Gambit made his debut in 1990, so compared to the rest of Marvel Comics' X-Men characters, the Cajun mutant is relatively young. Despite this, the ex-thief with the ability to kinetically charge matter with explosive results has developed a large and dedicated fan base. Among Gambit's followers is writer Mike Carey, who has two projects featuring the character ready to hit stores. In the June one-shot "X-Men Origins: Gambit," Carey and artist David Yardin explore the title character's past. Gambit is also an important supporting character in "Salvage," Carey's latest arc in the ongoing "X-Men: Legacy" series. CBR News spoke with the writer about both books.
Mike Carey finds Gambit so compelling because the character's background as a rogue and a thief colors the way he tackles problems and interacts with the world. "Charismatic villain-heroes are often more fun to write than straight out decent heroic types," the writer told CBR News. "I also like his background and the whole business with the different guilds in New Orleans, which in some ways is a riff on what Fritz Lieber did in his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories; setting up the thieves' guild and the assassins' guild in Lankhmar, and the uneasy relationships between them.
"I think Gambit has a very rich back story and he's a fun character because his morality is different than the rest of the X-Men," Carey continued. "Having said that, obviously the X-Men themselves have become darker in recent years and you could argue that their morality has caught up with Gambit, but he's always stood out on the team as somebody who is more pragmatic, harder edged, and more willing to think the unthinkable. I like that. I find it an interesting quality to play with."
"X-Men Origins: Gambit" came about because editor Nick Lowe asked Carey if he wanted to chronicle Gambit's formative years in a one-shot. Carey immediately accepted and outlined his plans for Lowe. "I said to him that because of the way Gambit was introduced into the X-Men as this man of mystery and because that mystery was elucidated bit by bit over the course of several years, we got his story in small morsels. Nobody has ever written the through line that takes him from New Orleans and into the ranks of the X-Men," Carey explained. "What I've basically done is taken his marriage to Belladonna, his years of exile, his meeting with Mr. Sinister and subsequent involvement in the Mutant Massacre and put all of those stories together into what I hope is one coherent narrative."
Because it covers so many stories, "X-Men Origins: Gambit" is a sprawling, epic tale that unfolds over several years and a multitude of locations. "It starts on his wedding day. We see his childhood in New Orleans but only in flashbacks," Carey explained. "So we start in New Orleans and there are some scenes in Switzerland where he first meets Sinister. Obviously we visit the Morlock Tunnels [The central location of the Mutant Massacre] and we end in the events of 'The Shadow King Saga' with Gambit's first meeting with Storm. So it's pretty far flung geographically. It's done in chapters. Each chapter takes place in a different location."
When readers first meet the young Gambit in Carey's one-shot, he's very brash and self confident. "To some extent he never loses those qualities. He's always incredibly sure of himself and inclined to rely on his own strength because he knows he can trust himself. He doesn't know that about anybody else," Carey stated. "But still, I think what we see over the course of the issue is Gambit being tempered in the fire. He's a very young man when we meet him and when we leave him as his adult self he's been through hell. He comes out of it hurt but still standing."
Part of the reason Gambit goes through hell is because of Mr. Sinister, who in many ways is the main antagonist of "X-Men Origins: Gambit." "Inevitably this is mainly about his relationship with Sinister and how to some extent he allows himself to be manipulated by Sinister and become part of Sinister's agenda," Carey said. "It's also about how he eventually breaks free from that in a small but symbolically very important way during the Mutant Massacre itself."
In addition to Sinister and Belladonna, the other important supporting characters in Carey's one-shot are the actual perpetrators of the Mutant Massacre, the Marauders. "We get to see Gambit recruiting them in a series of little glimpses," the writer confirmed.
"X-Men Origins: Gambit" features a super powered title character but its tone has more in common with a crime story than a superhero tale. "It's got a morally compromised hero who is in this untenable position and still trying to do good," Carey said. "So you could say it has a noirish flavor to it, in that respect at least."
