Gambit and the Champions #1

Behind a cracking cover from David Yardin we have another escapee From The Marvel Vault, a Gambit-starring story that had been gathering dust before the company’s move to new quarters last year. Well, ‘story’ may be exaggerating – Marvel had artwork from the late George Tuska, but no script. Scott Lobdell has supplied that, leading to what Marvel describes as ‘a lost classic’.

That’s pushing it. ‘Averagely entertaining’ is about right. But given that Gambit is one of my least-favourite Marvel characters, that counts as a win.

I only bought this one because I was a fan of the Champions back in the 1970s. LA adventurers Black Widow, Hercules, Angel, Iceman and Ghost Rider were an interesting mix in terms of character, appearance and abilities, and if they’re in a flashback story, I’m there. And wonder of wonders, Lobdell actually makes Gambit not only bearable, but likeable.

It’s some time before his first meeting with the X-Men and Remy LeBeau has been hired by a woman named Spit – a weird name that no one seems to find weird – to steal an ancient magical scroll from Warren Worthington III. The Angel’s fellow Champions, bar Iceman, are at the party, making nicking the thing a tad more difficult than anticipated. And who should crash the glitzy do but M.O.D.O.K. and his A.I.M. goons? Cue a cursory, but entertaining, tussle that gives the future Gambit a taste of teamwork and points his thoughts in a new direction.

Lobdell does a good job of knitting together Tuska’s pictures, without benefit of the original plot. The slight story works well enough, and finds room for some decent jokes – there’s a terrific running gag centred on M.O.D.O.K’s telepathy

Tuska, who died in 2009, must have been well into his seventies by the time he pencilled this book, and so while it’s not the best work I’ve seen from him, he gets a pass. I suspect he was expecting to have an inker on board, but as it is, the finishes come courtesy of colourist Nick Filardi. I’d prefer to see Tuska with traditional flat colours rather than the modern Marvel tones, but I’ve no idea what state the pages were in when Filardi came to them – he may well have worked wonders.

Whatever the case, as a longtime fan of Tuska’s layouts and character work, I’m grateful to have one last look at the gentleman’s craft. That the story is fun too is gravy.

One thought on “Gambit and the Champions #1

  1. George Tuska AND the Champions? I can't say that I've EVER read an issue of a comic with Scott Lobdell's name on it that I've enjoyed. Or one with Gambit in it, for that matter.

    But George Tuska AND the original Champions? Irresistable. Thank you for writing this piece and letting me know the book existed.


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