[Jason Powell continues to look at every Claremont X-Men issue. Can you believe we are already at GAMBIT! God I loved that character when I was a kid. A dumb kid.]
“Gambit – Out of the Frying Pan”
More layers of duality emerge here, beginning with the title, which forms two pairs: First with the title of the previous issue (“Gambit” is matched with “Storm”) and then again with the next (“Into the Fire”). The introduction of Gambit himself – who, like Ororo, is a mutant and a thief – creates more parallels. Note how Dr. Shen’s predatorial sexual attraction to Gambit is set up as a mirror with the Shadow King’s for Storm; and that the old-male-mentor/young-female-protégé dynamic has two iterations here (Gambit/Ororo, Shadow King/Dr. Shen) and a third one off-panel (Wolverine/Jubilee).
The plot mechanics of the issue are in keeping with the motif as well, built on a structure of leap-frogging rescues between Gambit and Storm. Claremont’s feminism is at work here, as he attempts to keep the scales in rigorous balance between his favorite girl and the new, “cool” male character (a co-creation with Jim Lee which was plainly meant to appeal to the core, teenage-boy faction of the comic-book-readng audience). Gambit may be allowed to rescue the damsel in distress, but not without the damsel turning around and rescuing him two pages later.
Leap-frogging is occurring on the production level as well, as Michael Collins jumps back over Bill Jaaska to provide fill-in art for Uncanny 266. Given that this is Gambit’s first in-story appearance (his first published appearance having occurred a month earlier in the chronologically misplaced X-Men Annual 14), it seems odd that co-creator Jim Lee was not assigned as the penciller. Collins’ storytelling style is a bit stiff and inorganic here, drawing a bit too much attention to Claremont’s contrived multiple-rescue scenario (thus necessitating Gambit’s self-aware bit of dialogue: “I’ve lost track … who rescues whom next?”).
Still, the point gets across: Young Ororo has found herself a kindred spirit, clearly destined to be a new addition to the X-Men’s cast (and the last major character Claremont would contribute to the mythos).