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Having a hard time accepting the idea of Jamie Madrox, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Well, that's nothing compared to what's going to happen when Jamie is captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s foremost opponents and is transformed into Jamie Madrox...Agent of Hydra! Plus...Siryn and Monet decide to go shopping and have a grand Mall seizure!

Two helicopters approach a lone island, sitting alone in the ocean. One is a standard transport, the other an aerial crane cargo helicopter, ferrying a rail container. After the two craft land at an airport landing strip, the girl previously disguised as a girl scout jumps from the transport, joining a small cadre of rifle-wielding Hydra soldiers at the door to the rail container. When the door opens, the soldiers roll out a platform, in the center of which is a harness, designed to completely inhibit the movements of the occupant incarcerated within. So imprisoned is Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.

Actually, the agents of Hydra have confused him with one of Madox’s dupes, who is currently working as an agent for SHIELD, the “Super Hero Intimidation and Evisceration Division.” Not that he’s told them that, of course. Never a dull moment, he thinks.

“Hail Hydra! Immortal Hydra!” one of the soldiers shouts as they wheel him into a building. “Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place,” another cites, finishing the organization’s meme. To this, the immobilized Madrox quips that it must be tough to find shirts if that keeps happening. Hearing this, the girl rhetorically remarks that he’s awake. In response, Madrox denies it. Explaining that he’s just talking in his sleep with superb comedy timing.

Ignoring him, the girl instructs the soldiers to take him to Doctor Locke, so the procedure can begin. Incredulous, Madrox asks if she’s kidding him. “Doc Locke?” He’s in shock. Now annoyed, the girl orders her men to take him now. “Bet he’s a crock,” Madrox continues. Shedding her outfit to reveal her Hydra uniform, the girl orders the men faster, causing Madrox to ask if she doesn’t want him to mock Doc Locke?

Changing tact, Madrox asks the “little girl” if her “mommy” knows she’s playing with evil spies. To this, the girl replies that her mother recruited her, and she’s twenty-seven. As for Doctor Locke… he lent his talents to Singularity Investigations before joining them. Did some work on his friend, Mr. Carosella. Realizing aloud that he’s the one who brainwashed Guido into a murderer, Madrox says that he can’t wait to meet him.

Doctor Locke is an older man, though not so old as to deny him either his hair or its brown color. Though wearing a Hydra uniform, it is mostly covered by a long, dark coat. Before him, he grasps a hooked, wooden cane with both hands. Smiling wryly, Locke informs James Madrox, agent of SHIELD, that it’s a pleasure and an honor. Singularity Investigations had extensive files on Madrox Prime that they shared with him. He could make a most interesting subject for dissertation. Is he comfortable, Locke then asks. Can he get him anything? Now strapped down in an immense chair, Madrox answers simply, “A gun with a bullet I can put in your brain” When the grinning Locke rejoins that such violence isn’t in his character, Madrox replies that he shouldn’t be so sure. He’s got lots of character.

Placing a goggled helmet over Madrox’s head, Locke replies that he has heard “Madrox Prime” has quite a few rattling around his head. So should he as well, he says, referring to the “Madrox dupe.” All of them have many sides, but his make themselves manifest. He makes Bruce Banner look like the mental health poster boy. As he then returns to his desk, examining his laptop computer, Madrox, now wearing the helmet, calls out to the “Doc.” When Locke responds, his back still to his prisoner, Madrox informs him that he wasn’t kidding. He’s going to kill him. Unfazed, Locke tells Madrox his go right on thinking that. Now announcing that they’re going to being, Locke pressed a key on the keypad, beginning the program. Once they’re done, he tells the now screaming Jamie Madrox, they’ll unleash him on SHIELD… and allow hilarity to ensue.

