Written by James Asmus
Penciled by Clay Mann
Inked by Seth Mann
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Review by Joey Braccino
Like most ‘90s kids, I’m a big fan of the Gambit. Also like most ‘90s kids, I don’t really understand why I’m wax lyrical about all of those bits of nostalgia—Gambit included. Sure he spoke funny and wore a trenchcoat and had curtained hair and threw flipping cards that exploded, but I was a wee lad and stuff like that was in vogue in the ‘90s. In recent years, during which I’ve actually started reading comics regularly and studying the medium, Gambit’s favor in my eyes has slowly waned away in favor of more developed, more nuanced characters (with better stories) like Cyclops, Captain America and Bucky Cap, and Daredevil. As an avid X-reader, I’ve enjoyed Gambit’s roles during Mike Carey’s X-Men Legacy run and Marjorie Liu’s X-23 ongoing, but I will admit that Gambit seemed to work best as a secondary character or emotional sound-board for Rogue and/or X-23. When James Asmus’ solo Gambit title was announced, my ears perked up. Now that I was older and wiser, what would I think of my once-favorite character? Does Gambit hold up in this new comics status quo?
I enjoyed #1. The cool caper action is a welcome change of pace from more traditional superheroic fare, and Gambit comes across as a charming-ne’er-do-well in a sexy-but-still-somewhat-tragic way. While many of Talking Comics’ own Bobby Shortle’s criticisms of Gambit #1 were legitimate, I still opted to pick up this week’s #2. Yes, #1 was a bit of a downtempo debut for the Ragin’ Cajun, but #2 picks things up a bit with some more card-throwing, laser-dodging, museum-breaking-into, car-chase goodness. Add in some sexy one-liners from our lead and you’ve got a much improved second entry in Asmus’ Gambit solo title.
This comic is going to be a slow-burn. There’s going to be intrigue and mystery and globe-trotting. This issue, we meet a character named Fence and we get some more femme fatale action with “la femme mysterieux” from last issue. Asmus’ plotting seems more like a Man Who Knew Too Much or Maltese Falcon than it does an Ocean’s Eleven or Entrapment. Yes, the story does have that charming style and some cool tech, but the pace is deliberate and the scope is quickly expanding. I can understand why this might turn off some readers: what’s the point? Why does this have to be Gambit? I’m going to assume there’s a larger story at play here, partly because I trust James Asmus’ writing and because that’s how these mystery-thrillers work. Wait until we realize we’re working with some kind of MacGuffin here and that the fat man is going to come back and reveal some larger conspiracy at play (not unlike that Humphrey Bogart movie… what was it? Oh yeah, The Maltese Falcon). I’m excited.
Clay Mann’s artwork was the primary point of contention regarding the debut issue. Again, I read through Mike Carey’s X-Men Legacy: Age of X miniseries, which featured my first experience with Clay Mann’s thin, naturalistic linework. And I loved it. His character designs have weight and energy, and his razor thin lines allow for some phenomenally detailed faces and hair. This is particularly effective for Gambit, whose curtained haircut is practically his trademark. Yes, Rachelle Rosenberg’s thick colors bog down the energy of Mann’s work, and I do wish that the book overall had a grittier, noir-esque feel, but overall I find the book visually pleasing. The caper sequence features laser jumping and wirework, and Mann captures the kinetic energy of the scene perfectly.
I’m a fan. Every once in a while, I enjoy a slow-burning, non-traditional comic. I can understand why die-hard Gambit fans would be turned off by this series—“where’s the trenchcoat!?” “where’s the Cajun accent!?” “Throw more cards!!”—but perhaps the rendition of Gambit that they are yearning for just doesn’t have any more stories in him. How many times are we going to get some dark secret from his Sinister past (wink wink)? How many times are we going to take Remy back to New Orleans? Asmus and Mann also throw in two nods to those highly-critical fans: one features a quip about the trench coat, the other is the constant interruption of Remy’s lines in French. Two issues in, and we’re already getting a new direction for a character that was relegated (comfortably) to the background in secondary X-series. It’s exciting.