Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #8 - November 1996

My Brother’s Keeper
Credits:  Ralph Macchio (writer), Andy Kuhn (penciler), Ralph Cabrera (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Michael Higgins (letters)

Summary:  Gambit receives word that his brother Bobby is engaged to Bella Donna.  He travels to New Orleans to talk Bobby out of the marriage.  Bobby refuses, claiming that he’ll be the one to unite the Thieves and Assassins Guilds.  He quickly changes his mind, however, which leads Bella Donna to send the Assassin Beau after Bobby.  Beau throws a blade into Bobby’s back while he’s outside talking to Gambit.  Gambit chases Beau and eventually forces him to reveal Bella Donna’s plot: Bella Donna arranged the marriage to gain access to the Thieves Guild’s immortality elixir vials.  Gambit sneaks into Bella Donna’s home and destroys the vials.  Later, at Bobby’s graveside, he says goodbye.

Continuity Notes:  This is a direct sequel to the nineteenth episode of the animated series, “X-Ternally Yours.”  The footnotes claim this episode was adapted in X-Men Adventures #6, presumably the second volume.

“Um, Actually…:  Amazingly, the opening page gets the name of the X-Men’s school wrong.  There’s no such school as “The Xavier Academy for Gifted Youngsters.”  The cartoon went with the classic “Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters,” while the comics at the time had updated the name to “The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.”  

Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Gambit is allowed to smoke in the Adventures comics, unlike the cartoons.  Bobby also has a more graphic death scene than the show would ever allow, even though the comic does have him bleed white blood as opposed to red.

Miscellaneous Note:  The Statement of Ownership lists average sales for the year at 66,165 copies, with the most recent selling 58,945.

Review:  Oh, wow.  This is a rough one.  The Thieves Guild.  The Assassins Guild.  Ridiculous phonetic accents.  (“Gotta tell you, brot’er, you was makin’ me proud back dere!”)  That’s already asking a lot of the reader, but even if someone has the goodwill to ignore these elements, there’s no real reward.  Unless you’re just absolutely desperate for a Gambit solo story, it’s hard to decipher what the appeal of this issue is supposed to be.  

For some reason, the cartoon’s shrill, irritating interpretation of Bella Donna returns, which means she’s a one-dimensional harpy who can’t conceive of a villainous plot that doesn’t involve marriage.  This time she’s selected Gambit’s brother Bobby as her husband, a role he stupidly agrees to even after she kidnapped him and held him hostage as a part of her previous marriage scheme.  For the sake of plot convenience, it takes a one-page conversation with Gambit to convince him that this is an idiotic idea, but unfortunately for Bobby, he’s deemed expendable enough to die in the cartoon tie-in book.  That’s pretty much the height of obscurity, Bobby.  

Gambit spends the rest of the issue hunting down his brother’s killer, spouting unconvincing action movie revenge clichés that sound even more laughable through his “dis an’ dat” accent.  He then exacts vengeance on Bella Donna, which just means he spends a few panels destroying her precious elixirs.  (As someone who’s endured far too many Guild stories, I don’t even remember if the Thieves Guild was the side with immortality elixirs in the first place.)  There’s also an underdeveloped plot involving the Thieves Guild blaming Gambit for Bobby’s murder, a thread that goes nowhere and is resolved off-panel.  

This is as bad as you’d probably expect an Adventures issue to be.  I can’t even throw much of a bone towards Andy Kuhn, since his interpretation of Gambit often resembles a frog wearing Johnny Depp’s wig.  “X-Ternally Yours” set an incredibly low bar to clear, but amazingly, this issue might be even worse than its predecessor.

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