Gambit Vol. 1: Once A Thief Review
With news of Channing Tatum potentially playing Gambit in a potential solo movie, we got to thinking, as nerds often do, and we decided it’s the day of Gambit! (Go here to see our thoughts on Tatum as Gambit: Channing Tatum as Gambit?! L’enfer?). Nothing has been confirmed about said movie, so this might be a bit of an overreaction to assume as much as we are but we’re geeks. That’s what we do.
In celebration of this day of Gambit mes amis, we’re going to highlight the most recent run on the smooth talking Cajun for all you looking to get into the character before (potential) movie time. Specifically, we are going to look at Volume 1: Once A Thief by James Asmus.
The run in question was actually cancelled last year, but not before pumping out 3 trade volumes worth of savory issues. Also, don’t let that it got cancelled dissuade you. If we were to use tv shows as an analogy, let’s just say this isn’t the Joey of cancelled comic books. This would be more akin to Firefly or Pushing Daisies – great stories, characters and worlds that a small dedicated fanbase swears by. That is exactly what we have here with James Asmus’ Gambit.
The story is divided into two separate story arcs. The first one picks up with Gambit describing the current state of affairs in his life – he’s a teacher at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, looks out for the students there and is Rogue’s ex-boyfriend now.
Feeling at odds with the mature, responsible person he has become, he starts to feel a little devious. He decides to clear his head by “having a little fun”. By this, Gambit intends to go back to his roots and do a little thieving.
The job he comes up with involves going to a fundraiser held by a man named Boyra Cich. Mr. Cich is a known bankroller for some seriously bad dudes. Not only that but he is an avid collector of expensive artifacts, gadgets and weaponry. So, naturally, Gambit decides to make a little heist of it, working solo. But if you think things would go smoothly, you couldn’t be more wrong. Enter the femme fatale, Joelle. We soon find out she’s after the same artifact Gambit is and by trying to unlock its secrets, it leads them both deep into the Guatemalan jungle.
The second story is about Gambit returning from the Jungle and finding himself in the service of Mr. Cich. After destroying much of Cich’s collection by mistake, Cich blackmails Gambit into helping him build it back up. This all culminates into one big heist which demands that Gambit swipe the sword Excalibur from Buckingham Palace. Gambit initially think it is a straight forward mission only to learn Cich has more to his motivations than meets the eye.
James Asmus does a solid job of keeping this story moving along. His pacing in Gambit is steady and he has a natural voice for the character of Remy Lebeau. Getting the proper balance in Remy’s delivery, specifically his slipping in and out of French phrases and his Cajun accent can’t be easy. But Asmus brings him to life so vividly. At times you can almost hear Chris Potter’s voice from the 90’s X-Men animated series.
Asmus understands what makes Gambit interesting and rather than this being a typical superhero comic or X-book, he makes it feel more in line with the spy and heist genres. Instead of Gambit constantly blowing stuff up with his mutant kinetic powers, which we still get a decent helping of, we get to see the genius behind his craft. We also get to see a few awesome gadgets, like these Mission Impossible style camera shades:
We understand why he is the thief we’ve been told he is and, most importantly, we come to understand what it is inside him that compels him to walk that line between good and bad. Asmus has Gambit walk it like a tight rope.
As for the art, this book is strongest with Clay Mann at the helm. He pencils nearly the entirety of the first four issues, with help from Leonard Kirk (on issues 3 and 4), Diogenes Neves and Al Barrionuevo (on the second story arc). All artists do adequate work for this title but Mann is obviously the headliner. He has a straightforward way of framing his scenes, but it works well. Especially on this particular page:
Clay Mann’s lines are delicate and beautifully rendered by colorist Rachelle Rosenberg’s painterly style. Mann doesn’t rely much on inks, which can really provide a colorist’s playground. Lucky for us, Rosenberg nails it with a water coloring approach.
Once A Thief doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it sets up Gambit as a sexy, smart, spy actioner. Think Mission Impossible 2 (Tom Cruise’s wavy long hair and impossible, yet awesome action sequences) meets Ocean’s Twelve (a fun, rollicking heist movie with twists and turns galore, maybe even too many for its own good). I guess you could say it’s a mish-mash of sub-par movie sequels, just in comic book form. But with Asmus, Mann and Rosenberg piloting this ship, it all works so beautifully. Or, as Gambit would say: c’est magnifique!
Mes amis, make sure to stay tuned for the Gambit Vol. 2: Tombstone Blues Review!: