Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Sid Kotian
Colors: Espen Grundetjerk
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Whilce Portacio & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Salvador Larroca & Edgar Delgado; InHyuk Lee; Peach Momoko; Scott Williams & Sebastian Cheng
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: July 27th, 2022
GAMBIT may be an X-Man now, but once upon he was quite the thief. Chris Claremont takes us on a trip back to the days immediately before GAMBIT joined the X-Men and starts weaving a complex story that fits in perfectly with his Uncanny X-Men run.
Chris Claremont takes us back to a period of time referenced in UNCANNY X-MEN #267 but never explored for the story that begins in GAMBIT #1. We get to see GAMBIT when he was an unapologetic thief and a de-aged Storm whose spotty memory let her be someone quite different from the model X-Man. The result is a very interesting comic.
GAMBIT #1 is definitely a recognizable Claremont comic. While he has long since stopped using the third-person narration that was so ubiquitous in his original UNCANNY X-MEN run, he’s still heavy-handed when it comes to dialogue. None of the dialogue is superfluous, though; it all contributes to plot and character development. As a result, the issue covers a lot of ground right out of the gate.
The density of GAMBIT #1’s story isn’t surprising given that it takes place at the intersection of multiple plot threads that ran through GAMBIT’s early issues with young Storm. The issue absolutely keeps us interested despite the fact that the amount of exposition contributes to a story that proceeds slowly and deliberately until the final pages. This might be the one place where the issue falters, though. There is so much going on that it’s unclear where the story is headed (a feeling emphasized by the introduction of a brand new plot thread introduced on the final page). This mystery has the potential to pique the reader’s curiosity, driving them to continue with the series, or frustrate the reader, failing to hold their attention enough to pick up the next issue.
By far the best part of this issue’s narrative is GAMBIT and Storm. Claremont’s return to these characters feels effortless, as though he never once lost their voice over the years. It’s fascinating to revisit the two of them, further exploring the relationship that brought GAMBIT to the X-Men. The young version of Storm is very different from the adult version, but she’s a character that we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with (and most of that time was spent running from enemies). And GAMBIT is even more compelling. He’s never completely abandoned his roots as a thief, but we don’t often get to see what his life looked like before the X-Men. This look back provides an interesting point of comparison to just how far the character has come–especially now that he’s settled down in married life.
Sid Kotian’s art in GAMBIT #1 is quite the contrast to his first two issues (with art by Mike Collins and Josef Rubinstein in UNCANNY X-MEN #266 and Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Scott Williams in UNCANNY X-MEN #267). Both of those issues depicted a moody, somewhat threatening GAMBIT. Kotian, on the other hand, gives us a happy Gambit. He may be a somewhat bad influence on Storm, but he’s having a lot of fun doing it.
Kotian takes Storm through a much wider range of emotions, depicting her at various times as happy, sad, scared, frustrated, and angry. This lines up a little better with how she was depicted in those two issues, and it’s easy to see the continuity in the character which would set her on the road for this adventure with GAMBIT.
There’s also a villain in the story that Kotian very effectively dials up the gruesome factor on, and these panels are where Espen Grundetjern is most effective. Their colors lean into the horror aspect Kotian brings to this villain with much darker shades than are seen for the events that take place in the real world.
GAMBIT #1 is a mostly strong entry point to a story that takes place in a time we haven’t seen explored in detail before. Even though it takes place in the past, there’s a sense right from the start that it deserves the attention that comes with a dedicated mini-series as opposed to being lightweight fluff. In addition to it obviously being attractive to GAMBIT fans, readers who enjoy this era of Claremont’s UNCANNY X-MEN run are also likely to find it appealing.