In "Gambit" #4 James Asmus and Clay Mann bring his first adventure with attractive partner in crime Joelle to an end, and in the cliffhanger of an ending, bring it all back again to where it began.
There's nice cyclicality to Asmus' story, and he does a nice job of balancing action and romance in this final chapter of the first arc. I'm not sure I'm convinced on this book, but this issue is a marked improvement over the first issue I read, and feels more like a template that something can be built on. Asmus continues to have a strong handle on Gambit's voice, and he's created an interesting character in Joelle. Judging by the way the relationship is left in this issue, I suspect we'll see more of her in the future.
The art is vastly improved from "Gambit" #1, which felt almost fuzzy and out of focus. Clay Mann's art is crisp and confident with inks that neither over or underwhelm and colors that take advantage of Mann's clean style. Mann draws a fantastic Gambit, suave and superheroic with a slight bad boy attitude that is appealing rather than smarmy. Joelle is a great looking heroine/love interest except for her costume, which is just silly. That said, Gambit spends a good amount of time with his shirt off, so I suppose fair is fair. Perhaps best of all in Mann's work is that he handles the action scenes and the intimate emotional ones with equal aplomb -- dancing from an epic double page spread with three giant dragon snake creatures (or just one with three heads?) to a tender kiss and back again. It's strong, well-balanced work.
The teenaged me wants to love this book, and "Gambit" #4 is certainly a solid issue, but it still feels like it's missing that all important x-factor (no pun intended) to help it level up. I'm not sure what that missing element might be, but I'd be happy to see Gambit rehabbed into a stronger character, and it seems like having his own series might be that opportunity, so I hope it gets the chance to find its feet, its "x-factor" and an audience.