Friday, January 11, 2008

GAMBIT #4 – March 1994

Thief of Time
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Lee Weeks (penciler), Klaus Janson w/Jason Gorder (inks), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer)

Gambit steals Julien’s portion of the elixir, but learns that the elixir has caused him to become an addict. Gambit’s father tells him that this is a risk the Thieves Guild takes in exchange for long life. Candra unites the Thieves and Assassins Guilds against Gambit, but he refuses to hand over the elixir. He fends off the Guilds and tries to resurrect Bella Donna with the elixir, but Julien suddenly breaks in and destroys the vial. Gambit is tempted to kill Julien, but refuses. Gambit’s father-in-law does kill Julien when he tries to slash Gambit from behind. Candra appears, telling the Guilds that the pact will be restored if they kill Gambit. Both sides refuse, no longer willing to be her pawns. Gambit takes the blanket soaked with the elixir and his blood and squeezes it out into Bella Donna’s mouth. She is revived, but has no memory of Gambit. Gambit’s father tells him that his relationship with the Guilds will be strained and to stay out of New Orleans. Gambit leaves his city and family behind.

After last issue’s upturn in quality, I was cautiously optimistic about this issue. I shouldn’t have been. Rather than focusing on the qualities that made Gambit popular in the first place, the story’s back to mopey Gambit fighting generic thugs with bad accents while crying about his wife. The story does introduce one interesting conflict, the idea that reviving his wife might make her addicted to the elixir. Gambit worries about the decision for a few pages, and then just goes through with it, making me wonder why the idea was even brought up in the first place. Even the ongoing quest to find the elixir is shortchanged in the final issue, as Gambit just snatches one vial away from Julien without any trouble. The story never even explains where he got the other vial he needed. Since this was the vial that his father owned, I guess it’s implied that he gave it to Gambit after saving his life, but it’s not clear. Another question that occurred to me while reading this issue – what are the Assassins’ powers? Bella Donna had generic energy blasts in her first appearance, but what about the rest of her family? The story makes a big deal about the Assassin’s pact with Candra to gain power, but we never actually see it. Since Gambit spends a large portion of this miniseries fighting these guys, that’s a glaring omission.

I was surprised to look back and see that the X-Men storyline that introduced the Guilds wasn’t so bad, but this miniseries cements my belief that the Guilds idea did a lot of damage to Gambit’s character. The cool mystery man now has most of his secrets revealed, and they’re not really interesting. At least Wolverine got to be a CIA agent in his hidden past, Gambit’s just caught up in garish retread of the Hatfields and McCoys. Gambit doesn’t even steal because he’s an outlaw, or because he wants to take back ill-gotten goods; he steals because that’s the role his family plays in some bored old lady’s game. That makes him a stooge, not a rebel. At the very least, this mini could have served as the final word on the storyline, as Gambit is told to get out of town and his wife apparently has amnesia, but Marvel was never willing to let it go.

Before the final issue of this limited series went on sale where I lived, this episode of the X-Men animated series aired. It covers a lot of the plot points established in this miniseries. Since it takes months for an episode of cartoon show to be written and animated, I wonder how long Marvel had all of this storyline worked out before Howard Mackie began writing this series. Is this a record for the fastest comic book to outside media adaptation? It’s worth noting that the cartoon show left the Guilds alone after this episode, allowing Gambit to keep his irreverent personality throughout the rest of the series. The comics, unfortunately, wouldn’t follow suit (although Fabian Nicieza did an admirable job with the Gambit monthly series years later).


Kerry said...

I remember really liking this at the time, though the plot has since faded away in my mind. Reading your summary, I still don't remember much about it; it's interesting how little of the stuff introduced and/or nurtured by Nicieza has caught on outside of his own writing. Which characters or concepts are relevant to the continuity today? It must be frustrating to go, "Okay, no one else wants to use Adam-X (or whoever)? Guess I'll just keep trying to build him up..."

Kerry said...

Of course, five seconds after posting the above I realized this was a Mackie script. Still, my point stands, given Nicieza's prevalence at the time (though I suppose it would have been more relevant on the Deadpool reviews).

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