X-Men 33 is significant since it represents one of the earliest relationship roadblocks (outside of the very obvious obstacle of Rogue’s powers) Gambit and Rogue would eventually overcome. It retells the story of an encounter between Sabretooth and a 17-year-old Remy many years prior, a story which Sabretooth intends to illustrate the Cajun’s untrustworthiness in order to drive a wedge between him and Rogue. Rogue makes a point of speaking to Sabretooth alone after his earlier claim that he and Gambit share a history (X-Men 28).
Sabretooth is able to tell the story with the help of a Memory Image Inducer, a piece of technology given him by Xavier to help unscramble his memories. Its ability to project the memories of its wearer no doubt makes it harder to doubt the validity of his story (and is a nice frame by which Kubert illustrates the telling).
The story is essentially this: As part of Gambit’s coming of age within the Thieves’ Guild, he is required to complete an important heist. In this case, he is to steal L’Etroile du Tricherie, “The Cheating Star” and is accompanied by his sponsor and adoptive brother, Henri Leabeau. The pendant was originally stolen from a wealthy Canadian financier by his mistress, young Genevieve Darceneaux, the young and beautiful daughter of a famous jewel thief. Rather than making it a straightforward snatch-and-grab, however, Gambit indulges in his last moments of freedom from his impending marriage to Bella Donna by making Genevieve fall in love with him in order to steal the pendant while she sleeps.
The obvious irony here is that Genevieve herself has done the same thing to many of her male victims. It is therefore difficult to muster sympathy for her broken heart. However, the story is further complicated - and made more lethal - by Sabretooth’s involvement, himself having been hired by the Canadian financier to retrieve the pendant from Genevieve. As always, Sabretooth’s methods of retrieval lack finesse (if not cruelty). Upon seeing Gambit make his departure with the pendant, he kidnaps both Genevieve and Henri, holding them suspended by ropes from atop the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Gambit is then forced to choose between saving one or the other and must forfeit the stolen pendant to do so.
As one would expect, he makes the decision to save his brother Henri, letting Genevieve fall to her death. With her dying breath, Genevieve confides that she truly loved Remy and that, had he asked, she would have willingly given the pendant to him.
Remy … I … Did love you … I would have … Given . L’Etroile To you …
This scene is probably intended to illustrate how much of a scoundrel Gambit was for the approach he decided to take (sleeping with then stealing from Genevieve). It’s worth noting, however, that simply asking Genevieve for the pendant would still have required him to make her fall in love with him and wouldn’t have spared her from Sabretooth’s deadly manipulations. Perhaps instead we’re meant to understand Henri’s earlier words of wisdom and experience:
You play a game when the Pinch is th’ thing.
A dangerous game.
In other words, thieving is serious business. When high stakes are involved, one can’t afford to act blithely. From his trademark banter and inappropriate flirting, even when in great peril, this is clearly not a lesson Gambit takes to heart (luckily for readers).
At the end of this issue, Gambit confronts Rogue about her conversation with Sabretooth. He seems primarily motivated by a desire to ensure that Creed hasn’t revealed any other secrets about his and Gambit’s mutual history that he wouldn’t want Rogue or the rest of the X-Men to know. Rogue reacts angrily, asking
What difference does that make? It’s not about you an’ Him! It’s about us! I’m in Love wit’ you–
Gambit tries to defend himself with the promise that he’s no longer the same man he once was which prompts Rogue to ask him what kind of man he is. His response is memorable and is one of the things that helped define their early relationship:
Dat’s why I need you … to help me find out …
Cause wit’out you, girl … I’m afraid o’ the answer.
With a few exceptions, I’m not a fan of Kubert’s pencils. His extensive use of cross-hatching and bed head hair make them seem unpolished. Nonetheless, there are still a few panels that are flattering to either or both of our favorite protagonists. Still, this is one of the issues you pick up for its historical value more than the beauty of its illustration.
Originally created in 1998 and re-established in early 2009, Sugah & Spice is a blog devoted to Marvel characters, Rogue and Gambit of the X-Men.
Disclaimer: Rogue, Gambit, the X-Men and related entities are © Marvel Entertainment.