Resonating through the streets of Paris, a bellowing yell, more in the type of deep laughter than a scream, is heard. Following this, the source of the laughter, Theresa Rourke, asks Monets if she’s serious. She and both princes? Replying that she swears to God, Monet adds that they were there at reception, both with dates… and they both ditch their dates to hang on her arms. The tabloids were scandalized. And now… When Theresa they asks “and now… what?” Monet looks off to the side. The toast of two continents… royalty falling all over her… and whom does she bed? Jamie Madrox. That may be fine for her, she tells Theresa, but…

Raising an eyebrow, Theresa remarks that for Monet it’s slumming, but for her a peasant it’s okay. To this, Monet begins to remark that she wasn’t saying that exactly, but then quickly reconsiders and remarks that, on second thought, she guesses she was. Now sporting a smile, she asks Theresa if she’s expecting her to apologize for that, is she? Rolling her eyes, Theresa replies that that was her first impulse, but she supposes if she moved in the circles she’s accustomed to as the daughter of an ambassador… heck… she’d probably feel the same way. Thoughtfully examining her glass of wine, Monet remarks that she appreciated that. No problem, “skank,” Theresa rejoins. When Monet does a verbal double-take, Theresa replies that she said, “No problem, thanks,” taking a drink from her water bottle to cover her smile.

Monet begins to press jokingly, but she is suddenly distracted by a smell. At first, Theresa does not detect it, but then does so a moment later. Something’s burning, she says, rising to follow it to its source. A minute later, shopping bags still in hand, the two come across a crowd gathered around a sidewalk, whereupon a body with two heads and six arms is being burned in effigy. In disgust as well as disbelief, Theresa asks Monet what they are shouting. Translating, Monet replies that they’re protesting mutants… or rather former mutants.

Approaching a random person, Monet asks him something in French. When he replies, again in French, she follows up with another few. When it is obvious he has finished, Theresa asks for a translation, to which Monet complies. She explains that there’s a bunch of former mutants living there – like a mini-mutant town. Apparently the “norms” have noticed and they show up to slap them around.

(unreality)

Hanging on a scarecrow frame in the middle of a fenced field, Jamie Madrox is slapped by his mother. Covering the field are a number of duplicates, all unconscious. Angrily asking if he calls himself a son, she tells him that they have him everything, and what was the result? They’re dead because of him. Jamie begins to say he’s sorry, but is interrupted by another slap from his mother, who tells him to stop apologizing.

Continuing, Joan Madrox tells Jamie that, if they’d had a normal child, then Mr. Tryp wouldn’t have taken an interest in him! Wouldn’t have caused the storms that killed them! Sweating, Jamie replies that he doesn’t know why he did it! And why didn’t he just… just take him away? He grew up alone! Why… “Who cares!?” Joan replies.

Joining his wife, Daniel Madrox stops her from slapping their son once again. He explains that there’s no use just slapping the boy in the face over and over. Where’s the point in that? Closing his eyes for a moment, Jamie thanks his father, but then has a horrified realization as he opens them again. He sees his father, whip in hand, explain to his wife that they’re going to drive home to him what a failure he’s been… they can’t afford to spare the rod. Exasperated, Jamie replies that that’s not a rod! It’s a freakin’ whip! He then suggests they let his mom go back to slapping him, or… or use an actual rod! Then he doesn’t have to spare a thin… Ignoring his son, Daniel Madrox cracks the whip, yelling, “Shut up, you miserable little puke!”

(reality)

Still in the Hydra lab, the goggled helmet filling his sight and senses, Jamie Madrox yells. Regarding this, the faux girl scout asks Doctor Locke what, precisely, he is doing. His back to Madrox, instead examining the readouts on the laptop, Locke replies that Madrox’s strength come from his numbers, obviously. By mentally splitting him off more and more, he weakens his core personality. Divest it of its protections, as it were, he continues, thus making it easy to manipulate. When she replies that it sounds as if it could take some time, Locke tells Ms. Diaz that, objectively, that’s true, but not subjectively. In the real world, ten minutes have passed. From Madrox’s perspective, it’s been about a day of mental torture. And the disparity will increase exponentially. Weeks’ worth of reprogramming will pass in hours.