Mike Carey says his collaborator David Yardin has done an amazing job rising to the challenge of bringing "X-Men Origins: Gambit" to life. "It's a big, epic, sprawling story and I think the most important thing David brings to the project is the ability to handle that scale; to make the key events seem as huge and significant as they are," Carey remarked. "He depicts the first meeting of the Marauders, the first time they're all together in one room, and you get a sense of how powerful and overbearing these personalities are and the tensions between them. It's a very cool image."
In "X-Men Origins: Gambit" the former thief takes center stag as Carey explores his past, but in "Salvage," the current arc of "X-Men: Legacy," Gambit is more of a supporting player. "He isn't really changed or moved forward by the events of this story, although there some interesting beats at the end relating to him and Rogue," Carey explained. "We'll see him more in the next stage of 'Legacy' and I think it's fair to say he'll be coming more into the thick of the action there as opposed to just being a supporting character."
The regular star of "X-Men: Legacy" is Professor Charles Xavier, who's been on a journey to recover the memories he lost when an attempt on his life left him with amnesia. Xavier's secondary mission has been to help out and assist X-Men he feels he owes. At the beginning of "Salvage," Xavier recruited Gambit to help seek out Rogue so he could try and fulfill the promise he made years ago to help her control her mutant ability of power and memory absorption.
Little did Xavier know that the powerful robotic life form known as Danger, the physical embodiment of the X-Men's "Danger Room," was seeking Rogue out as well, and planned on using her as a weapon against him. But after being massively damaged in a firefight with a Shi'Ar spaceship, Danger took an innocent remark of Rogue's as a command and began using her holographic powers to make Rogue revisit her past - in effect, making Rogue undergo a journey similar to the one Xavier has been on since "Legacy" began.
"For reasons that we establish in the latest issue ['X-Men: Legacy' #223], Danger is taking Rogue through her past and forcing her to confront various aspects of it with a view of bringing her to a particular place and point of view," Carey explained. "We'll see that all come to a head in the next issue. What's happening to Rogue was always my intention but the way it's happening is serendipitous. You've got a goal you move towards but you don't always know what the terrain is going to be like. The availability of Danger and the fact that she hadn't been used since the 'Unstoppable' arc in 'Astonishing X-Men' and the logic of having her seek out Professor X made this particular story possible, though there were other ways we could have done it and got to the same point."
What made Danger a particularly interesting character for Carey to use was that in certain ways, her behavior and temperament was similar to that of an abused child. "She's a being who came into sentience to find herself affectively enslaved," Carey said. "There's a scene in issue #223 in which Danger is compared to the genie in the bottle of the 'Arabian Nights' story, which comes to hate everybody because of what's been done to it and swears revenge on the world. It's pretty apt, I think, because Danger is in a similar state. She's been hurt so much, and all she's ever really known is exploitation. So inevitably her first reaction to the world is anger and a desire for revenge. We wanted to take her beyond that position, explore her psychology a little, and bring her to a different place. This story doesn't leave her where it found her."
The other major supporting players in "Salvage" are a crew of alien salvage collectors from the Shi'Ar empire who came to Earth to collect Danger. "They've been pure fun. We really needed somebody to put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak," Carey remarked. "We had Professor X, Danger, and Rogue and all of their agendas are very clear and easily defined. We needed a wild card, an unpredictable factor to throw into that mix and make everything go to hell. That's where Captain Redhand and his salvage crew sort of originated from."
"Uncanny X-Men" #224 is in stores May 27, and is the final chapter of "Salvage." "When the issue begins something big is about to happen to both Rogue and Danger," Carey said. "In a sense, #224 concludes three journeys: those of Rogue, Danger, and Professor X. The final chapter has to bring together all these plot threads and resolve them."
