Saturday, April 13, 2013

Not Exactly a Ragin' Cajun

Gambit:  Once a Thief

by James Asmus

Illustrated by Clay Mann

Published by Marvel

3 Out of 5 Stars

Oh, Remy LeBeau, why can't Marvel let you be a truly dastardly scoundrel these days?

One of the reasons I like Chris Claremont's Gambit is because he truly walked the line between good guy and bad guy and, in Howard Mackie's The Tithing story arc, we learned about a complex past steeped in the back alleys and shadows of New Orleans. To me, the best Gambit is an unapologetic thief whose wit and devil-may-care attitude make us forgive--but not forget--his shortcomings. What I don't enjoy is a Gambit who steals only because it's an itch that needs to be scratched--but, hey, no real harm done because it's always from some bad guy, he never really wanted the said object any way, and by stealing said object he creates the means by which he can heroically save the day. All the while he cracks a few obvious jokes that stand in for any real wit or charm. The Gambit-lite of John Layman doesn't particularly interest me.

And neither does the one presented by James Asmus. This Gambit does have some promise, but is ultimately predictable. Gambit's bored these days and just wants to stretch the old sticky fingers and see if he still has the ability to walk out of some place with something that isn't his. His target is the home of a supervillain and his outing brings him into contact with a femme fatale who looks like a Laura Croft rip-off with tattoos. He, of course, steals what she wants, they team up (but have trust issues), there's undeniable chemistry, he saves her, she betrays him, yadda, yadda, yadda.

If there's a character ripe for a mature storyline, it's Gambit. Frankly, I want a Gambit who is a bastard. There should be womanizing, honest-to-God stealing because he wants something of value that's not his (and no rhapsodizing on the supposed romance of thievery), gambling with cards and with lives, voodoo, betrayal from his end instead of someone else's, and maybe a few bodies left in a bayou.

I am sticking with the series, however, because there are flashes of promise. I enjoyed the realistic art work which shuns the cartoonish look that was my biggest problem with the John Layman series. Also, there are genuine flashes of humor and, while it does lean too heavily on internal monologue to move the story forward, Gambit's voice hits the right tone for me. And, best of all, THERE'S NO ROGUE (a character that I liked in the 90's, but that storyline's been done to death). Hopefully, now that we've got the pre-requisite heist story arc out of the way, Asmus might take this into some more intriguing and unexpected directions.

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