Thursday, March 22, 2012

GAMBIT #5 - June 1999

Of Mice and Men
Credits: Fabian Nicieza & Steve Skroce (story and art), Rob Hunter w/Walden Wong (inks), Marie Javins w/Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: The X-Cutioner kidnaps Rogue and uses her as bait for Gambit. Following X-Cutioner’s orders, Gambit walks through a stargate and is teleported to his orbital base. Gambit defeats X-Cutioner’s agents, Cosmo Stephanopoulos, Mariah Ellenthorpe, and Jack Farley, and soon finds Rogue. The X-Cutioner attacks, harming Rogue in the battle. Gambit turns the X-Cutioner’s staff against him, temporarily blinding him. In his confusion, X-Cutioner accidentally kills his men. Traumatized, he unlocks a buried secret about his father. As Gambit and Rogue teleport to safety, X-Cutioner accepts his fate and stays to die onboard the collapsing satellite.

Continuity Notes: Fontanelle examines the dreamscape of her employer, New Son. The only recognizable image she sees is that of the Dark Beast. New Son “promptly kicks her out of his mind!” when he realizes what she’s doing.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Cosmo Stephanopoulos remarks that his teammate Mariah is “taking out a can of whupass” on Gambit.

Review: Scott Lobdell's review of this issue, circa May 1999:

Sorry if this comes a little late, but I'm basically a newstand buyer any more.
That is, if I have to take the subway here in NYC, I often pick up a comic at
the station and read it en route. (It's either that or talk to myself, and
that gets really you might imagine.)

Three days ago I stumbled onto GAMBIT #5, and I couldn't keep it to myself a
moment longer -- I LOVED THIS BOOK!

This was one of my favorite singel-issue comics of the past few years...which
is pretty incredible when you consider I created X-CUTIONER (in fact, Carl
Denti was actually the name of my psychology teacher in college!) and probably
came to the story with set of preconceived notions. But Fabian pulled it off

Fabian has used the Absentee-Father-as-profound-impact-on-character's-life on
more than one occassion, but never as effectively as he has here. And the way
he pulled off the Denti/X-Cutioner dichotomy, and then tied it into the his
birthday (in many ways this has all been about a painful "death" and rebirth
of the character as a result of the self-fullfilling events herein) was
excellent! If you haven't read this issue, do yourself a favor and go get it.
Again, it was one of the best examples of a great super hero story to have come
out of the Tomb Of Ideas in a while!

(To give you an example of how much I loved this story, it actually got me
thinking "If Marvel Idiotorial feels to the need to do yet another X - title
instead of making the existing x-titles better, they should really give Fabian
the elbow room to do an X-Cutioner ongoing! In just 22 pages, Fabian made this
marginal x-character more interesting and complex than many of the other Marvel
characters that have been gasping for characterization for years. At least
it'd be something different than another adjective in front of another X-book,
or another Unrevealed Story limited." )

Either way, Fabe, for what it's worth, I loved this issue!
Scott Lobdell

I don't have a compelling reason for posting this, I just thought it was interesting. By the way, if you think the color choices on this cover is odd, you're right. For some reason, the color scheme in this title often resembles the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us. Anyway...

Much of Gambit’s early positive feedback came from this issue, which really is the best installment so far, and perhaps the best issue of the entire series. While Nicieza is skimping over X-Cutioner’s established gimmick of only targeting mutant killers, and his previous encounter with Rogue in X-Man, he really has hit on a solid idea -- the X-Cutioner is a great foil for Gambit. X-Cutioner is a no-nonsense authority figure who secretly breaks the law to chase his obsessions, while Gambit is a light-hearted thief whose blithe fa├žade hides intense shame and a deep concern for the people around him. Denti can’t help but to hate Gambit, and he’s grown increasingly fixated on him since their encounter in the first issue.

The theme of masks shows up repeatedly during the story, as X-Cutioner ponders why he’s chosen this path for himself and why exactly he’s so afraid to face a buried memory about his father. He questions the mask Gambit’s cloaked himself in, eventually deciding that he’s hiding the fear that he “doesn’t deserve any better than what he heaps on himself.” While he’s confident that he’s figured his opponent out, X-Cutioner refuses to admit the fear that’s driven his adult life, until a friendly fire accident forces him to face the truth about his father.

The execution of this scene is genuinely haunting; a true testament to what a talented creator can do with any character that’s been left by the wayside and never properly explored. It’s a little surprising that Nicieza gives X-Cutioner a fairly conclusive death scene after going through so much effort to establish him as Gambit’s perfect arch-nemesis, which might explain why Nicieza revived Carl Denti and the X-Cutioner persona in the second year of the series. This becomes a case of diminishing returns, to be honest, and I don’t recall if the mystery surrounding the revival is even resolved. Still, this remains a great standalone issue, worth seeking out by anyone willing to take a Gambit vs. X-Cutioner story seriously.

1 comment:

ray swift said...

I think it's great he died at the end. He complered a full circle, kinda like Magneto in X-men #3. This is actually the best point to say farwell to a character, instead of dragging it on because of popularity and such...

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