Pleased at this, Ms. Diaz asks what Madrox is seeing now. To this, Locke replies that he has no clue, specifically. He’s simply stimulating relevant sections of the brain and letting his subconscious do the rest. Magnificent, isn’t it, he asks. The human brain. What they can do to it… and it to them. To this, Diaz replies that eighty-percent of Americans hate their job. She suspects that Locke is not among them. Grinning slightly, Locke replies that she’s quite right. Oh, quite right.

Yelling in French down with a clenched fist from her window to the assembled crowd below, a woman find an expertly thrown tomato splattered across her face. Spying this, Monet tells Theresa that that’s it. She’s making a move here. Replying that she’s got her back, Theresa opens her mouth and lets forth the scream of her alter ego, Siryn, to the crowd, bowling over the protestors. When one of the protestors intends to respond to the attack with a pistol, it is Monet who steps forward, the bullets bouncing harmlessly against her chest.

Monet’s smile, however, quickly turns to horror as she notices that a bullet bounced off her and shattered the Victor Mayer Faberge egg she just bought. As the gunman then begins to fumble with his gun, Monet’s ire rises. With bared teeth and nails, she informs that man that he is so dead, “monsieur.” A moment later, she is upon the man. However, before she can act, she is yelled at in English to stop, followed by another command in French. Down the alley are French officials, whom Theresa recognizes as the Gendarmes.

Taking stock, Monet asks if they should book out of there. It’s not like they can stop them. She then begins to translate the gendarme’s next order, but Theresa has surmised it. He wants them to raise their hands. But, Theresa continues Monet’s thought, if they fly off this gets spun into yet another mutant-terrorizes-innocent-people horror story. And the helpless ex-mutants clustered in these buildings remain sitting ducks? Monet asks. Exactly, Theresa rejoins.

Stepping forward, her arms raised, Monet speaks to the Gendarmes in French. Behind her, Theresa likewise raises her arms.

Examining Jamie Madrox, now clad in a Hydra uniform and sporting a blank expression, Diaz asks Doctor Locke if he’s certain he’s ready. Locke replies with an “absolutely,” adding that he’s stripped his personality down to its core. A tabula rasa, as it were. He then explains that Madrox now merely needs to be reprogrammed in the interests of Hydra. She may, however, he then tells Diaz, wish to reconsider her current plan.

When she asks why, Locke replies that using him as a stealth agent or infiltrator is shortsighted. He would make an idea combat agent. When she then asks what techniques he is skilled in, Locke replies that he has no clue. But they’re talking quantity over quality. Telling her to watch, Locke raps his cane against Madrox’s back, producing a dupe. When Diaz then replies with an “amazing,” Locke then rejoins that it’s not merely amazing. He asks her to envision him holding a single nuclear device. The duplicate would likewise be holding it. Imagine a nuclear army. When Diaz ten asks how that is remotely possible, Locke replies that he’s honestly not sure. There’s more going on with him than mere cellular replication.

Back in the reality of the fenced field, Daniel Madrox tells his wife that he still doesn’t think their son understands how bad he’s been. Definitely, Joan replies with a sneer. And there’s only so long they can punish him. That’s true, Daniel rejoins. If he’s ever going to grow up… he’s going to have to start taking responsibility. Now addressing their son, Daniel Madrox tells Jamie that he’s untied his hands. Make them proud. Punish himself, Joan adds. Sitting on his knees, Jamie slaps himself, announcing, “I’m bad!”

Back in the Hydra base, Diaz regards the two new Madrox dupes, created by the two precious Madri having slapped themselves. When she asks him if he knew he was going to do that, Locke replies that it was… a little unexpected. Still, he continues, the human mind can’t be turned on and off, like a light switch.

A moment later, to the surprise of both Diaz and Locke, all four Madri slap themselves, producing another for dupes as they all pronounce, “I’m bad.” The resulting eight then repeat the procedure, resulting in a total of sixteen. Within his personal world in his head, Jamie Madrox continues to punish himself, per his parents’ instructions. In the real world, Diaz and Locke begin to panic, as the facility has begun to fill up exponentially with dupes of Jamie Madrox. Calling out to the arriving Hydra troops, Locke orders them to do something. Stop him!

