Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NIGHT MAN/GAMBIT #1-#3, March-May 1996

Shredding Skin

Credits: David Quinn (writer), Dietrich Smith (penciler), Norm Rapmund (inker), Patrick Owsley (letters), Andrew Covalt & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Candra calls Gambit, asking him to join her in a new world she’s discovered. Outside of the mansion, a sickly Night Man arrives, hoping to find Wolverine. Gambit, the mansion’s lone occupant, takes Night Man in and discovers his skin is falling off. Meanwhile in the Ultraverse, another ailing Night Man faces death. The sorceress Rhiannon takes him to the Marvel Universe, but is shocked to discover he isn’t with her when she arrives at the X-Men’s mansion. Unbeknownst to her, this Night Man landed in Candra’s home.

Continuity Notes: As a result of the Ultraverse’s “Black September” event, there are now two Night Men. One lives in his original universe, and the other has been sent to the Marvel Universe.

Review: Who knew this even existed? Seriously, I loyally followed everything X-related well into the ‘90s, and never even saw an ad for this one. Why go through the effort of producing a gratuitous team-up miniseries with an X-Man if you’re not going to promote it within the X-books? And people actually did buy Gambit comics in these days! At any rate, this miniseries continues the adventures of the reality-displaced Night Man, who previously crossed over with an X-Man in Night Man vs. Wolverine #0. Existing in the wrong universe is apparently killing the poor guy (much like the actual publication of his ongoing series), so he’s turned to the X-Men for help. He somehow thinks that tampering with their alarm system will help his case, which leads to a pointless fight with Gambit. This fulfills the issue’s mandatory fight scene, while the rest of the issue is spent establishing the two Night Men concept and checking in on the Ultraverse. There’s an elaborate storyline going on with Night Man, his father who also used to be Night Man, and Rhiannon, who I gather is a Night Man villain. There’s no real effort put into explaining any of this for new readers, so if any hypothetical Gambit fans stumbled across this book and bought it, I can’t see them getting drawn into the story.

Wilder Hearts

Credits: David Quinn (writer), Andrew Wildman & Dietrich Smith (pencilers), Stephen Baskerville & Norm Rapmund (inks), Patrick Owsley (letters), Andrew Covalt & Malibu (colors)

Summary: The second, feral Night Man arrives at the X-Men’s mansion. Gambit leaves Night Man and Rhiannon behind to investigate and is soon attacked by the doppelganger. Rhiannon stops the battle and takes both Night Men and Gambit prisoner. She prepares to feast on Gambit’s heart and steal his energy, when Candra suddenly appears.

Review: Just to bump up the level of generic ‘90s-ness, X-Men Adventures artist Andrew Wildman arrives to fill in for much of the issue. To be fair, neither Wildman or Smith are as bad as the cover would lead you to believe, but I don’t think anyone is going to mistake which decade produced this comic. I’m not familiar with writer David Quinn, and only remember his name from a Bullpen Bulletins piece that hyped a new, darker direction for Dr. Strange. He’s latched on to the idea that Gambit resents the X-Men’s unwillingness to trust him, and connects it to Rhiannon’s refusal to reveal her plan to him. This is the extent of Gambit’s characterization this issue, while Night Man I recaps some plot points and Night Man II growls repeatedly.

A subplot scene set on the Ultraverse fleshes out the Night Man supporting characters introduced last issue, which is appreciated. Gale, the woman hanging around Night Man’s father, is revealed as the hero’s girlfriend. I assumed she was his father’s wife, last issue. The father also lapses into a flashback, revealing that Rhiannon is Night Man’s mother, who stays eternally youthful by feeding on young men’s hearts. He discovered this when he came home from work early, only to discover her semi-nude, straddling a young man and literally chewing on his heart. That’s a helpful bit of info, and I have to say that revealing it here instead of the first issue actually does work to the story’s advantage.

One of You

Credits: David Quinn (writer), Dietrich Smith (penciler), Norm Rapmund (inker), Patrick Owsley (letters), Andrew Covalt & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Rhiannon invites Candra to join her in the Ultraverse, after she sacrifices Gambit and uses his energy to unite the Night Men and open an interdimensional rift. Gambit breaks free, as the two Night Men begin to realize they can’t live independent of the other. When Candra throws a knife at Rhiannon’s heart, the feral Night Man stands in the way and is killed. The sickly Night Man convinces Rhiannon to use the energy left by his counterpart to return home. They arrive in the Ultraverse, just as a funeral is being held for Night Man’s alter ego. Meanwhile, Gambit promises to help Candra find a new start in their home reality.

Review: And now this miniseries has devolved into total nonsense. Why exactly Candra wanted to live in a new world in the first issue wasn’t very clear, but it’s an important plot point in the final issue. Apparently, she wants “freedom,” which she can’t get due to her relationship with the Thieves and Assassins Guilds. They’re the ones who offer tithes to her, so I don’t understand what hold they’re supposed to have over her. Quinn also seems to have picked up on the hint in the first Gambit miniseries that Candra had a fling with Gambit, which is why she wants him to join her in a new world. The implication in this story, at least on a few pages, is that she’s in love with him, which doesn’t exactly gel with the allusions from Howard Mackie’s original story.

When Candra isn’t swooning over Gambit, she doesn’t care if he lives or dies, as she goes along with Rhiannon’s plan to sacrifice him. Then, just a few pages later, she switches sides again and tries to kill Rhiannon. She’s also established a strong bond with the feral Night Man, which comes and goes in-between pages. Aside from motivations that shouldn’t be scrutinized, the issue’s also filled with nonsensical justifications for interdimensional travel, and an ending that has Night Man returning to his world as some kind of ghost. Even more confusing is the declaration that this storyline has ceased all of the extradimensonal problems created by the “Black September” event, a crossover stunt that’s never been explained during this specific miniseries. Okay, Gambit fans…you’ve gotten a taste of the Ultraverse! Don’t you want more?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My fiancee is a casual comic reader who is still a Gambit fan, but based almost entirely on the 90's cartoon. Her step dad gave us a couple long boxes of comic after helping them move and the first two issues were in there. She picked it up and asked me just who the Hell Nightman was and I explained what little I knew remembered about the Ultraverse. I don't think she even made it half way through the issue before tossed it in the garbage.

So... I know two people who bought this series based on Gambit and both decided to get rid of it.

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