Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #266

Issue Date: 
August 1990
Story Title: 
Gambit – Out of the Frying Pan

Chris Claremont (writer), Mike Collins. ( Penciler), Josef Rubinstein (Inker), Brousseau & Orzechowski (letterers), Brad Vancata (colorist), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in chief)

Brief Description: 

In her attempt to steal back some stolen paintings, Ororo has run right into the Shadow King’s trap. She desperately struggles against the attacks of his Hounds and, after hurting the King with her haphazard weather power, she falls into a pool, from which she is rescued by a charismatic young thief who calls himself Gambit and has mutant powers himself. Gambit almost manages to mesmerize the King’s aide Lian with his charm, but is attacked by the King himself. Together, though, the two thieves manage to trick their attackers and flee via the roof and Storm’s parachute. Later, at the junkyard where Storm is staying, she admits that the Shadow King won’t give up and Gambit is now likely part of his vendetta. Nanny and the Orphan-Maker have finally almost located Storm again. Nanny is determined to “rescue” her, before the Shadow King gets Ororo. In Washington D.C., Val Cooper is sent by the Shadow King to assassinate Mystique, who, courtesy of a letter by Destiny, is already expecting her. However, Mystique doesn’t act to stop Val.

Full Summary: 

A Mississippi riverfront mansion on the outskirts of Cairo, Illinois. Young Ororo came her to “liberate” some stolen goods. Instead she walked into the Shadow King’s trap. He has taken the house’s inhabitants and changed them into hounds, slaves of his who are now little more than vicious animals. They attack the hapless Ororo. The Shadow King, in the form of FBI Agent Jacob Reisz, urges her to resist. He enjoys a good show. Not that it will change anything.

While he talks, Ororo evades one Hound and throws a rug at the second, but the third one finally grabs and captures her. Reisz expresses disappointment. He’d expected more of a show. When he orders the Hound to bring her over, Ororo uses her lightning to throw off the Hound. She is grimly aware that this will only confuse the beasts, not hurt them.

She runs into the next room, a huge luxurious bathroom. She slaps the first Hound after her with a wet towel across the face, making sure to enrage the creatures. She hopes that this will make it harder for the King to mentally tell what is happening. With a water jet and a gust of wind, she keeps away the second hound; however the first one attacks her again.

That moment, Reisz enters and Ororo uses a judo throw to toss the Hound into Reisz. With a wind gust, she billows the drapes and bedclothes behind her as she runs towards a balcony, meaning to entangle all who want to follow.

The Shadow King has had enough. Fun’s over. With a mental claw, he grabs Ororo, trying to subdue her. He suggests she make it easy on herself and surrender. Never! she shouts and retaliates with a bolt of lightning.

The backlash causes her to lose balance and fall over the railing. Desperately she tries to summon her powers, but in vain. Luckily she falls into a swimming pool. As she drags herself out of the water, she prays that her lightning managed to kill the Evil One. But she is only too aware of the fact that this is merely a fantasy. Stories are, the Shadow King can never die. She hears footsteps coming towards her. Is it him?

Elsewhere, Lian Shen rouses the Shadow King from his unconsciousness. He disapproves of her sarcasm. She points out that this is how he made her when he tapped the wickedness in her soul. Storm hit him hard but, with his thoughts alone, he can heal his body’s injuries. Pity he can’t do the same for his torn clothes. Still in a millionnaire’s household he should find something suitable to replace them. Since the millionaire is now one of his Hounds, he won’t mind, Lian adds.

Suddenly, they notice fog rising. Storm’s doing, he surmises. The Shadow King wonders why he can’t lock onto her psyche. There’s some form of mental interference. But it won’t save her from his hounds. One way or another, Ororo will be his.

Elsewhere in Nanny’s ship, an agitated Nanny wonders why the Orphan-maker wasn’t reacting to the alarm. She chastises him. Their scanners have found Storm once more. The Orphan-Maker bitches that it is Storm’s fault. Ever since Nanny found her, everything started going bad.

It’s too late. Storm has stopped using her power and Nanny’s scanner can’t find her. She does, however, recognize that other mutant signature near Storm and is horrified. She thought he was dead, but how can the devil incarnate die? Nanny exclaims.

The Orphan-Maker sulks that, whatever happens to Storm, she will deserve it. Nanny orders him not to say that, even if he means it. The Shadow King is the most foul and absolute evil. If he gets his hands on Storm, he will twist her inside out.

She scares the bejeezuz out of Peter by showing him a holographic projection of what might happen. This is the future for Storm and many others, she warns him, unless they save them first.

Back at the mansion, Ororo is puzzled and studies her savior, a tall, dark-haired young man in an odd costume and a trenchcoat. He pulled her from the pool and took her along with him to the vault, but hasn’t spoken a word. Who is he? She realizes that he must be a thief like her, as he studies the paintings the owner of the house had stolen himself and added to his private collection. Originally, Ororo had meant to steal them back and return them to their owners, not realizing this was a trap set for her by the Shadow King.

With the thief absorbed in his work, Ororo decides to run. As she opens the door, the thief shouts a warning at her. A moment later, a Hound bursts through the door, slamming Ororo to the side. Faster than the eye can follow, a throwing spike flips up out of the thief’s sleeve. The same motion carries his arm back, then forward. It’s an ordinary piece of metal when it leaves his hand. But it explodes when it strikes the wall behind the Hound with the force of a cannon-shell.