The leader of the troops orders his men to fire at the original. While they try to comply, opening fire, one of the men asks which one is the original. Unfortunately for the troops, the Madri have continued to double every few seconds, overwhelming them. So very… very… very… VERY…

Standing in stark, cold cell, sporting an extremely nasty toilet, Monet yells to her and Theresa’s jailors in French. Sitting down on a bench in a resigned manner, Theresa tells Monet to calm down. When Monet then yells back for her to calm down, Theresa exasperatedly rejoins that she is.

Still incredulous, Monet reminds Theresa that playing nice with the authorities was her bright idea. And it was a good one, Theresa counters. She saw! Reporters were waiting for them! The gendarmes couldn’t stop them from telling them about the riots! About making a political statement! Plus, they showed them they don’t think mutants are above the law. With all of the negative press the US is getting because of the Civil War, she thinks that was an important point to make. Still incredulous, Monet replies that, really, somehow America’s image is less important to her than finding a proper toilet if the needs arises. So if…

Theresa interrupts Monet’s rant by pointing out the newcomer to the jail, being led to a different cell. When Theresa remarks that she knows him, Monet points out that he was at the demonstration. Noticing that he is covered in ash, Theresa wonders what happened, leading Monet to ask the man in French. However, the man replies in English, asking if she and her Irish friend really want to know… They burned, he says with a smile. “We burned them out. All the freaks. All the monsters. We went back after the police left, and burned them up. Ashes to ashes… dust to d…”

The man’s festive proclamation comes to a quick end with a “spluch”, when a piece of iron bar, ripped from her cell by her strength, is thrown with deadly accuracy by Monet, much to the astonishment of Theresa. When Theresa asks her what, in Mary mother of God, did she do, Monet replies coldly and emotionlessly. She made a political statement.

Back at the Hydra island base, two new helicopters arrive, this time producing agents of SHIELD, who quickly storm the facility. However, to their surprise, as they rush inside, yelling for nobody to move, they find the few Hydra agents present very much dead. Regarding this, one of the SHIELD agents remarks that they don’t think they’re going to be moving anytime soon.

Taking charge, the field leader instructs his men to spread out and search for survivors. They should se if they can find whoever it was who contacted them… blew the whistle on them. Now joined by Agent Madrox, who asks if he has any clue what happened, the field leader remarks that the bodies… they look like they were crushed. When another agent asks how… and by what… Agent Madrox suggests that they find out…

A few moments later, Agent Madrox calls his men over to a downed Hydra agent, who seems to still be alive. To his surprise, however, the Hydra agent is actually Jamie Madrox – the original, who reaches out to his dupe, grabbing his wrists with a “Gotcha!” Agent Madrox has but a moment to yell in protest.

A moment later, another SHIELD agent converges on Agent Madrox, asking if he found something. Rising, the Agent Madrox replies, “no,” then haltingly saying that he made a mistake. Noticing his fellow agent’s demeanor, he asks him if he’s all right, which Agent Madrox confirms.

As the other agent goes elsewhere, continuing the search, Agent Madrox – in actuality the “prime” Jamie Madrox – thinks that he’s actually a long way from “fine.” He can still hear his SHIELD agent personal screaming in protest. But that’s fade before long. They always do.

Bizarre, he thinks, as he heads for the exit. The more dupes he created, the more it “thinned out” Locke’s control, until he finally broke free. And all these Hydra agents… dead… because of him. Frightening. But the most frightening thing of all… is that he doesn’t feel anything. No regret. No horror. No elation. Just… empty. And that’s bad.

Very… very… bad.

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dmstarz's favourite marvel comic cover no188 0

When you have a character called Multiple Man, it's a pretty obvious conceit to have loads of the guy on the cover at once. The excellent Pablo Raimondi, (so good on this book and its predecessor, Madrox) though, has crafted a superlative cover by making Jamie go all fascist on us. The result is striking and dynamic. Plus, great use of differing shades of green to heighten the menace. I have ranked this cover no 188 as part of a long term project I am producing on my own blog 'marvel-ous' on blo...

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