Joelle’s fate as well as all her games and ultimate mission are revealed in James Asmus and Clay Mann’s “Gambit” #12, guest-starring Rogue (apparently now referred to solely as an Avenger).
Though Joelle has appeared in “Gambit” for ten of the last twelve issues, Asmus has not managed to make me care about her fate, and her ultimate mission — to die so that she can be with her dying daughter — doesn’t much inspire. Although I appreciate the reveal that Joelle’s daughter is old rather than young, and that the Zero Compound is both lifesaver and life taker — as those are the same things for Joelle — ultimately I found myself unable to connect to the character. And ten issues should be enough to do that. Without a connection to Joelle, this issue and its ramifications fall rather flat.
Plotting and character beats aside, Asmus does a decent job with the reveals in this issue, and he is (thankfully) light on the Southern and Cajun accents (which could have easily overwhelmed the issue). Asmus also makes a smart choice in not playing this story high on melodrama or overly earnest “grieving parent” cliches. The restraint is appreciated.
Unfortunately, there’s a big art team on this issue with three artists — Mann, Dexter Soy and Leonard Kirk, as well as a fourth (Jay Leisten) doing inks only — and it shows. There’s a half-hearted attempt to break up the art duties in a way that makes sense. Mann mostly handles the Gambit storyline and others tackle the Rogue events when the pair split up, but the story is not easily broken down, and Mann ends up needing an assist on his end anyway. Though I generally like Mann’s work, especially his interpretations of both Gambit and Rogue — this is not his best work — with some panels feeling rushed and awkward.
The storytelling from all three artists is frankly not up to snuff, and a complicated plot point reveal (that of the aforementioned canister of “Zero Compound”) is utterly bungled in the poor visual execution. Though Mann has the most pages in this issue, it just doesn’t feel like anyone is in charge and as a result the issue lacks clarity and vision. I also continue to be frustrated by how this book is colored and inked — I can only describe it as too many fussy lines that lack commitment and conviction — the result of which is art that sometimes looks muddy and unfinished. It’s not something I noticed in Mann’s work before this book, so I’m not sure what the change is, but for me, it just doesn’t work.
I keep dipping a toe into “Gambit” as I continue to hold an almost unreasonable affection for the character, and I hoped that these issues with Rogue (another character I enjoy) would help me settle into a nice affection for the book. Unfortunately, with the tag team art, and my inability to connect to Joelle and thus care about her fate, I’m underwhelmed, again.