The man catches Ororo, remarking that it hasn’t been her night. Or maybe it has, considering how often he’s here to rescue her. Ororo introduces herself as Storm and mumbles that she doesn’t need his help. Calling her ‘Stormy,’ he introduces himself as Gambit, and makes it clear he doesn’t buy her bravado. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving the paintings behind, but figures thieves have to stick together. Besides, he’s intrigued, he continues, as he walks up the stairs, carrying her. If she is who he thinks she is, he’d like to know how she got so young.

Unfortunately, they are expected by Lian Shen and two more Hounds. Lian hints that Storm is more than she appears to be, but that is none of his affair. Gambit tosses Storm onto a couch and agrees with Lian, stressing that he is just a working stiff. He practically oozes with charm as he offers the girl to Lian. Ororo watches, and notices how mesmerized Lian and the Hounds are by his words. One moment later, she wonders where the fourth Hound and the Shadow King are. He question is answered, as the King mentally strikes Gambit and remarks that, given a decent opportunity, Gambit might seduce even him. He is sure he can put that talent to use.

Leave him alone, Ororo shouts threateningly and points her finger at the Shadow King. He expects another lightning bolt, but nothing happens, as her power fails her again. The next moment, he strikes her with his telepathy, having forgotten about Gambit. The thief charges up a plate and tosses it up at the Shadow King- However, he only hits the railing, not the man himself.

The strain leaves Gambit exhausted. Lian roughly grabs him by his hair. She’s annoyed at his attempt at seduction. She won’t be trifled with, she announces. Suddenly, she notices soot from the hearth billowing through the room, Storm’s doing.

With Lian, the Shadow King and the Hounds lost in the artificial fog, Ororo grabs Gambit and they debate what to do. He suggests making a run for his car, but it’s off the estate. Too far away, Ororo decides and tells him that she has an alternative means of escape. But they need to reach the roof. The last Hound and the Evil One bar that way though. Gambit charges up a spike and throws it at them. No sign of their foes afterwards.

They run upwards with Storm upbraiding him for his attitude and the nickname “Stormy” he stuck on her. He remarks that she doesn’t sound like any kid he knows and hangs back a bit. Figuring that, if they can’t enjoy the loot, nobody should, he calls the police and informs them about the stolen paintings’ whereabouts.

As he joins her on the roof, Ororo orders him to hold onto her for dear life, causing Gambit to make a joke that it’s a good thing she is so young or he’d get ideas. As they fly away with the help of Storm’s parachute and her winds, the Hounds desperately try to get them, but in vain.

Gambit wonders aloud why Storm’s wind power doesn’t always work. Annoyed, she tells him it’s because some people won’t shut up to let her concentrate.

A while later and some distance away, as they land in a junkyard for old planes, Gambit starts yapping again. When he tries to be a gentleman and catch her, Storm almost cuts whim with her knife. Hurt, he remarks that he should have at least earned himself the benefit of the doubt. That’s why she took him along, she replies defensively and suggests they start fresh. Lighting himself a cigarette, he agrees, but it won’t be so easy for him to walk out of this, will it? he asks.

Ororo admits that the Evil One will not forgive or forget. Gambit mocks the nickname “Evil One.” Doesn’t the guy have a name? As many as he has faces, Ororo replies soberly. Most often, he calls himself the Shadow King. For her, Evil One fits best though. He makes slaves of people by enchanting their minds and souls. Dr. Shen was a good woman before he changed her. He has a special hatred for Ororo. Now he has a sense of where she is, he will move Heaven and Earth to track her down. And what will he do then? Gambit asks. Whatever he pleases, she replies. To her. To all who stand by her side.

Washington D.C.:

A slightly seedy townhouse that serves as headquarters for the government’s enhanced powers strike team: Freedom Force. Valerie Cooper enters the building, while Mystique sits in the den before a fireplace, staring at a photo that shows her as a younger woman, dressed as an adventurer. In the picture, she is smiling and standing besides another lovely woman in an old-fashioned dress, her lover Irenie Adler aka Destiny.
While Val walks upstairs and takes her gun from her purse, Mystique still looks at the picture, changing from her own form to that of young Irene, finally with a resigned look to the way Irene looked shortly before her death. She puts down her wineglass next to a letter from Destiny addressed to her.

Right on time, Val, she announces, the very moment Valerie enters the den, making the other woman gasp startled. Val apologizes, but she has to do this. Taking Val’s shape, Mystique tells her she understands. The Shadow King wants her dead. And when he commands, his slaves must obey. How does she know, Val demands to know, while pointing her gun at Mystique.

The Shapeshifter pours herself another glass as she explains that, as a precog, Destiny was always aware of how she would die. Yet she chose to embrace her fate willingly. She supposes she can do no less. Because, while still alive, Destiny foresaw what lay ahead for those she loved. Including the moment Val Cooper would come to kill Mystique.

A gunshot is fired.

Characters Involved: 




Dr. Valerie Cooper

Shadow King in the body of FBI agent Jacob Reizs

Lian Shen




In Mystique’s photo:

Younger Mystique and Destiny

Story Notes: 

This marks the first appearance of Gambit.

The interference the Shadow King senses is probably due to Roma’s spell, which was meant to make the X-Men immune from all forms of detection including telepathy. [Uncanny X-Men #229]

What happens between Val Cooper and Mystique is explained in X-Factor (1st series) #70.

A reason for the Shadow King’s hatred for Mystique hasn’t been given so far.

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