"Legacy" #224 may conclude Xavier's journey to rediscover and come to terms with his past, but Mike Carey has one last mission for the X-Men's former leader in issue #225, on sale June 17. It's a mission that has him seeking out the mutant villain team, The Acolytes, for a face-to-face confrontation. There were two reasons why Carey wanted to end Xavier's quest this way. "One is structural and the other is thematic. The structural reason is that it brings Professor Xavier full circle. It's where he started and there's a satisfaction to be had in taking him back there," Carey explained. "The thematic reason is that when Exodus [The Acolytes' current leader] awoke Xavier and set him on this course he made him an offer. He said to Xavier, 'I intend for you to lead the Acolytes.' Xavier turned him down at that time, but the offer remains open. So this is the last bit of unfinished business, which also happens to be the first bit of unfinished business. Xavier goes back because he feels he has something to say to Exodus and his followers."
It's been revealed that once Xavier finishes his role in "Legacy," he'll become a member of Norman Osborn's team of Dark X-Men, a group that plays a role in "Utopia" -- this summer's six-part "Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men" crossover. Readers wondering about Xavier's reasons for joining Osborn's team will glimpse the initial approach in "Legacy" #225. "How Xavier comes to figure in Osborn's plans is not my story to tell, but in Utopia we will eventually come to understand exactly why that's happening," Carey revealed.
"X-Men: Legacy" #226 kicks off a two-part story that ties into the "Utopia" crossover and stars Rogue, Gambit, and Danger. "It's the necessary bridge between what 'Legacy' has been and what it's going to become," Carey said. "Obviously this has been a title that's been obsessively concerned with past continuity and key moments in the X-Men's past. In going over his life and decisions Professor X has sort of explored the X-Men's past as well. In the next phase of the book we're going to be in present continuity and that means Dark Reign. So we wanted to bring our core cast into bruising contact with what's going on in San Francisco this summer. It seemed like the logical thing to do, as if we needed any excuse. The two issue arc is tentatively titled 'Suppressing Fire.'"
"X-Men: Legacy" #224 features artwork by Carey's regular collaborator Scott Eaton. Issue #225 has pencils by Phil Briones, who worked with Carey on "Legacy" #219, and Dustin Weaver provides the pencils for issue #226. "It's one of the perks of the job," Carey said. "We get to have a lot of amazing talents lending their weight to the stories. From that point of view, working on Legacy has been an amazingly rewarding experience. Scot has been the inspiration and the heart throughout, and it would have been a very different - an inferior - book without him. Then on top of that I get to work with, you know, other guys like John Romita, Jr, Brandon Peterson, Mike Deodato... and now Phil (twice!) and Dustin. 'Legacy' has become a kind of prism, and we're seeing the X-Men refracted through these huge imaginations. It's been insanely cool to be part of that."
Mike Carey has thoroughly enjoyed chronicling Charles Xavier's adventures in "Legacy" and is very satisfied with the way Xavier's journey ends in issue #225. "I had a lot of fun writing Rogue's team of X-Men but they imploded during 'Messiah CompleX.' The various options we explored for what 'X-Men' might become were all interesting but this was the one I was most excited about doing and this was the one that stuck," the writer stated. "It's been an opportunity to revisit all of the things that made the X-Men seem so amazing to me when I was reading them as I grew up. Professor X is a fascinating character. We've been able to illuminate not all but many different facets of his character."
As Carey hinted, Professor X's involvement in "X-Men: Legacy" is coming to an end, but the title and Carey's involvement with it are not. "I'm really psyched for where we're going. It's still going to be a book with a solo protagonist. It's not Professor X but it is one of the three characters on the cover of issue #226," the writer hinted. "The logic of the book requires though that the main character interact with lots of different supporting characters. There will be a core cast that kind of rises out of how the book works, and it's something that I think hasn't been done in this way before. I'm having a blast writing the Dark Reign tie-in, but what the book is going to become after that is pretty unheard of and pretty awesome."