Let me tell you about Gambit. Like most kids growing up on a diet of cartoons in the 90s, I loved Gambit in the episodes of the X-Men cartoon that I caught. He was cool, stylish, suave, had an awesome accent and a unique, interesting new power. He was also, in retrospect, as deep as a mud puddle. It feels like a great many writers have struggled with how to make the character work without losing that inherent funness that makes him HIM. Peter David had threaded the needle and made it look easy. This inaugural issue focuses on the ragin’ Cajun as he’s trying to steal a mystical artifact of unknowable power only to be caught by Wolverine. It seems the events of his solo title have come home to roost, and he soon finds himself drowning his sorrows when he’s approached by an old friend. Seems someone’s getting A band, if not THE bad back together. David balances Gambit’s playfulness with the idea that the world, as it is in the current Marvel U, doesn’t really have a place for someone like him. He’s not hard-edged enough for something like X-Force but too cavalier and non-committal for either of the mutant schools, but too much trouble to keep his head down and blend with non-powered society and the book plays up these notions like few others have. What if…Gambit just isn’t that relevant as he once was? And what if he’s aware of it? In that case an offer from Polaris to join a brand-new incarnation of X-Factor, headed by the enigmatic, but seemingly altruistic, Serval Industries seems just about perfect.
Carmine Di Giandomenico has been described as the Man of a Thousand Expressions, and he definitely earns that totally-real moniker this issue. The faces this man draws are fantastic, expressing everything from grave sadness to incredible intensity is rendered with loving detail and jagged, beautiful linework. Di Giandomenico is one of the kings of lines that look chaotic at first, but all come together and add to the overall feel of the piece upon closer inspection. Lee Loughridge’s colors are also stand-outs, bringing the brilliant linework and expressions to glorious, colorful life and establishing a bright color palette for what will hopefully be an ultimately light-hearted title. For this issue, at least, that is definitely the case.
Gambit is awfully talky in the first portion of this book. It’s a scene of him Mission Impossibling through a roof, through laser trip alarms to his target, and he narrates every. Single. Action. The art is great and easily communicates what’s going on, but we still get Gambit talking us through what he’s doing. A few of them are useful (how he disarms the magical locks), but in general the whole thing feels like it could have been done with little to know dialog to keep the reader’s eye moving fast across the page.
It’s not exactly a secret that X-Factor was one of my favorite books of the last ten years, and that I wasn’t PRECISELY sad to see it go because it seemed to get such a loving, perfect send-off. Normally such an ideal afrewell would have me seething at a revival this soon afterward, but two things must be considered. The most important is that, as mentioned previously by yours truly, these seeds were sown in the pages of the final X-Factor issues AND we have the series’ original writer back at the helm. The second is that no one in their right mind would put the words “X-Factor” and “shameless cash-grab” in the same thought process, so this issue is far more a return of old friends, and I cannot wait to see more from this book.