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Gambit isn't so much powerful in one area as much as he's got a lot of qualities that make him 2nd best in other areas compared to the X-Men. His explosive projectiles are weaker than Cyclops' eye beams usually (and anything approaching massive destruction is going to take more time to charge), but he's one of the better hand to hand fighters (below Wolverine) who's very agile (but not so much as Nightcrawler).
As far as good Gambit stories, I would recommend the following:
i always recommend uncanny xmen 274-277. its basically when gambit, psylocke, and jubilee are all new and first meet xavier for the first time in space.
gambit was never the strongest powerwise, but he was always the most surprising. he always had 'an ace up his sleeve.' he's had the potential to be omega, if you follow the New Son arc, but 616 gambit wont reach it. writers have recently only tried to explore his 'dark side' ever since his trial by magneto, and he has since fallen into near obscurity. fans from the 90s will always remember who he was tho.