Gambit and the X-Ternals 2: No one’s going to look good in this comparison.

Credits: Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by a mix of Conrad, Milgrom and Christian and edited by Bob Harras.

Cast: Remy ‘Gambit’ LeBeau, Jubilation ‘Jubilee’ Lee, Guido ‘Strong Guy’ Carosella, Roberto ‘Sunspot’ DaCosta, Lila Chaney, Julio Esteban ‘Rictor’ Richter, the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, Deathbird and the Starjammers.

Plot:  The X-Ternals arrive in Shi’ar space in a direct homage to Uncanny X-Men 107 and just like the lead characters in that issue find themselves face to face with the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. Unlike the X-Men, the X-,Ternals make a run for it. They are immediately chased of course. The X-Ternals lose the Guard, but are captured by the local sentient plantlike and met Jonah, a Shi’ar/mephistoid hybrid who tell that the whole sectors of space have been temporarily blinking out of existence and the being completely crystallised and then destroyed utterly. This is soon going to happen to the world of Ch’reeshara, the world that they are on, right now.

The blinks are caused by the M’Kraan crystal, which has become unstable and is radiating energy, destroying these sectors. The X-Ternals start panicking over the situation when the Imperial Guard attack alongside their pursuer Rictor, who has convinced the Guard’s leader Gladiator to help him deliver them to justice. Well as close as taking them back to Apocalypse comes to justice. The battle doesn’t go well for the team and Lila is unable to teleport them away. It all looks bleak until the planet blinks out of existence and back, with some of the guard now turned into crystal.

The X-Ternals are then teleported to a spaceship called the Starjammer, whose crew welcome them and tell Gambit that unless they complete their original mission, everywhere, even Earth will be destroyed by the M’Kraan crystal. Gambit then tries to be sincere.

Notes: I’ll save you some reading here, this was not a good comic. In no identifiable way was this a good comic. The opening was taken from Uncanny X-Men 107 (before I am ‘um actually’d’ I am aware that it wasn’t called Uncanny X-Men for over 30 issues, but Uncanny is often used as shorthand for volume one, so I’ve done that here) and that is a bold move, because that issue was drawn by Dave Cockrum who was an excellent comic artist and character designer at the top of his game working on one of the best comics of the time. I don’t think any of that is true here. The first three pages just made me think “I should read X-Men 107 instead” and that isn’t how you want to start a comic.

Still I set myself the challenge of re-reading the Age of Apocalypse and so I pressed on. The issue did not improve. The issue was a lot of exposition, mixed with some action and neither really did the job they needed to do. Exposition is a tricky thing to do well, it is essentially parcelling out information to move the plot along and is difficult to make interesting and exciting in a visual medium. (Looking at you lighthouse scene from Matrix Reloaded) But when it’s the main focus on the issue, maybe take another pass at it?

Ultimately while the issue fails, it is also failed by the format it’s forced into. The Age of Apocalypse was made up of several 2 and 4 issue mini-series and this was at best a 3 parter and so it ends up being a bit flabby in the mid-section. The only real positive about this comic is that it hinted at a larger story than we are seeing here. What was the Shi’ar Empire like, without the X-Men’s interference? How did Deathbird find herself in command of the Starjammers? These are fascinating ideas, but this issue is about Gambit taking the job seriously and being resolute in his desire to steal a gem. Wasn’t he already that? I mean he was already doing this for Rogue.

Verdict:

Writing 2/5: This is not Ncieza’s best work, not his worst either, but nowhere near his best. There’s little for him to do here but work some clunky exposition in and try to get us to care about this team and their mission. He doesn’t do that, but honestly I don’t know who could.

Art 1/5: Career low art from Tony Daniel (who went on to do so much better) and a many hands inking job clash with the 90’s digital colouring to make a comic that is either hard to read, or visually unpleasant enough that you don’t want to.

Overall 3/10: Everyone involved with this can and did better work, so I don’t want to malign people here. But this is either poorly conceived, or poorly executed and I suspect both. As much as the Age of Apocalypse suffered the excesses of the 90’s, there was a lot of quality to it as well, but I found none of that quality here. (Sigh) Maybe the next comic will be better.

Next Time: Back to the clone saga with Spectacular Spider-Man

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