Tooth And Claw
Credits: Jim Lee (plot, pencils), Scott Lobdell (script), Jim Lee & Art Thibert (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
As Bishop is inducted into the X-Men, he recognizes Gambit as “The Witness” from the future. Bishop is convinced that Gambit will betray the X-Men, but the team is skeptical. At a picnic, Jean catches Cyclops leering at Psylocke. Meanwhile, Bishop and Gambit get into a brief fight that is interrupted by Bella Donna Bourdeaux, Gambit’s wife. She explains that she married Gambit to create a truce between their two clans. Her brother-in-law objected and was killed by Gambit in a duel. Bella Donna wants Gambit to return to New Orleans to end the war between their two clans. The X-Men agree to join him in New Orleans.
Approved By The Comics Code Authority
Psylocke emerges from the pond in a scene that’s almost reminiscent of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. There’s always been an element of cheesecake to Jim Lee’s X-Men work, but this is the first time the story draws attention to it. This type of scene between Cyclops and Psylocke will continue for at least a year.
According to Bishop, Forge will later be known as “Genesis”. He also refers to Jubilee as “the last X-Man”. On top of that, Bishop says that he was raised by Gambit (as The Witness) “in the aftermath of the Great Betrayal.” I don’t remember anything about Bishop’s various solo series, so I don’t know if all of these bits were connected.
Gambit’s name is revealed as “LeBeau”. This issue also introduces the Thieves Guild and Assassins Guild. Various writers have tried to make the Guilds work, but I don’t think any of them ever pulled it off. X-fans were excited about lots of things in this era, but I don’t remember any enthusiasm for the Guilds idea.
I’m still keeping track of Gambit’s speech pattern. In this issue, I counted two “dat”s and one “dis”. His accent still isn’t as exaggerated as it will later become.
There isn’t much of a plot in this issue, but the various story threads it introduces stuck around for years. More is revealed about Gambit in this issue than in any of his previous two years of appearances. He’s given a real name, a part of his past is revealed, and he’s accused of betraying the team. Gambit was originally intended to be working undercover for Mr. Sinister when Chris Claremont introduced him. Since Bob Harras was also the editor when he was introduced, I assume he was familiar with the idea. It’s possible that the plan at this point was for Gambit to actually betray the team.
As soon as the traitor plot is introduced, no one seems to know what to do with it. Bishop, a man they know is from the future, tells them that Gambit will betray the team and kill them. Professor Xavier’s response is that the X-Men should go on a picnic. This is totally ridiculous, and the script even acknowledges so. Based on his previous appearances, I can understand if the X-Men think that Bishop is a little nutty, but why would they so casually dismiss what he says? They know nothing about Gambit, and he doesn’t seem that interested in proving Bishop wrong. Shouldn’t the X-Men at least be a little concerned? Whatever dramatic weight this idea might’ve had is dismissed as soon as it’s introduced. It’s a shame since this could’ve introduced a lot of tension into the title. If we actually saw Bishop investigating Gambit and learning about his various sins, that could have been an intriguing storyline. Instead, the idea stayed in the background for years and was never fully developed. The ‘90s cartoon actually did a better job with this idea. At least in the cartoon, the X-Men are disturbed by this revelation. In this issue, no one seems to really care.
Psylocke’s reputation as the X-Men’s “slut” can also be traced back to this issue. There is a segment of fans that are highly defensive of the Scott/Jean romance and are hostile to any attempts to drive them apart. Putting Psylocke in the “home wrecker” role probably wasn’t a good move for her long-term popularity. Even though her costume was a one-piece bathing suit at this point, there hadn’t been an effort to directly focus on her sexuality. Suddenly having her in the role of seductress is awkward and it leads to her being labeled as “ninja bimbo” for years.
Rogue also begins a personality shift in this issue. In her previous appearances, she barely tolerated Gambit’s advances. Now, she has a schoolgirl crush on him, and automatically defends him from Bishop’s accusations. Rogue lost a lot of her personality throughout the ‘90s, and I think it started with this issue. I don’t want to be hyperbolic and say that this issue ruins three characters, but you can see where things are starting to go wrong.
I don’t want to make this issue out to be worse than it is. The art’s an improvement over the previous issue, and some of the picnic scenes work well. Like a lot of the Jim Lee issues, the story just doesn’t hold up to a lot of scrutiny. Having an X-Men picnic issue is fine, but placing it after the traitor revelation doesn’t make sense. Lee also falls back on the plot convenience of having another stranger know where the X-Men live (although I guess it’s possible that Gambit and Bella Donna have been in contact over the years).