Thursday, 9 August 2012

New Beginnings - Gambit #1

He was ranked IGN’s 65th greatest comic book hero of all time, was once rumoured to have his own spin off film in the works and has an ability to dance back and forth across the criminal line with such ease that a prima ballerina would be jealous. This week we have the first issue in a new title purely for Gambit.

As a relatively young character (he first appeared in 1990) Gambit has played many roles in the Marvel Universe from smooth talking saviour to the epitome of Death for Apocalypse. He’s a charmer and a rogue but now has the mantle of teacher too at the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters. However, no matter where he is or what he is doing the inescapable truth is that Gambit is a thief.

There have been a couple of miniseries for Gambit in the past, plus a prominent run in X-Force during the Age of Apocalypse and two attempts to have an ongoing title for him. Now we are given James Asmus’ take on the life of Remy Lebeau.

If I am honest I didn’t expect Asmus to be writing for this title. Although he has been on the books for Marvel for around four years I have previously seen him with some of the less mainstream X-Men (for example Husk or Mimic) with the occasional foray into Wolverine but not for that many issues at a time. A playwright and comic by trade, there isn’t really any doubting his ability but I did wonder if taking Gambit was maybe too much perhaps?

What I’ve liked about this story is that it hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. There is no sneaky back story quirk or time loop to rely on to try and open up a niche for Gambit. There's no epic rebirth. Instead Asmus has stayed completely true to the character. If you excuse the irony he has kept it honest.

The story is all about indulgence. When faced with a challenge Gambit doesn’t fight against it but instead rises to it and enjoys the situation. Under the pretence of an ESU fundraiser Gambit gains access to the house of a significant underworld financier and his rumoured stash of magical, mystical and technological “payments”. Outwardly it is a beautiful mansion but realistically it is a veritable Fort Knox. In Gambit’s own mind he feels that if it was going to be easy then he wouldn’t enjoy robbing the place.

In true Hustle or Leverage fashion, the issue follows the shoulder-rubbing and innocuous conversations that will eventually enable Remy to breach a very well hidden vault. It’s enjoyable and a nice little bit of fun, if not a touch formulaic in its development and presentation.

Not to take anything away from it though as during this you can also catch glimpses of a bigger story and secondary plot lines also being seeded with an equally mysterious female counterpart who will no doubt play opposite Remy at some point. And there'sl a twist in the tail to snap you out of the Hollywoo-style heist caper.

The artwork and colouring by Mann, Mann and Rosenberg was great. I especially loved the cover which has bold black and white contrast with Gambit taking full and complete centre stage. A definite statement made on the cover and also true to the whole honesty I mentioned earlier too.

There are sneaky nods and winks throughout as well, such as in the first page - essay pieces from the school and the almost too easy to miss picture of Gambit and Rogue together. It all showcases the further depth of the character. The vault as well is a sneaky smile at many previous storylines; many of the artifacts easily recognised for their own roles in the Marvel Universe.

All in all this title eases you into the story and welcomes you in a very comfortable fashion. It’s fun and light and an extremely good read. It won’t upset fans as it doesn't try to change who Gambit is. And it does it in a way that will attract new readers too.

This is a title that any fan X or otherwise should at least take a look at. A fun read.

Matt Puddy is to be commended for not using the phrase 'Ragin' Cajun" anywhere in this article.

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