Having just returned from San Diego Comic-Con, I can attest to the love Gambit seems to hold within the X-Men fanbase if only based on the countless cosplayers dressed as the scoundrel. Add that to the X-Men ’97 animated cartoon program that will drop next year, as well as the Xtreme X-Men mini set to release soon, and it felt like prime time for a Chris Claremont-fronted Gambit miniseries to hit shelves.
This first issue of the Gambit mini is a prequel, focusing on the early interactions between Gambit and Storm when she was de-aged by Nanny. This issue focuses on Gambit training Ororo in the arts of theft, while confronting her own traumas. We see Gambit push the future, giving her ample opportunities to demonstrate her skill and ability. This issue climaxes with a rival group of thieves led by Sabine challenging Ororo, placing Gambit’s protégé in a physical challenge meant to exhibit her combat facilities.
It’s a fine little tale that keeps things rather simple, focusing on the personal interactions between our heroes at its narrative core, adding complexity to Ororo’s trauma that helped form the character that would later become Storm. It unfortunately falls prey to many of Claremont’s foibles, with extraneous dialogue or exposition filling each page where the visuals would suffice to tell the tale. Much of the text could likely be cut without altering the emotional depth of the narrative.
Sid Kotian and Espen Grundetjern do a fine job capturing the flow of the narrative and produce plenty of fine character designs in the action-focused potions of the issue. As this comic feels like a ’90s throwback, it is fitting that their linework also feels like it fits into that era of comics. I especially liked how they represented the Shadow King throughout this comic, giving him a visually foreboding façade. The pacing and blocking of each frame are done competently, giving the overly text-heavy scripting some acceptable graphical organization.
For X-Men fans looking for something far removed from the Krakoan era and recent plot arcs, this will be a welcome alternative. The book reads and feels like it jumped out of 1997, and there is surely a ravenous audience for works of this tone. While it likely won’t reveal astonishing secrets about each character, it may just be a fine precursor to the forthcoming Chris Claremont X-Men book and will surely give his fans reason to rejoice.
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