Wednesday, June 27, 2012

GAMBIT ‘99 - September 1999

With or Without You
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Walter McDaniel (penciler), Vince Russell, Dan Green, & Scott Koblish (inkers), Gina Going (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: After the green energy living inside Gambit saves him during an accident in the Danger Room, Professor Xavier demands that he reveal the truth. He relents to an examination, which leads to the green energy violently making her presence known. While the X-Men recover from her attack, Gambit awakens in Manhattan, Indiana. He investigates the flashes of memory placed in his mind and realizes that the green energy succubus is a mutant named Mary Purcell. She was believed dead after her mutant powers manifested at a gas station, and years later encountered Gambit while he was stranded at Magneto’s Antarctic base. After following the trail left from Antarctica, the X-Men find Gambit and use Beast’s invention to detach Mary. Gambit tries to free Mary from the device, but his powers dissipate her from all known existence. Later, at Mary’s grave, Rogue and Gambit make peace.

Continuity Notes:
· Xavier remarks that Gambit’s bio-kinetic energy has always made it difficult to mind-link to him, and even more difficult to read his mind.
· While watching surveillance footage in Antarctica, the X-Men discover that Magneto was impersonating Erik the Red during Gambit’s “trial” in Uncanny X-Men #350. The only explanation for why Magneto would don the disguise is that he wanted to “distract” the X-Men.

I Love the '90s: Gambit is watching a Buffy marathon on his VCR when Professor Xavier confronts him about hiding secrets from the team.

Production Note: Someone forgot to paste in images of the X-Men on Xavier’s videoscreens as he monitors their mission in Antarctica. Instead, we merely see the words “Beast,” “Marrow,” and “Rogue,” written by the artist, on the screens.

Review: Fabian Nicieza was stuck with the “Green Mist Lady” mystery when assigned the Gambit series, and I’m not sure if he was ever thrilled about it. I don’t recall any readers being too excited over the concept either, considering that it was introduced at the very end of Steven Seagal and Joe Kelly’s stint, an era dominated by editorially mandated “exciting new directions” and numerous dropped storylines. Nicieza puts an honest effort into it, though, and he manages to address the horrific ending of Uncanny X-Men #350 in the process (another mess he wasn’t responsible for).

Forcing the X-Men to travel to Antarctica and face their abandonment of Gambit is something that should’ve already happened in the main books by this point, but evading the issue for so long works to this story’s advantage. Nicieza plays the angle that the X-Men have avoided thinking about their actions because they’re so ashamed of them, making their discovery of Gambit’s audio diary (kept on an old tape recorder he found) even more demoralizing, as they’re forced to listen to his first-hand account of stripping plastic off of wiring and seat covers for food. Nicieza’s choice of a team is also smart, as he pairs two X-Men who were there (Rogue and Beast) with one who wasn’t (Marrow). As Marrow points out, what did Gambit do that was so bad that he was sentenced to starve and freeze to death…by the same people willing to take her in? The story also makes it clear that the X-Men are deliberately keeping Gambit’s role in the Morlock Massacre a secret from Marrow, a continuity point that really should’ve been addressed in the main titles as soon as Gambit was brought back.

The origin of the Green Mist Lady presents more of a problem, though. Nicieza wants to ground her in reality by giving her a suburban origin and typically dysfunctional home life, which is fine, but it’s hard to reconcile that with the early appearances of “Mary.” We learn that Magneto discovered Mary when she tried to bond with his body, but the reader never discovers how exactly she ended up in Antarctica. (And why she would want to go there.) Nor do we learn how she teleported Gambit from New York to Indiana instantaneously, unless the idea is that she can turn Gambit’s body into mist form. We also have to assume that her mist form moves extremely fast for this to work. And Mary’s motive, that she wants to create a new life form with Gambit so that the world will finally discover she exists, is just batty. I guess this is an attempt to reconcile her dialogue from her early appearances in X-Men, but the concept is just nonsensical. Still, the ending isn’t all bad. Making Gambit indirectly responsible for her death plays into his ongoing guilt complex, as he’s left to mourn another person he’s used and accidentally hurt. Not that he’s too broken up about it, of course; I don’t think we hear about Mary the Mist Lady ever again.

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