Thanks to his appearances in the X-Men titles (and, perhaps more importantly, the cartoon) the man known as Gambit is now an integral part of the Marvel mutant universe. But that wasn’t always the case… Are you ready for the FIRST appearance of Remy Etienne LeBeau?

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Uncanny X-Men #266 awaits!

XMen266CoverUNCANNY X-MEN #266
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Mike Collins
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Letterer: Pat Brosseau, Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $120.00

Previously in Uncanny X-Men: After a run-in with The Adversary in Dallas, the extra-dimensional goddess Roma gave the X-Men a new lease on life by letting them fake their own deaths and move to Australia, where they continued their adventures with the help of the teleporting mutant known as Gateway. During the events known as ‘The Fall Of The Mutants,’ X-Men leader Storm was captured by the villainous Nanny and somehow reverted to childhood, then framed for murder and sent on the run, hunted by the evil Shadow King.

As this issue opens, he has found her…

XMen2661
Pursued by The Shadow King’s hounds, the pre-teen leader of the X-Men is quickly overwhelmed by their speed and power…

…or, at least, so it seems.

XMen2662

With her powers barely function, Ororo is forced to use her wits to escape, taking advantage of the resources around her (a wet towel serves to enrage and confuse her pursuers, while the small gusts of wind she is able to generate serve as a distraction. The Shadow King nearly ensnares her with his formidable telepathic powers, but in her agony, she is able to generate a decent lightning bolt.

Sadly, the force of her attack throws her over the edge of a balcony…

XMen2663

Who IS this mysterious steel-booted, long-coated stranger? Well, obviously, he’s Gambit. This is his first appearance, he’s on the cover and all, but we get a few pages of intrigue about the bad guys (The Shadow King can’t lock his telepathy on her, while Orphan-Maker and Nanny are… just awful) before we cut back to Storm, having been fished out of the pool by her mysterious stranger…

XMen2664

These panels are a great example of the stiffness of Mike Collins’ art throughout the issue (which is one of the reasons I dropped X-Men around this time, as the twice-monthly schedule seemed to rush the art a little too much for my tastes), and it’s interesting to note the differences between his costume and appearance on the Andy Kubert cover, compared to the interiors of the issue.  The Hounds arrive to capture Baby Storm, only to get their first taste of Gambit’s signature ‘matter-to-energy’ powers, with the weird visual effect of his whole face turning green as he launches his projectiles and makes another save for our young hero…

XMen2665

More of The Shadow King’s minions arrive, and Gambit uses his magnetic personality (here framed as a possible additional super-power, though I’m not sure if that’s still canonical) to keep them occupied, while Ororo watches from the shadows.  Unfortunately, while SHE knows how many are pursuing her, Gambit obviously does not…

XMen2666

Though her powers are still unreliable, Ororo is able to save Gambit’s hash this time, and both mutants make a run for it, with Gambit providing some pyroclastic cover for their exit, stage upwards…

XMen2667

Gambit actually stops to call in the cops (from a handy land line, mind you, as only Zack Morris had a cellular device circa 1990) on The Shadow King, and the two thieves make their way to the roof where Baby Storm shows that, while she lacks fully functioning powers, she is not short on ingenuity…

XMen2668

Successfully drifting away into an airplane graveyard (which probably makes more sense in context, but might not?), Gambit tries to help Ororo to a softer landing, only to have the prideful X-Man refuse his assistance rather vehemently.  Still, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship for our mutant rogues…

XMen2669

Their partnership continues after this issue, and when Storm regains her powers and her full memories back, she brings Gambit with her into the X-Men fold.  His legendary “Will they/Won’t they” romance with Rogue followed suit, and it wasn’t long before the idea of a mutant strike-team without a guy in hot pink armor and a trench coat seemed somehow… incomplete.  As with so many mysterious X-men, there are secrets in Gambit’s back story, and while this is his first on-panel appearance in the comics, we later learn that he was present behind-the-scenes in several earlier issues, and not always on the side of the angels.  Still, Uncanny X-Men #266 serves as a tantalizing glimpse of a roguish new hero, and serves as one of the last times that the X-Men creators were able to entirely get away with the “he’s totally a mystery but totally charismatic” trope, even with the stiff and not-so-expressive art, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  If we weigh this issue against the early installment weirdness of other X-Men first appearances, it’s weirder than Bishop’s sudden appearance in a flash, but not nearly as wacky as erudite, animalistic Wolverine trying to slice open the Hulk.

(It’s also much more skillfully executed on both the art and story front than New Mutants #87, but the same can be said of many refrigerator drawings and nearly all the Chick Tracts.)

[taq_review][signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]
Share.

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

2 Comments

  1. Just one thing – the fall of mutants happened about 20 issues before #248, where Storm was kidnapped by Nanny and Orphan-Maker.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.