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Jul 18

Mr & Mrs X #11-12 – “The Lady & The Tiger”

Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Gosh, the backlog is starting to look a bit terrifying.  That’ll happen when everything ends at once, I guess – including a bunch of prologue one-shots sneaking in under the wire.  But we’ll come to those.  First up, the closing two issues of Mr & Mrs X, a book which has in fact achieved something (hopefully) lasting and solid.  Before Kelly Thompson got hold of Rogue and Gambit, their on-again-off-again relationship had drifted into that grey territory somewhere between “nineties nostalgia” and “not this again.”  Despite the initial wrench it took to get them there, Mr & Mrs X ends with them as a solid couple who seem, once again, like they belong together.

Publishers can be understandably nervous about marrying off characters, because of the fear that it marks the end of their story.  It depends on the story, of course.  Moonlighting was notoriously considered to have lost its way after it paired up the lead characters, but the core of their appeal was the will-they-won’t-they schtick.  With Rogue and Gambit, any mileage in that routine was exhausted years ago, and besides, their appeal has long been more in the way they play off each other when they’re together.  They work as a double act; marrying them makes it stronger.

But we have two issues left here, and some loose ends to fill.  There’s a gentle nod to the fact that the current Uncanny X-Men story is carrying on in parallel, but Rogue and Gambit have other priorities in mind than trying to track down Scott’s team.  Instead, Remy is going back to New Orleans to tie up that storyline about – shudder – the Guilds.  The Guilds have never felt like a good fit for Gambit – they take themselves far too seriously, and they’re quite a silly idea to boot – but they’re so ingrained into his back story that you have to deal with them sooner or later.

Since Gambit is an absentee leader for the Guild, he figures there’s going to be a power vacuum in New Orleans that he’d better sort out.  There is, but Candra has already filled it.  Candra’s never exactly been a classic character, but there’s an angle here.  She was supposedly killed off in Cable, but being an immortal, she always comes back.  It’s just taking a little time, and it hasn’t entirely worked, so right now, she looks about twelve.  Gambit describes the resulting effect as “highly disturbing”, and I’m not convinced that Oscar Bazaldua’s art in the first issue sells it terribly well.  He does good action, and good infiltration scenes with Gambit, but his women are generally quite baby-faced – there’s a scene between Gambit and Bella Donna where her face looks too small for her head – and so an ostensibly 12-year-old Candra dressed in her typical costume seems more like Candra drawn in his style, only shorter.  It does look vaguely creepy, but more because it reminds me that his women look a bit wrong in general.  Javier Pina, doing the final issue, gets it a bit closer, or rather has more of a contrast with his female characters generally – but it still doesn’t entirely land.

So Candra is in league with the Assassins Guild, and Gambit gets captured, and of course Rogue comes after him to rescue him.  Fortunately, Candra’s role here doesn’t depend on her being an especially interesting character outside her new gimmick; she’s there to give Gambit one final chance to be heroic before the book is cancelled.  Candra needs to sacrifice somebody in order to get her full power back, and because she is generous to plots in need, she gives Gambit the choice between Rogue and Bella Donna.  This is kind of false tension, because we all know Gambit’s not actually going to choose either of them.

As with earlier issues, though, Kelly Thompson seems to have in mind that this set-up allows her to echo a point from the nineties that she evidently regards as unresolved: the flashback story in X-Men #33 when Sabretooth did the same routine with Gambit’s brother and his girlfriend.  The moral of that story was that Gambit got close to her because he was trying to steal something from her, and was too busy playing the thief to realise that he could just have asked her.  So it’s a story about the young Gambit treating a woman as entertainment and getting her killed as a result, basically.  And in theory, if you do something similar and he gets it right this time, you’re saying that he’s matured.

Mr & Mrs X expressly cites the earlier story, but doesn’t actually recap enough of it to provide the context.  It doesn’t even make clear that Genevieve was his girlfriend, perhaps because from a 2019 standpoint, it’s a rather unfashionable trope.  But if you’re going to invoke the story at all…

This set-up is apparently designed to allow Gambit to redeem himself by making the heroic choice and saving the day.  You suspect that if this series were continuing then this would just be Gambit’s story, but the final scenes bolt on some stuff for Rogue, given that it’s her book too.  The big idea, though, is simply that Gambit now embraces all the aspects of his character and refuses to be made to choose between them.  And… yes, fine, though it’s a heavy handed way of making the point.  Of course, even though this is the last issue of the series, nobody really wants to do more stories with the bloody Guilds, so Gambit doesn’t stick around to actually run the Guilds.  Which kind of undermines his point.

It’s not the strongest of stories for the book to go out on, even allowing for it only having two issues to work with.  But at least it ends strongly, with a few pages of domesticity.  I’m not sure Mr & Mrs X ever quite matched the strength of its lead-in mini, but as a restatement of Rogue and Gambit, it’s done its job well.

Bring on the comments

  1. Paul F says:

    “Moonlighting was notoriously considered to have lost its way after it paired up the lead characters, but the core of their appeal was the will-they-won’t-they schtick.”

    There’s a bit of a false history built up around this. Moonlighting didn’t go off the rails because they were together in the final season, it went off the rails because it immediately split them up, with Maddie going to Chicago. They weren’t in any scenes together for almost five months. This article on it is well worth reading: https://www.npr.org/2009/09/17/112934505/what-really-happened-to-moonlighting

    Also, I wish I knew why I clearly remembered this article about a TC show I never watched that I read once a decade ago when there’s so, so much important stuff I’ve forgotten.

  2. Ben says:

    This was a really solid book and I’m sad to see it end.

    Thompson’s probably my number two current Marvel writer after Aaron.

    I looked it up and on Twitter she said this didn’t get cancelled, it was pretty much always going to be 12 issues.

    They’ve known about whatever this Hickman reboot is for a good long while and knew everything was going to get killed off.

  3. Rich LArson says:

    I liked this a lot too. It had it’s own tone (romantic action adventure, maybe?), acknowledged past and current continuity without getting bogged down and actually moved the characters stories forward. It’s the first time in a long time I genuinely liked reading about these two characters. I hope in the Brave New World of Hickman the changes stick and that when new books come out hey have a real story to tell with the characters.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m a fan of both Gambit and Rogue separately, and I like them as a flirtatious would-be couple they were in the 90s, but I’ve had a very strong dislike for them when they actually were together (so, X-Treme X-Men and the unfortunate Austen/Milligan run of X-Men, mostly), to the point where I considered Mike Carey’s handling of them (that is, breaking them up for good) the best possible solution for all concerned.

    Long story short, Thompson’s the first writer who wrote them as a commited couple in a way that appealed to me. And very much so to boot.

    So I hope that in the Hickxmen line-up there will be another book by Thompson, preferably with Rogue and Gambit still in it.

  5. sam says:

    I always considered X-Men #33 to be one of the best Gambit issues. One reading of it was that he’s just fundamentally untrustworthy, but Thompson has done a great job of establishing his growth, by showing how he’s matured and how that has made Rogue trust him.

  6. Anya42 says:

    This was a fun book, Thompson was definitely one of the better writers at writing them together.

    Paul F-I feel your pain. 😉 I too suffer from remembering pointless, random facts rather than remembering remotely anything useful. :p

  7. Si says:

    The 90s pairing always seemed stupid to me, a large part of that would have been that Rogue went from being a Claremont Strong Woman (literally and figuratively) to a simpering girl at the same time. But the Rogue and Gambit mini sold the relationship very well. It was very abrupt but it worked. This series will be missed.

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