Review by Ian Keogh
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s 1995 pairing of Wolverine and Gambit has earned long-term popularity, the graphic novel having reached a fourth edition, although now with the X-Men logo prominent, and the original subtitle of ‘Victims’ absent.
It’s superficially easy to see why that’s the case. Sale might have been looking a little too much at the layouts of briefly popular but lesser artists, but everything is drawn in his pleasing individual style and he really was an artist coming into his own at the time. He’s visually imaginative, sells the emotional moments, delivers the action with cinematic verve and as the sample page shows, he has a wonderful way with a silhouette. The only drawbacks are a supporting character drawn so similarly to the X-Men’s Psylocke it’s as if she were originally scheduled for inclusion, and a version of London that’s almost a parody.
Loeb’s story draws on the late 19th century London case of Jack the Ripper. A similarly murderous slasher has killed several women, one of them a friend of the X-Men’s Gambit. Feeling guilty at not having been able to protect her, perhaps at least he can bring her killer to justice. However, that killer may be his X-Men colleague Wolverine, met with blood on his claws and claiming to have no memory as to whose it is. While there would normally be some trust between colleagues, Gambit knows the X-Men have been concerned about Wolverine becoming more feral, so could he be the killer?
That’s not a question to occupy readers for very long, as while Wolverine might be among Marvel’s more violent superheroes, a plot about his killing innocent women would be appalling. However, the actual revelation is almost as distasteful, eventually having only a marginal connection to the remainder and used for hollow sensationalism. At least Loeb writes Wolverine’s Cajun accent plausibly, not resorting to the exaggeration of some writers, but this is only worthwhile for Sale’s art.