Here at Comic Book Herald, we like to respond to reader requests! And so, stepping aside from my X-Men chronologies, I’ve been asked to do a walk-through of the life and times of everybody’s favorite Cajun charmer, Gambit! I’m going to break this into eras, with the obvious starter being from his first appearance, Uncanny X-Men 266, through to the end of the Muir Isle Saga in Uncanny X-Men #280.
It all began in Uncanny X-Men #266. At the time, Chris Claremont – as was his tendency – was knee-deep in an ongoing narrative. He tended to do that a lot. Trouble was brewing in Shi’Ar space, the Shadow King was gaining power, and Storm had been turned into a pre-teen runaway. Yeah, that wacky Chris Claremont!
So it was that Storm wound up pursued by the Shadow King’s Hounds, and was rescued by the enigmatic Cajun charmer. Gambit, like the young Storm, had broken into a building as a thief; and he was drawn into battle as a mutant. But this isn’t quite the Gambit we’re familiar with; it’s a Gambit who charges metal spikes with energy, not playing cards, and from the outset his conversational charm is enough to snare the wits of the Shadow King’s puppets – clearly another aspect of his powers. It’s #267 before he picks a card.
Gambit and Storm spend the remainder of #267 acting as latter-day Robin Hoods, robbing from the rich and corrupt, before finally getting tracked down by Nanny. That experience restores Storm’s adult memories, at least, and in #270 we see Storm and Gambit have headed to the X-Mansion, where the X-Men and X-Factor are gathered. He promptly dives into the events of X-Tinction Agenda, where Remy was part of overthrowing the Genoshan government – and, amusingly enough, was rather jealous of Storm and Forge’s romance.
Uncanny X-Men #273 is a key issue for Gambit, as Claremont uses the issue to set up the Cajun’s combat skill. Wolverine, who granted had been systematically weakened over recent arcs, dueled Gambit in the Danger Room – and lost. The issue ended with teleporter Lila Cheney snagging the X-Men off to Shi’Ar space, where they uncovered a Skrull invasion. Gambit was key, his mind too fluid for an Xavier-powered Skrull to effectively strike, and his powers making him extremely dangerous! The action peaked in Uncanny X-Men #277, where Gambit super-charged an entire deck with enough force to stun Gladiator. Xavier hurriedly led the X-Men back to Earth for the battle of Muir Isle, with Gambit undeniably part of the team; and from there, everything changed.
It was time for the X-Men to come into the ‘90s, and for the Blue Team to be born. The reality is, although Gambit had been around for a couple of years by this turning point for the X-Men comics, he was yet to be fully fleshed out. And, remarkably for a Claremont creation, most of the things we view as iconic about Gambit – the Thieves’ Guild, Belladonna, even his romance with Rogue – weren’t developed until after Claremont had left Marvel in the early ‘90s. In fact, Claremont had some very particular ideas for Gambit:
“Gambit was created to – among other things – be an X-Men adversary who worked to undermine and destroy them from within. The connection to Sinister was part of his creation from the beginning – but that connection related exclusively to my idea of Sinister and the plans I had for him and the team following X-Men vol.2 #3.”
That wasn’t to be. Although Claremont penned the first couple of issues of the new X-Men series, creative differences led to his leaving Marvel. And things went in a very different direction…