Gambit doesn’t come storming out of the gate full of life and excitement, but it is a solid first issue that shows a lot of strong potential for an ongoing series. It’s just a matter of James Asmus and Clay Mann finding their groove and Marvel allowing them do what they need to do to make a success out of the character.
I think I have always had a problem with Gambit. I didn’t know quite what it was early on, but I eventually figured out why I just couldn’t be a big fan of him.
Gambit is a poser.
For as long as I’ve been reading comics, Gambit has never been the shady scoundrel he and writers always claimed him to be. He generally talks the talk and little else. He claims the dark trenchcoated-ness of an anti-hero without really earning it. The guy’s a total hero with hardly a selfish bone in his body, judging mostly by his actions. Rarely does he ever not do the heroic thing. How long and how often has he been an X-Man now? Good lord. The man is a freaking teacher at the moment. For years and years, Marvel has told me Gambit is a scoundrel without showing it to me.
Thankfully, Asmus seems to intend to show us with this new series.
Purely out of boredom, Remy Lebeau decides to pull off a heist on a particularly dangerous man. He thoughtlessly uses his Jean Grey Institute credentials to gain access. He selfishly pulls in an attractive bystander to help him get away with it. And then, he recklessly brings home a stolen item he knows nothing about besides the obvious likelihood it is dangerous. Yet, he does it all with enough style and charm that you can appreciate him as your protagonist the entire time.
And this is how Gambit should be.
This Gambit is not as much of a sheep in wolf’s clothing that I am used to seeing. Really, the story of this issue is devoid of heroism. It’s a heist story. I’m not saying there’s anything truly villainous about Gambit’s portrayal in this. It’s more that there’s an entertaining lack of altruism, which suits the character well. Hell, it’s supposed to be what the character is about. And through the narration, Asmus plainly states this is Remy getting back to his roots. All I can say is that it is about damn time.
There are a number of little things included in this issue that really play well. Gambit running afoul of a Sentinel inside the trophy room he has broken into is a nice touch that gives the book a root to the X-Men without being overbearing about it. The appearance of an essay written by Quentin Quire comparing Joseph Stalin to James Howlett is another entertaining touch.
However, what holds this issue back is that Asmus’ writing is a little more style than substance, which is arguably appropriate for Gambit. It goes for the wit and charm of an Ocean’s Eleven style of story, but it lacks the cleverness. As far as plans go, what Gambit pulls off could hardly be called a plan. It’s simplistic. It relies heavily on some far-fetched gadgets. And even then, Asmus glosses over some details to allow Gambit to pull it all off. It does manage to be a fun ride regardless of those deficiencies, but it does come up short of what could have been. This is something that will definitely need to be improved upon if this series is going to continue. You can’t have a thief series without clever heists, and there is just a bit too much cheating here.
The art team is going to need to adjust their approach too. Something about the art and the coloring just doesn’t mesh at some points in this issue.There are times the very realistic colors of Rachelle Rosenberg work very well, but then there are other times where it looks like it is trying to force itself onto Clay Mann’s pencil work. Something has to give, and honestly, I don’t think the colors are necessarily the ideal choice for the book. So if I had to choose sides, I would lean toward Mann’s pencils.
Despite the flaws, I come out of this issue feeling like Gambit is on the right track. Asmus is writing Remy Lebeau as he should be written. A thief, a scoundrel, an accidental superhero at best. The issue even ends on a note that suggests the series will end up being driven more by Gambit’s self-interests than anything else. Yes. Ideally, this series will be enough of a success that Gambit can be pulled entirely from the X-Men’s active lineup and be allowed to stand on his own as the character he has always claimed to be -- a thief who can do heroic things but would rather not.