Monday, September 3, 2012

I Reads You Review: GAMBIT #1 (1999 series)

GAMBIT (1999) #1

WRITER: Fabian Nicieza
PENCILS: Steve Skroce
INKS: Rob Hunter
COLORS: Shannon Blanchard
LETTERS: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Emerson Miranda
COVERS: Steve Skroce and Rob Hunter with Liquid Graphics; Carlos Pacheco and Mezino with Richard Isanove; Adam Pollina; Brandon Peterson and Tim Townsend with Liquid Graphics; Tim Bradstreet; and Steve Skroce and Rob Hunter with DV
48pp, Color, $2.99 U.S.

Gambit is a Marvel Comics superhero character best known for his association with the X-Men. His civilian identity is Remy LeBeau. Gambit was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee and made a brief first appearance in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 (1990), before making a fuller appearance in Uncanny X-Men #266 (August 1990).

A mutant, Gambit possesses the ability to mentally create, control and manipulate pure kinetic energy; this is best exemplified when he “biokinetically” charges objects (such as cards) and turns them into small explosives. In addition to playing cards, his other signatures are his Bō staff, Louisiana heritage, and thick Cajun accent.

Gambit received his first ongoing comic book series in 1999. Gambit #1, cover dated February 1999, was written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Steve Skroce (pencils). Entitled “The Man of Steal,” this first issue finds Gambit trying to pay off some kind of debt he owes to New Son. At this point, Gambit’s payment plan to New Son pits him against Elysian Enterprises, a military research firm headed by Anwar Anubar.

Anubar is seeking the treasures of Garbha-Hsein, an ancient Chinese warlord who legends say ruled for a thousand years. The legends also say that Garbha had an extraterrestrial vessel, which he took apart and buried in his 12 tombs. After Gambit successfully obtains one of the pieces, Anubar brings in The X-Cutioner, killer of bad mutants, to deal with Gambit. Also, we see into Gambit’s past and the X-Men (including Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue) guest star.

With a cover date of February 1999, Gambit #1 probably arrived in comic book stores in December 1998 (or a little earlier). That was just about four months before the film, The Matrix, debuted in theatres. I imagine that not many people who picked up Gambit #1 when it was first released knew that series artist, Steve Skroce, had drawn the storyboards for The Matrix. Apparently, it was Skroce’s storyboards that helped executives at Warner Bros. understand the screenplay for The Matrix, written by directors Andy and Larry Wachowski and thus, approve its production.

Here, the art team of Skroce and inker Rob Hunter does not work. Skroce’s busy and crowded compositions turn into a murky mess under Hunter’s inks, and the clumsy coloring and color separations don’t help. This is not the polished post-Matrix Skroce that would emerge in a short run on Wolverine and at the Wachowski comic book company, Burlyman. As for the story, Fabian Nicieza wrote an action movie screenplay, with a wooden plot and a cast of wooden characters (plus a pointless origin sequence).

I remember reading this Gambit series for at least a year. [Gambit would get a second series in 2004 and another, which just launched as of this writing]. I was not a fan of Nicieza, at the time. Perhaps, I bought this comic book because of Skroce; for most of the 1990s, I only bought comics drawn by artists I liked. Whatever the reason, I wish I could get back the money I paid for these Gambit comic books.


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