Friday, March 7, 2014

An Uneven Effort for My Favorite X-Man

X-Men Gambit:  House of Cards (Volume 1)
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty
Published by Marvel Comics
3 1/2 Out of 5 Stars

Looking for a little non-X excitement, Remy LeBeau returns to Louisiana, lured by a job that he can't resist and a longing for home. Hired by the beautiful Lili Penrose to steal a deck of cards from her own uncle, Gambit takes on the heist as much for the excitement as for the payoff. However, he learns too late that there's nothing ordinary about this deck of cards--they're a powerful set of tarot cards that can tap into dark powers and blind those who look upon them. Of course, for Gambit, the added element of danger makes this an irresistible challenge.

I'm going with 3.5 stars here. It is a fun story, but there were a few disappointments along the way--first and foremost of which is the art. The characters look somewhat cartoonish and malformed, which is made all the more obvious when compared with the amazing cover work done by Greg Land. I also think the story should have taken advantage of the New Orleans setting. Oh, there's some stereotypical New Orleans-ish references here, but they're flat and unoriginal. It would have been nice to see Gambit's scoundrel side played up a bit more, too. While there are some witty quips here and there, he certainly doesn't read like the same cavalier, devil-may-care Gambit that I'm accustomed to.

There are some fun elements to the story, however. When Gambit and Wolverine rout several well known thief watering holes, I couldn't wipe the stupid smile off of my face. In addition, a sex tape featuring an encounter between Lili and Remy surfaces toward the end of the book, and promises to make for some interesting reading in Gambit: Hath No Fury

X-Men Gambit:  Hath No Fury (Volume 2)
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty
Published by Marvel Comics
4 Out of 5 Stars

There are 3 stories collected here:  Gambit versus zombies in New Orleans, Gambit trying to sneak into Rogue's room to retrieve a sex tape sent to her by a young woman with an unfortunate knack for hacking into surveillance cameras all over New Orleans and an unrequited school girl crush on Gambit, and Gambit returning to New Orleans only to run into Belladonna and her new beau during a heist.

While I still have the same complaints about the art work in this collection as I had for Gambit:  House of Cards (there's a bland formlessness to the facial features of most of the characters), the story lines were better and took more advantage of the New Orleans setting.  However, I still don't think they quite took advantage of Gambit being away from the X-Men.  These stories could have been grittier and not so "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" about things.  As one character says of Gambit, "I've seen evidence of a personality type that's narcissistic, kleptomaniacal, pathological, adrenaline-addicted, anti-authority, and given to reckless, suicidal tendencies."  That's the Gambit I was hoping to read about, but other than that piece of dialogue, that's not really the Gambit I got.  This is not the Gambit who saved Storm when she regressed into childhood, nor is it the Gambit who returned to New Orleans for the tithing.

The main reason I'm giving this one a 4 star is that I thought the narrative with Gambit trying to retrieve the sex tape before Rogue could discover it was much more in line with the kind of character I've come to expect.

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