Welcome back to another Blog of X article that's centered on a significant character within the mutant universe, as part of my KEYS and READS series. I will be scouring through the history of a given character each time and giving you some of the best keys and stories concerning them. This week we are looking at the ragin' cajun himself: Remy Lebeau, also known as GAMBIT!
Controversy right off the BAT! What do YOU consider to be Gambit's first appearance? This debate is a never ending circus to me. Like a true Pokémon fan, I say "gotta catch 'em all!" The story AND the key books are solid in either case. First, you have X-Men Annual #14. The book that was published first. It's a solid book with multiple panels containing Gambit speaking and Storm calling him by name. It was published before Uncanny X-Men #266 which has him throughout the issue AND on the cover.
The truth is that the annual was published earlier than planned and messed up what Claremont had put in motion. But this is partly why annuals have something of a stigma in many collecting circles. For me, this entire story is a lot of fun and it should include Uncanny X-Men #267 with his second cover appearance. Storm is a huge part of this saga which involves fleeing from the Shadow King and his minions. Gambit and Storm make a fun pair in this three-issue story, and it cemented his charisma, duplicity, and humor right from the jump. If you plan to read this story, however, please read them in the correct order; because Storm meets Gambit in #266, rescues him in #267, and then they arrive back safely at the mansion in Annual #14. Even if you want the annual to be his first appearance, it shouldn't be read that way.
Gambit's ex-wife, the alien menace the Brood, and GHOST RIDER?? This is a spectacular read (with minor key elements) that I think is often overlooked in Gambit's catalogue.
Gambit's ex (Bella Donna Boudreaux, such a great name) arrives at the mansion seeking help from Gambit regarding the guilds for Thieves and Assassins (everyone has a union I guess). Gambit, and a few X-Men, travel to New Orleans to help. Ghost Rider is also on the way, trying to resolve an assassination he wishes to avenge. They are all shocked to discover the Brood have infested the guilds and then they also quickly try to bond with Ghost Rider as well. It all leads to chaos, aliens, and X-Men battling in the Big Easy. Plus you get some hints at Gambit's background. To fully enjoy this series, read the second volumes of X-Men #8, then Ghost Rider #26, then X-Men #9, and it all wraps up in Ghost Rider #27.
It was the 90s and gold foil covers were all the rage! The first Gambit solo series was no different. Not only do you have the basic version with the embossed lettering, but there's also a hard-to-find full gold version that can be quite expensive in high grade. But who cares? Is the story any good?? Yes it is. This mini-series, running four issues long, follows Gambit back to his New Orleans roots yet again, when the Tithe Collector begins to stir up trouble among the guilds. Friends and relatives come out of the woodworks as Gambit navigates in-fighting with Assassin and Thieves guild members alike. Who knew thieves and assassins could be so much trouble? I enjoy this story and the Tithe Collector is a cool and creepy antagonist.
The truth of Gambit's life as a rogue and troublemaker had to come out eventually. But when it was dropped like an atom-bomb and connected to one of my favorite Uncanny X-Men events, I was blown away. This is Uncanny X-Men #350 and the reveal that Gambit was part of the plot to slaughter the mutants living beneath New York City in the Mutant Marauders Massacre plotline (back in Uncanny X-Men #210 - #213). It was a great reveal and the issue even created long-term strife between Gambit and several X-Men characters who struggled to forgive his deceit.
I also want to mention X-Men Origins: Gambit #1 which further expands on his history. It's a solid story that is part of the money-grabbing issues that Marvel was dropping through their 'Origins' branding. But for Gambit fans, this was a must-read.
So there you have it! Those are some of my favorite Gambit reads, and some minor to mega key books in his history. I will say, I haven't read many of his more recent stories (like the Mr and Mrs X series from a few years ago) so if you have any more recent recommendations please leave them in the comments down below! Also check out my NIGHTCRAWLER: Keys and Reads article too if you missed it!
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