A few years ago the pop culture and sports website Grantland (RIP) posted a highly controversial article about why Gambit sucks. There were a lot of solid points made in that article: why would a thief wear a fuschia outfit, why wasn’t he ever developed more than having cool-guy ticks (answer: Chris Claremont left X-Men before he fully fleshed out Gambit), etc. I fell into the other camp – of course Gambit is cool hero. He has a cool outfit (that makes no sense, admittedly), he is a smooth talker, and he can throw playing cards. What is that weird thing on his face and why do his boots have triangles on the knees? Who cares?!?
So, I enthusiastically bought this Gambit trade that Marvel released late last year. It includes the X-Men Origins one shot, a few Claremont Gambit stories (the best in the book, but still weird because of a robot/alien/egg character), and some more recent stories. Unfortunately for me, they weren’t very good. The Origins story held my attention, but the art had this fantasy look to it that didn’t fit all for me. The Claremont run showed us a darker, more mysterious Gambit that I enjoyed, but the art is rough and the overarching story involves some silly characters I couldn’t get over. The last couple of stories were interesting, but not engaging enough for me to say I liked them. Becky Cloonan’s art is worth mentioning – it’s got a darker, freer look that fits well with the darker elements of the character.)
If Marvel combined all of the best elements of Claremont’s character and Cloonan’s art, that would be a book worth buying. Otherwise, causal Gambit fans should steer clear.