Fox’s Deadpool is the unexpected phenomenon of 2016 thus far, not only earning a bigger box office and better critical reception than anyone expected, but also opening bigger than any of the studio’s previous Marvel superhero efforts. This is all the more impressive, considering it’s based on a relatively minor Marvel character mainstream audiences likely never heard of — which Fox is likely hoping bodes well for Gambit, another X-Men spinoff based on a similarly lesser known character with Channing Tatum tapped for the lead.
With that in mind, it makes a certain amount of sense that Marvel Comics has announced a five-part miniseries for June 2016 titled Deadpool vs. Gambit.
Coming from writers Ben Acker & Ben Blacker (Thunderbolts) and artist Danilo Beyruth (Gwenpool), Gambit vs. Deadpool is keeping the main thrust of its story-arc a secret for now, but it’s said to involve Wade Wilson (Deadpool) and Remy LeBeau (Gambit) working as con-artists and having known each other for longer than previously revealed by either characters’ history. This detail also suggests the story could take place either before or outside the current X-Men comics continuity.
What’s notable about the book may be that it exists at all. Though it’s never been officially confirmed, it had been widely speculated for many years now that Marvel’s comics division had been given an “officially unofficial” edict from upper management to publish significantly fewer books (if any at all) featuring characters whose feature film rights were not held in-house by Marvel Studios — a roster of industry fixtures including The X-Men (including all related characters classified as Mutants), The Fantastic Four, and (until recently) Spider-Man. This is largely believed to be at least part of the reason that the Fantastic Four no longer have a regular series in the post-Secret Wars continuity, and why the company has been so keen to reduce the role of Mutants in their stories while building up the presence of the Inhumans.
So, while it makes sense that Marvel would want to continue leveraging Deadpool (the character was popular through merchandising well before the movie), seeing them prop up an X-Men character like Gambit is a surprise to say the least; one that will likely lead some fans to wonder if relations between Marvel and its prodigal properties have changed or even improved. On the other hand, improved or not it’s unlikely that the book is an indicator of Marvel working out some kind of shared custody with Fox, especially now that Fox knows there’s money to be made off R-rated features like Deadpool that the Disney Corporation likely doesn’t want a part of.
Whatever happens on the comics side, the Gambit movie is still set for a 2017 release, with Tatum starring and Doug Liman in the director’s chair. The character, a cajun-accented drifter who fights with a quarterstaff and can turn objects into improvised explosives by charging them with unstable energy, may not have much cache with moviegoers (a version of him was played by Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but he’s well known to comics readers and has a particular following among fans who grew up on the 1990s FOX X-Men animated series where he was part of the main cast.
Deadpool is now in theaters. X-Men: Apocalypse will hit theaters on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development. We’ll let you know when Deadpool 2 gets an official release date.