket. He assures him the girl he saved is fine. The dupe says he tried; Madrox tells him that's the best any person can do. "Is that... what I am now?" the dupe asks. Madrox doesn't hesitate to confirm his question. "Guess... better late... than never," the dupe says. "You're a good man, Jamie Madrox. I'd be honored... to shake your hand." With his dying act, he reaches out and places his hand inside Madrox's grip.

The paramedics finally arrive and charge into the room. They heard there was a man dying, they shout. Madrox stands, turns to them and tells them they heard wrong. Behind him, amidst the rubble where his dupe used to lie, there lies nothing but a blanket.

Later. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters…

A sullen Jamie Madrox admits to Kitty and Wolverine that they were right; he knows nothing. He knows nothing about himself or about the world. He's been sheltered his whole life; he doesn't know squat about anything. Kitty tells him he's being kind of hard on himself. "So what?" Logan asks her. "Let him. Question is, Madrox: what're you gonna do about it?"

"This," Madrox says. He punches the wall four times, producing four dupes. He tells them to go out into the world, learn stuff and then come back to him so he can learn what they've learned. He was a lot of not knowing to make up for.

"What if one of us doesn't want to return?" one of the dupes asks. "What if I want to change my name to... I don't know... John Maddox and live my own life?" Madrox merely says he'll deal with that if and when the time comes.

After the dupes leave, Kitty asks if he's still a little bit worried about what they might do. Frankly, he tells her, he's figuring they'll do what any of them does: the best they can.

Outside, one of Madrox's dupes peels off his hood, looks toward the sun—and smiles.

Characters Involved: 

Ariel, Wolverine (X-Men)

Multiple Man

Renegade dupe of the Multiple Man

John Maddox

Three other dupes



Film bootlegger


Story Notes: 

After his debut in GIANT SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR #4, Jamie Madrox opted to go with Moira MacTaggert live on Muir Island, where he could learn about his powers in relative peace. This issue takes place during his residence on Muir Island, well before another rogue dupe of his traveled to the United States in the FALLEN ANGELS miniseries.

Madrox mentions his dupe escaped during an invasion on Muir Island, but the details of this invasion are not known. It is unlikely his comment refers to the Proteus story during X-MEN (1st series) #125-129 because that was an attack from within, not an invasion, and it took place long before the events of this issue.

On the Road is perhaps the most notable novel by Beat poet Jack Kerouac.

Treyf is a Hebrew term for food that is not prepared in accordance with Jewish religious practices. According to Kitty, stabbing Jamie Madrox with a knife that had been used to butter bread would be Treyf based on three passages from the Torah—Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21— that forbid the mixing of meat and dairy. These three passages all roughly command that followers of the Torah “not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

This issue’s one-page tangent that features Wolverine attacking a bootleg film vendor on the streets of New York City is a response to the controversy surrounding the advanced leak of the 2009 Fox film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. A pirated copy of the film leaked onto the internet on March 31st, 2009, a full month before the film’s theatrical release, possibly at the expense of its box office revenue. The FBI arrested the man responsible for the upload, Gilberto Sanchez of New York, on December 16th, 2009. According to the January 12th, 2010 The New York Times article “The Story of Gilberto Sanchez, the Man Who Leaked ‘Wolverine’”, Sanchez says he bought a copy of the film from a bootlegger in New York City and uploaded it onto the bit torrent site megaupload.com after watching the film with his family. At the time of this writing, the source of the leak from within the studio has not been found.

The title of the Broadway play in this issue, “Howard: A Duck's Tale”, is a play on the Marvel Comics character and titular star of the 1986 film Howard the Duck.

The dupe at the end of this issue who asks about the possibility of living his own life under the name of John Maddox is presumably the same dupe named John Maddox who later appears as a priest and a family man in X-FACTOR (3rd series) #16.

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