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Gambit: The Thief Makes A Comeback

Why bringing the character back to his roots might be just what is needed for this series to be a success.

Gambit is a lot of things. He's debonair, charismatic, manipulative, dashing, handsome -- and so on. Yet, aside from the qualities of his character that make him who he is, he's also a character that hasn't remained static over the years. In fact, Gambit has undergone a whole heck of a lot of character evolution since he first appeared in UNCANNY X-MEN #266. He's been both the good guy and the bad, he's traveled to a different galaxy (Starjammers, anyone?), he's fought against people far more powerful than he. He's been a street thief, a mutant, a husband, a lover and more recently a mentor. He's a complicated character with an interesting past, even if it is, admittedly, a little bit convoluted. In fact, it's sometimes felt like writers just weren't quite sure what to do with Gambit, and didn't really have a good idea of who he, at his core, really was.

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Earlier this week Marvel released GAMBIT #1, the first issue in Remy Lebeau's latest self-titled, ongoing series featuring gorgeous pencils by artist Clay Mann. In a recent interview with James Asmus -- the series' writer -- we learned that the creative team planned on bringing the character back to his roots; and if you read the first issue, you may have already noticed some hints of exactly that.

== TEASER ==

We're telling the story of a man with bad impulses trying to figure out a life he can feel good about. We want to make the book easy for fans of the character to jump onto without making them pick up a dozen other books or a huge stack of old arcs. So it's all about building his story forward, and finding new ways to play off the most interesting parts of his character.

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The first issue opens with Gambit stepping out of his shower -- a scene that I thought was pretty significant. No, it's not just fan-service, it's a lot more symbolic than that. As he's toweling off, his narrative clues readers into what he's been up to as of late; he outlines how he's been so many different people and played so many different roles over the years " a teacher, a security guard for mutant teenagers, a sympathetic ex-boyfriend…" but he's still, Gambit, at his core. You get the sense that that's the character that James Asmus is going to be dealing with in this series: Gambit, the thief, lover, charmer and the guy that's always getting himself into some kind of trouble. That's what this series is going to be about because at his core, that's exactly the guy that Gambit is.

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Gambit has somewhat of a sad past; growing up in the streets after having been abandoned by his parents for his piercing red eyes, he was scooped up by the Thieves Guild in New Orleans after they quickly noticed his talents as a thief. He went on to marry a woman named Bella Donna, the heir to the New Orleans Assassins Guild as a way to quell the rivalry between the two clans. He killed her brother in a duel and was exiled. It was only after this that Gambit the mutant came into play. After he met with Mister Sinister and was operated on by him, he led the Marauders massacre the Morlocks, a group of Mutants living underneath New York City. Then he embarked on adventures with the X-Men.

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This isn't the first time that Gambit has gotten his own ongoing. Back in 2000 Gambit got to play in his own book, a series that lasted 28 issues and mainly featured team-ups with other X-Men like Rogue and Wolverine and and fights against Sabretooth, Pig and many more. His adventures were out of this world and perfect for the 90's, stylistically, but there was very little Remy the spy/thief to be seen in this run. Marvel canceled the book after 28 issues and tried again four years later in 2004. This time, writer John Layman took the "Remy the thief" angle. Here, Gambit was under fire courtesy of both his ex-wife Bella Donna and Brother Voodoo, and although he did spend more time stealing things, that wasn't really the main focus of that series. It only lasted twelve issues before it, too, was canceled.

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So what's with Gambit? Why can't a prominent character like he have a series that lasts longer than 28 issues? Is it the pink suit? Or the corny kinetically charged playing cards? In previous GAMBIT ongoings we've always seen Gambit the X-Man and mutant before Gambit the thief -- until, apparently, now. According to Asmus, we won't be seeing a whole lot of X-Men and mutants appear in his ongoing series unless it's absolutely necessary to the story, which signals to me that the thief is the identity that Gambit associates with first and foremost in this new book.

As good as many of the stories where Gambit teamed up with different X-Men were, they aren't at the core of who he really is, are they? With the exception of the retelling of his origins in GAMBIT's One-Shot (2009) we haven't seen a whole lot of stories where Gambit plays the thief, going after a big score on his own. That is, however, the story I know I really want to see, which is why I am so looking forward to James Asmus' take on the character. Bringing Gambit back to his roots might be exactly what is needed in order to give him a successful series, something that Marvel has tried to do twice and fared not-so-well in the last twelve years.

What do you think? Did you read GAMBIT #1? What do you think of James Asmus' take on the character so far? Is it a book you are interested in? If you haven't already, check out the full interview Comic Vine did with Asmus where he discusses his plans for the series.