Episode 0002: X-men: Gambit: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 (Part One)

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Adam takes a look at ragin’ Cajun and begins his examination of the first collection of comics from Gambit’s Solo series in 1999.

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Transcript below:

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham. If you have a comment email it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com. For today’s program we’re going to be taking a look at X-Men Gambit: The Complete Collection. The first volume collecting Gambit’s 1999 comic series. I should note that it’s been nearly two years and a second volume hasn’t been issue so perhaps this should be ‘X-Men Gambit: The Incomplete Collection’. Be that as it may I’m going to go ahead and take a look at this collection and see if it lives up to my standard as a classy comic.

I have to say I have never been into the X-Men very much. There are two big reasons for that: the modern world of X-Men comics is just way too complicated. There are too many characters with too much continuity between them. I decided a few years back to pick up the all-female X-Men book; I thought that with an Issue One this would be a great jumping on point. Instead I got lost in all the continuity of how all these characters got there, what their relationship to each other was, while they were also managing an ongoing plot beginning. And many of the X-Men were often off in other X-Men books. They had a total of four different books going at the same time. I think they’re down to two different books going right now. But it’s just too daunting to try and get this all figured out.

The other thing is that in the Marvel Comics Universe the X-Men could often behave in ways that were unheroic. In ‘The Secret Wars of Ant’ they went off and rescued Magneto and separated from the good guys and started a separate mutant section to the battle world. In ‘X-Men-Fantastic Four’ against Reed Richards’ advice they turn to Doctor Doom for help. In ‘X-Men- Avengers’ they decided to help Magneto avoid being tried for crimes against him which led them into conflict with the X-Men. However, unlike many kids of my generation, I didn’t grow up watching the X-Men which may have led me to view them more fondly despite their issues in print. My wife, like every other child with geek cred in our generation, swears by the X-Men as a great series and I’ve actually been impressed as we’ve started re-watching it on Amazon – though in my case it’s for the first time. And I’ve found a favorite character: Gambit. I’ve never read Gambit in comics so I decided to request a Gambit collection from my library as an interlibrary loan. I got the wrong one – I wanted the Gambit Classic with shows us introductory issues, but this collection actually collects his ongoing series that began 1999. It begins after the trial of Gambit when it’s discovered that Gambit led the Marauders into the sewers where the Morlocks were. These were sewer-dwelling mutants who were slaughtered by the Marauders.

The X-Men respond to this the only way they know how – abandoning Gambit to his fate in Antarctica. See what I meant about unheroic actions? Though I will say as the book goes on, it comes out there were some mitigating circumstances on both sides. Now unlike Silver Surfer where it kind of made sense for me to go through this on an Issue by Issue basis, at least for the first several Issues of this series it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do that with Gambit as there were ongoing stories going on throughout – plus this is a really much longer book than the Silver Surfer. There were five key points that worked it way through the first few Issues of Gambit, the first seven and the annual that we’ll go ahead and talk about.

First is the aftermath of the trial and his abandonment and the [relationship] ith his team. As the book starts with X-Men Unlimited Number Eighteen Gambit is dealing with a lot of guilt and shame about his being forced out from the X-Men and abandoned, guilt over leading the Marauders to the Morlocks and their death – even though that wasn’t Gambit’s intention and he didn’t know what was going on, as well as the shame of having his friends turn on him and throw him out of the X-Men. And obviously this is a big ongoing issue with Gambit for insecurity as he was abandoned as a child, adopted by the Thieves Guild in New Orleans, and eventually he had to flee there after some unpleasantness, and was in fact excommunicated from the Thieves Guild. So, there’s some rich and genuine emotional conflict that’s explode in these first few issues. There are X-Men who appear as guest stars in these issues, though except for the Annual there’s been more than one actively in the Issue, which allows Gambit to focus on just that one relationship. Storm appears in an early issue and that kind of ties in to a lot of Gambit’s struggle as they’re very similar people.

Then the next issue and it’s revealed in the one half issue, is that Remy has bonded with a female creature who helps keep him alive during his time in Antarctica. This creature gets jealous when he talks to other women. I think this is handled pretty nicely because her presence in the story is pretty brief but it establishes her so that when she comes back in the Annual the issue can be addressed and everything comes to a head. It’s also worth noting that Remy didn’t do anything about her until it became a situation where his own life was threatened…during that he owed her for saving his life. The Annual, again, finds everything being resolved in a fairly good story – if a little bit overlong that reveals the nature of the creature and wraps up that part of the plot beautifully.

I wish the plot involving the New Son were wrapped up as simply. Not only was Remy saved from Antarctica by this mysterious female force, but he was also saved by the New Son who, because of him having saved Remy wants Remy to go out and steal some stuff. I should note I’m using Gambit’s first name, his full name is Remy LeBeau. Gambit is really curious about what the New Son is, if the New Son’s motives are actually pure, and he’s assured they are. But we, in this volume, don’t really get a whole lot of information as to what the New Son’s about. And towards the end of the book the idea of him stealing things for the New Son or trying to find out what the New Son is up to kinds of disappears from the book. Again, we haven’t seen the second volume so this might be resolved there, but to go Eleven issues and not even make much progress is a little bit disappointing.

Then we had The Fontanelle. This was a lady who haunted people’s dreams to get information on Remy and we never learn why. Again there may be some resolution in the final part of the Gambit series, but she is in nearly every issue and they break up the action to show her going into somebody’s subconscious to learn something about Gambit. This isn’t the sort of thing that should be going on every issue for nearly a year without any resolution.

Probably the best part of the book is when Gambit is in New Orleans which is a couple of times at the request of his adoptive father. We kind of get to explore a bit the nature of their relationship, of his history and the culture of the Guilds, both the Thieves and the Assassins in New Orleans. The biggest thing he does in this book is face a disgustingly disformed mutant known as The Pig where he daydreams about taking over the saying Doctor Doom, Magneto and Red Skull all failed where he succeeded, when he’s nowhere close to being in the same league as these villains.

Strictly a D-lister but the plot, I think, is pretty good. And it’s overall an enjoyable story, more so for the insights on Remy than they are for the fight or the villain. Alright, well that’s all we have time for in today’s episode. Next time we’ll finish talking about X-Men – Gambit: The Complete Collection Volume One. In the meantime, if you do have a comment, email it to me at classiccomicsguy@gmail.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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