Tuesday, March 13, 2012

GAMBIT #4 - May 1999

Old Wounds, Fresh Blood!
Credits: Fabian Nicieza & Steve Skroce (story & art), Hunter, Hanna, & Koblish (inks), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft’s Jason & Troy (letters)

Summary: Chicault, a member of the Assassins Guild and employee of the Antiquary’s museum, is bitten by a vampire and converted. He targets the Antiquary’s child-slaves and turns them into vampires. Blade rescues one of the children, as Gambit returns to New Orleans. Teaming up with Gambit’s father, the heroes stop Chicault from using the children to access Antiquary’s library and gain information on the “Old Kingdom.” In exchange for freeing the children, the Antiquary’s ministers Tome and Hoard are allowed to keep Chicault’s notebook, which contains years of his research. Meanwhile, Fontanelle invades the dreams of Hazard, X-Cutioner arms the fired employees of Elysian Enterprises, and the Pig orders the Mengo Brothers to kidnap a Japanese boy.

Continuity Notes:
· The Antiquary has been missing for years according to Gambit, yet Tome and Hoard have apparently kept his operation alive.
· Hazard dreams of playing with Xavier as a child in Almagordo. Fontanelle forces him to remember an elderly woman he saw in the facility who he heard speak the words “Black Womb.”
· The Old Kingdom is a mystery that will be dealt with in the book’s second year.
· Chicault has information on “the so-called X-Ternal Elixirs” in his notes. This is presumably a reference to the X-Ternal Candra, who has a connection to the Thieves and Assassins Guilds.
· Gambit is apparently on a first name basis with Anne Rice.

Creative Differences: Chicault brags that no one thought to look on a boy’s wrists for bite marks, while the art clearly shows his ankle has been bitten. Nicieza swore on Usenet that his script did say “ankle,” which did little to alleviate Mark Powers’ reputation as a compulsive re-writer (although Nicieza did say at the time that he and Powers were working well together.)

Review: Can you guess which character in this story just starred in the surprise box office smash of 1998? I believe this is Blade’s first appearance in the comics following the film, and not surprisingly, he’s been given a Wesley Snipes makeover. I don’t think anyone really minded at the time, but lordy, if we only knew what was to come…

Regardless, Blade makes a nice, unexpected guest star for the series, and Nicieza has worked up a plausible justification for his appearance.

Unfortunately, doing a vampires in New Orleans story means we’re forced to endure more of the Thieves and Assassins Guild nonsense, but Nicieza is trying to downplay the sillier aspects of the concept and emphasize their connection to some of the creepier elements of New Orleans. Admirably, Nicieza tries to make the Guilds work throughout his run on the book, and this is one of his better attempts. This is a packed issue, and while I found it a little hard to follow on my first reading, it becomes clearer with a second attempt. I think the biggest stumbling block would be the casual introduction of the Antiquary, an off-panel character who we discover maintained a child slave operation, and somehow housed a museum that contains Guild secrets. He’s fleshed out more in subsequent issues, but Nicieza treats him as if he’s an established concept this issue, which makes the story a little more confusing than it needs to be.

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