The Sunset Dawn Book 1:
The Time Trap Chapter 1
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (script), Steve Skroce (layouts), Rodney Ramos (finishes), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)
Summary: Gambit’s father informs him that he must travel back to 1891’s London, because he remembers Gambit saving his life there as a boy. He seeks help from Sekmeht Conoway, who advises him to use Dr. Doom’s time platform. Gambit recruits Courier and the Mengo Brothers for help and invades Doom’s castle. After facing Stryfe’s Doombot guards, he locates the time platform and forces Courier to go along with him.
- Jean Luc Lebeau uses the Tithe Collector to help verify his story about Gambit saving his life as a child. Gambit learns from both the Tithe Collector and Sekmeht Conoway that Fontanelle has been invading their dreams.
- Gambit turns to Conoway for help time-traveling following the events of “The Hunt for the Tomorrow Stone,” the Gambit cyber-comic that appears to be lost to the ages.
- Stryfe is the ruler of Latveria at this point in continuity, as Dr. Doom still has not returned following the events of Heroes Reborn: Heroes Return. As many fans pointed out at the time, how exactly Stryfe took over Latveria was never shown. He landed in Latveria in the X-Man/Cable crossover, but had a vague death scene at the end.
“Huh?” Moment: The narration makes a joke about Gambit getting Conoway to crawl in front of him in the castle’s ventilation shaft, but the art shows that she’s behind him.
Review: It’s the year-end anniversary issue, and Nicieza has decided to pull together some of the seemingly disparate threads and begin the next phase of the title. All of this is a setup for getting Gambit in position to travel back to the late nineteenth century, which will eventually shed more light on Fontanelle, the history of the Thieves Guild, Candra, Mr. Sinister, and the mysterious New Son. There’s no great reason for Sekmeht Conoway, Courier, or the Mengo Brothers to be here; I'm assuming that Nicieza wants the reader to feel as if the previous eleven issues have been building to this story, but the character interactions just feel too rushed. Looking back, it’s obvious Nicieza wanted to do more with Sekmeht Conoway as a love interest, but her appearances in the book were so sparse the idea went nowhere. Having her guide Gambit through Stryfe’s castle is a nice use of the character, though. Nicieza seems to be the only person working for Marvel at the time who put any thought into why Stryfe was in Latveria in the first place. Could it be that the evil chaos-bringer from the future might want that time machine Doom keeps in his basement?
Unfortunately, Steve Skroce doesn’t seem too excited about any of this, as he leaves this month to go work on the Matrix sequels. His section of the story consists of very loose breakdowns that are poorly finished by Rodney Ramos. The often bizarre coloring isn’t much of a help, either, as we’re treated to characters with gray skin, literally purple mountains, and a color scheme that alternates between drab and garish and never finds a middle ground.
Chapter 2: It Takes a Thief (or Perhaps a Dozen)
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (script), Kaare Andrews (art), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)
Summary: In 1891, The Tithe Collector informs the Thieves Guild that Candra is not satisfied with their gifts. Meanwhile, Gambit and Courier locate master thief Adam Worth in his London home. He helps them break into Nathan Milbury’s estate, where Gambit’s grandfather Jacques Lebeau is leading a mission to appease Candra after failing to obtain the Momentary Princess. As punishment, Candra is keeping two Guild children, Jean Luc Lebeau and Belize Marceaux, captive. Gambit hands his grandfather notes from Milbury’s lab that will give Candra information on his advanced studies.
- Candra explains to Jean Luc and Belize her history with the Thieves Guild, revealing that she grants them power and longevity so that they can “divine and resurrect the Old Kingdom.” She believes that the knowledge she gains from the Old Kingdom will help her to continue discretely gaining more power.
- Belize Marceaux is apparently Gambit’s maternal uncle.
- Nathan Milbury is Mr. Sinister’s alias, of course.
- The Momentary Princess previously appeared in Gambit #10.
Review: That’s a lot of exposition to throw into the middle of a comic. Buried in all of this is more information on Candra than we’ve ever been given, a good six years after her first appearance. As Nicieza reveals, Candra keeps her distance from the other Externals, hoping that by staying a non-entity they’ll leave her alone while she accumulates ancient knowledge from around the world. This works to explain why Candra didn’t show up with the rest of the Externals during their early appearances in X-Force (and what a memorable cast of characters those guys were), a question that probably no one was asking but is addressed nonetheless. The truth is, Candra was established as an External in her early appearances because the External storyline wasn’t viewed as embarrassing yet, and it worked as a vague enough origin for the character.
Nicieza’s also revealed why exactly the Thieves and Assassin Guilds have been subjugating themselves to Candra for decades, and it involves a deal to unlock the secrets of the “Old Kingdom.” I don’t think the Old Kingdom storyline ever reaches a satisfactory conclusion, but at least the seeds are there in case someone decides to mine deeeep into X-continuity for new Candra material.
Chapter 3: Cards on the Table (and a Few up the Sleeve!)
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (script), Charles Adlard (art), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)
Summary: Candra rejects the notes handed to her, because she recognizes the designs for Apocalypse’s gestation chamber. The Tithe Collector convinces her to send Jacques Lebeau in her stead to America to learn more about Nathan Milbury’s work. When she refuses to release both boys, Gambit and Adam Worth rescue Jean Luc and cover their escape with explosions. The next morning, Gambit and Courier prepare to travel to America before the Thieves Guild can reach Milbury.
Review: Okay, Gambit managed to rescue his father rather early on in this storyline. I guess the rest of this trip is going to be dedicated to revealing more about Mr. Sinister and the Thieves Guild. One of those is interesting, the other fills me with apathy. Guess which is which. There is a decent idea in here, that Candra is so terrified of Apocalypse she sends the Thieves Guild in her place, putting Gambit in competition with his family to reach Sinister first, but…isn’t the Thieves Guild family the last thing this book should be exploring? There are already too many Guild members in the current day that no one cares about. Who really wants to read about their ancestors?