It's official – Christos Gage has done the impossible. He's made me not hate an appearance by Gambit.
In the penultimate issue of Avengers Academy, which will be sorely missed when all these characters are forced to try and kill each other in the dreaded Avengers Arena thanks to Marvel NOW NOW NOW NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THEN NOW NOW NOW (yes, I'm bitter about losing this book), Gage shows us why he's a fantastic comics writer and why this series has worked so well. Pitting the AA kids against the Jean Gray School kids against each other in a flag football game, we're not only allowed to blow off some steam after the last heavy arc that saw friend against friend and a lot of sacrifice, but from the whole of the blasted Avengers vs. X-Men saga that's finally petered out. This is the preferred version of AvX, anyway. Smacktalk and suckerpunches for fun.
AA #38 is chock full of hijinks, like Wolverine trying to get back at Hank Pym for suckerpunching him out of the Quinjet in AvX #3 before retiring from the game at "beer o'clock," what happens when a jerkbag like Quentin Quire interacts with a super-strong Femizon from a man-slaving culture like Lyra, Rockslide suckering Mettle into talking about his lady problems just to get the drop on him in the game, and Jocasta tasering people who get out of hand – like Tigra v. Logan (confirming that Logan says "aboot" just like other Canadians) and Quicksilver vs. Warbird – leading Mettle to make the painfully-obvious-in-retrospect "don't tase me, Jo!" groaner that nonetheless makes you slap your face because you don't want to find it as funny as you do.
But there's also a lot of bonding, such as Kitty Pryde having a heart-to-heart with still-wearing-a-mask-for-some-reason Veil about incorporeality and being powerless, Rockslide telling Mettle to cherish what he's got with Hazmat despite issues because at least he still has junk (which is the first clue we've gotten to Stan Lee's "superhero secret" about the Thing's dork from Mallrats), Striker and Anole paired off because they're the only gay kids, Quicksilver angrily confessing his marital mistakes to a spit-swappingly impressed Warbird, Finesse confessing the truth about what happened last issue to X-23, and yes… Gambit providing sage relationship advice to Reptil, which is made more palatable by the usually stalwart and polite AA team leader throwing some snark Remy's way about the "Pepe Le Pew" schtick.
I still hate the headwrap. But learning of the existence of Glob Herman balances that out. He's a big mutant kid whose flesh is made of translucent jelly. And his name is Glob Herman. These X-kids are going to make me read their books after all.
The art from Tom Grummett is pretty good considering the raw tonnage of cast members he has to draw here, although there's a regrettable panel of an angry X-23 that looks cock-eyed at a dramatic moment. But overall, Avengers Academy #38 is just a blast, because it's all about characters bouncing off each other, and we comic fans love that stuff – to the point where it's slightly dangerous that we connect with these fictional people like they were our real friends, which makes us that much more upset when their book gets canceled. But Gage is such a class act that he even makes us feel better about it in the letters page – he's heartbroken that the book's going away, but he's happy to see these characters have caught on well enough that other writers want to take them on.
Dammit, man, you can't even let us rage right! Mr. Gage, you are a gentleman and a scholar.