Monday, July 7, 2008

GAMBIT & THE X-TERNALS #1 – March 1995

Some of Us Looking to the Stars

Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tony Daniel (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Marie Javins (colorist)


Jubilee is caught by a group of Apocalypse’s Infinites while stealing medical supplies. Sunspot and Guido arrive to help her escape. They travel to their safehouse where Lila Cheney disburses the supplies to the human refugees. The X-Ternals head underground to the Morlock Tunnels to meet their leader, Gambit. The team is shocked to discover Magneto is waiting there with Gambit. Meanwhile, an angry Rictor receives word that Jubilee escaped. If Rictor captures the X-Ternals, he’s convinced that he’ll be promoted by Apocalypse. Inside the Morlock Tunnels, Magneto leads the team to Apocalypse’s hidden “science chamber”. He’s surprised to learn that Gambit and Lila Cheney are an item. When Sunspot asks Magneto how he can be sure this isn’t a trap, Magneto responds that he once saved the life of the chamber’s human librarian. Lila picks the lock, and the X-Ternals learn that the chamber is filled with displays of various galaxies. Suddenly, Apocalypse’s Madri guard, all duplicates of Jamie Madrox, teleport in. The team fights off the Madri while Sunspot finds Dr. Peter Corbeau, the human in charge of the lab. Corbeau tells Magneto that he’s found the Shi’ar galaxy. Magneto reveals to Lila Cheney that she has latent mutant powers, and will be the one to take the X-Ternals on their journey to steal the M’Kraan Crystal. She’s connected to a visor that links her to the lab’s navigational charts so that she can locate where she needs to teleport to. Her powers suddenly flare, as Rictor enters with backup. The team abandons the fight and escapes through Lila’s teleportation chamber. Enraged, Rictor follows them. Magneto wonders if he’s sent the X-Ternals to their deaths, then apologizes to Corbeau for setting him against Apocalypse. Corbeau knows Apocalypse will kill him, but he programs a systems crash to spite him.

Continuity Notes

According to the first page’s narrative captions, Apocalypse conquered North America on Jubilee’s sixth birthday. When her powers later emerged at age twelve, she had the opportunity to join Apocalypse, but went off with Gambit instead. “Everett” is listed as one of her former teammates who died (this is presumably Synch).

According to the narrative captions that introduce Gambit, he fled the Thieves Guild and joined the X-Men after Holocaust killed Candra “in one of the last battles for succession”. He left the X-Men two years ago and formed the X-Ternals after Magneto married Rogue.

Dr. Peter Corbeau is a supporting character who used to show up sporadically back in the ‘70s. Even though he was never used that much, he did play an important role in the original Phoenix story, and even showed up in the '90s X-Men cartoon.

Miscellaneous Note

Am I the only one who thinks the title is missing a word? There’s an empty black circle at the start of the title, where perhaps another word should’ve gone (I don’t know what would really fit there, though).


And, finally, we have Gambit and the X-Ternals to round out the inaugural launch of AoA titles. While the rest of the AoA titles had some obvious connection to their predecessors, the only cast member this series has in common with X-Force is Sunspot (who had actually been written out of that title over a year earlier). Rictor is introduced as the team’s antagonist, which at least offers some connection to the regular series, but it’s not much of one. One of the earlier X-Force storylines involved the X-Ternals, but I don’t see any obvious connection between that story and the name of this team. I guess Marvel felt that Gambit’s popularity justified casting him as a leader of an X-team, but placing him as the leader of an alternate X-Force seems pretty random. Pairing Guido, Sunspot, Jubilee, and Lila Cheney with him just makes the cast feel totally arbitrary. If Nicieza’s devised some exciting group dynamics for the new team, they’re barely on display in the first issue. The story’s essentially two fight scenes with a plot setup in the middle, not offering any real opportunities for characterization. The fight scenes, at least, aren’t totally gratuitous (although how exactly the Madri found the team isn’t explained, unless we’re supposed to believe that Corbeau really did betray them). The first fight scene helps to establish the new world, while the second one sets Rictor up for a future role in the storyline. The heavy action does evoke the feel of the regular X-Force series, even if the cast doesn’t.

I didn’t mind Daniel’s art when he first began on the title, but his work at this point is looking haphazard and rushed. A lot of the faces look flat-out ugly (especially Gambit’s), and most of the page layouts are too cramped and claustrophobic. His decision to make almost the entire issue full-bleed just makes things feel even more jumbled. With the exception of just five pages, all of the art in this issue extends to the end of the page, directly bumping up against the artwork on the opposing page. It feels like every event overlaps the next, with no time to actually absorb what’s going on. I flipped through the book and didn’t really feel like reading it, as it just looked confused and messy. The story’s not exactly a strong introduction to the team, but the art really makes things feel even more chaotic. Out of all of the AoA debut issues, I’d say this one ranks down there with X-Man and X-Men Chronicles, with the art making it the weakest overall.

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