Too many guest stars and an unfulfilling plot crowd this final issue of a series that never quite came together in James Asmus and Clay Mann's "Gambit" #17.
Gambit does not in any way feel like the star in the final issue of his own series, as it's so crowded with guest stars including the villains in prison with him, a bunch of Guild characters, the cast of MI-13 and a handful of current Avengers. As a result of overcrowding, nobody actually gets to shine -- least of all Gambit -- and the plot becomes a jumbled incoherent mess.
A lot of the dialogue here is designed to feel "badass" and "cool" which is never a good thing and certainly makes a reader feel just the opposite. If a character is the ultimate badass, just show it through his or her actions and excellent storytelling. Having a character say it on panel is the quickest route to being uncool. With Gambit, a character I loved as a teenager but have struggled with as an adult, the overplayed "cool" factor has always been a problem. There is a cool badass somewhere inside of Gambit, but he wasn't in this series, and least of all in this final issue.
The end reveal of "Gambit" #17 should leave readers curious and excited about what's next, but the storytelling is so unclear, it's difficult to determine what's happened. Readers are left with the idea that Gambit is willing to play the fool that nobody expects much of for his role as both an X-Man and as a teacher at the Jean Grey School, so that he can be the leader of the Thieves Guild behind the scenes, but it all just left me cold. Both of those things seem unworthy of the character he has always had the potential to be. The door has been left open for Gambit's future to go in a myriad of directions, and that's nice enough, but he's less likable after this series than he was before -- not a ringing endorsement.
Clay Mann does breakdowns and some finishes with Jay Leisten and Ed Tadeo doing the rest of the finishes, and it's a just a poor way to illustrate a comic book. There's a thin unfinished quality to the bulk of the work, and the colors by Rachelle Rosenberg are similarly unfocused, though arguably the template she was given to work with was not ideal. In fairness, this always would have been a tough issue to illustrate what with all the characters and the odd plotline and hurried action, but it doesn't even feel like these artists were trying. The results are mostly paint by numbers, with whole pages entirely devoid of backgrounds, action scenes with no clarity or suspense, scenes lacking in any character acting, and very oddly chosen storytelling choices overall. There are a few highlights, like Gambit's "death" and "resurrection" as well as a mostly silhouetted moment between Gambit and Rogue, but on the whole it's just passionless and inconsistent.
I was certainly excited, if a bit anxious, about Gambit getting his own series, but Asmus and Mann were never able to pull it together. Inconsistencies in the art (and creative team in general) plagued them, and never was there a sense of what they wanted to do for Gambit, or whyreaders should root for him, not just as a hero, but as a character that deserved his own title.