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May 20

Rogue & Gambit

Posted on Sunday, May 20, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Sometimes I regret that Marvel doesn’t just run a single weekly X-Men title and cycle in different creative teams for each arc.  It seems like a better vehicle for something like Rogue & Gambit, which deserves more than to be dismissed as a side miniseries.  (Also, between Gold, Blue, Red and Astonishing, two of which are biweekly, Marvel currently produces more than one X-Men title a week, so combining them into a single book would require some welcome restraint.)

This five-issue miniseries is written by Kelly Thompson, which is something of a catch for the X-office.  I’m less familiar with artist Pere Pérez; judging from his bibliography, he’s been around forever without making a huge impact on me.  But teamed with Frank D’Armata on colours, he’s done some very good work here; classic-looking superhero stuff, but with strong character beats and an ability to keep hordes of Rogues and Gambits from different points in their histories distinct.

Because, yes, there’s a surprising amount of continuity in this.  Not that you need to be particularly familiar with the continuity, though; that’s not really the point.  The point is more that, well, simply that there’s an awful lot of it, which means the characters are dragging a lot of baggage behind them.

The idea of Rogue and Gambit as a Scott-and-Jean type couple, destined to be together, took root somewhere in the early nineties.  They weren’t created to be together; not only does she predate him by nine years, but Gambit was originally introduced as a foil for Storm, and was supposedly intended to wind up as a villain.  But once Gambit became embedded as a regular cast member, he and Rogue were pinned together, and then pretty much entered into a holding pattern of break-up and reunion, until eventually drifting apart into different titles.  Rogue’s spent the last while in Uncanny Avengers, Gambit’s drifted off the radar somewhere.

Despite all that, they tend to gravitate back together.  The problem being… to what end?  A big part of the challenge for this book is in making Rogue and Gambit’s coupledom feel like something with legs for the future, rather than a callback to the glory days.  Smartly, the book’s approach is to stand back, look at their history, and decide that their endless dance is their status quo.  And to that end, the book makes good use of continuity, since it uses actual examples drawn from their history, but it doesn’t really matter whether you know or remember them.  It’s enough to recognise that they’ve been like this for ages, and by drawing on actual continuity for its back story, Rogue and Gambit positions itself as part of a larger character arc stretching back decades.  But it doesn’t just do that by acknowledging old stories; it also strikes a tone that feels consistent with that history.  This is very much a plot that you can imagine being done, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, by Claremont.

Cerebra detects mutants vanishing from a private couples retreat, which offers to “free mutants of their trauma”, so Rogue and Gambit are sent undercover to investigate because supposedly only a real couple will get past the screening process.  This is, of course, gloriously contrived.  Gambit is predictably delighted to go on a mission to the five star resort with Rogue; Rogue, not so much.  So there’s some actual tension for the therapist to get to grips with in the first half of the series.  In particular, a  flashback to their first “meeting”, way back in the Muir Island Saga, does play on the details of the original (and very well, too; basically, Rogue doesn’t want the time when she was still under the Shadow King’s influence to count as their first meeting, and Gambit thinks it does).  Their first major break-up in Uncanny X-Men #350 is referenced rather more obliquely, because while it’s an important turning point for them, it was also a desperately stupid story.  A flashback to Gambit vol 5 #17 is remarkably obscure, but still works in terms of establishing where the relationship has got to.

Anyhow, where this is all heading – and you see why I say this is really quite Claremont – is that over the series, Rogue and Gambit have their memories stolen by the baddies.  They get superficially (or maybe genuinely) happier and closer as all the emotional baggage drifts out of view and the focus gets back to them again.  Of course, it turns out that the stolen memories have been made into copies representation memories of Rogues and Gambits from various points in their history, and naturally they’ve got to beat those copies in order to reclaim their memories and get back to full power…

Yes, it’s one of those Very Literal Dramatisation stories where the villain has powers that very conveniently lend themselves to providing a framework for the character bits.  I’m not generally a fan of this stuff when it’s done with the likes of D’Spayre.  Here, though, it works better, because it’s not played for angst; instead it clears the way for them to first remember why they were together, and then come to terms with their shared history.

Now, granted, it’s still Very Literal.  The biggest weakness in this series is the villain, Lavish, who really does exist mainly as a plot device to let  Rogue and Gambit to do their thing.  Her own arc feels decidedly tacked on.  The loose idea seems to be that she started off making her own golems to export the emotional baggage that she didn’t feel able to deal with, but Rogue and Gambit, being the heroes, will face down their history and deal with it.  And that’s fine in theory, but Lavish is too convenient a character for her choices to mean a great deal.  There’s a slightly ill-advised bit in the epilogue, too, where a couple of minor characters spend two panels more or less spelling out the moral.

But none of that really detracts from the core with Rogue and Gambit themselves, which works.  This takes a tired relationship and makes it feel like something you actually want to see again.

Bring on the comments

  1. Brian says:

    I still wish that the line was an UNCANNY X-MEN title and precisely the rotating characters book you speak of — sort of a MARVEL TEAM-UP meets a miniseries-within-a-series anthology (would reusing the X-MEN LEGACY title work? — with perhaps one extra X-Force type book (to be more PG-16, but mainly to be outside the normal mutant-philosophy zeitgeist). As a Marvel Unlimited reader, I can’t readily keep track of the line as they start/stop/remix the books quicker than they show up on the streaming app.

  2. Si says:

    I don’t know if a rotating roster would work in a monthly serial. It’s just guaranteeing that no matter who your favourite character is, you won’t be seeing them regularly, and it might be years before they’re cycled back in.

  3. Walter Lawson says:

    It’s been rumored that Claremont did intend Gambit and Rogue to get connected from the beginning, with perpetually child-aged Nathan, the real Sinister, having been inspired by his usurpation of Rogue’s body in X-Factor 43 to clone an adult version of himself (Gambit), and hence Gambit would have an attraction to Rogue. Whether this was an actual Claremont idea or a fan extrapolation, I don’t know.

  4. Moo says:

    This series sounds good to me except for the “& Gambit” part.

  5. Voord 99 says:

    I’ll be curious to read this one when it comes out on Unlimited. I don’t have any nostalgia for Rogue and Gambit as a couple. It was a plot element introduced just after I had stopped reading the X-books.

    So I’ll be curious to see if this miniseries can sort of give me that sense of nostalgia vicariously, the way superhero comics can sometimes do, or if’s one of those things that works if you were there.

  6. wwk5d says:

    “Whether this was an actual Claremont idea or a fan extrapolation”

    I’d go with the latter, but then again who knows. There was a brief flirtation scene between them in CC’s last issue of X-men Vol 2, but that could have just as easily come from Jim Lee.

    Given how vocal CC has been about the stories he had in mind had he stayed, I’m sure he would have mentioned that.

  7. Moo says:

    I liked how CC got his digs in at Bob Harras (aka Fabian Cortez) on his way out.

  8. Mikey says:

    I really enjoyed this, once it got going.

    However, I’m confused and annoyed that Rogue is no longer in control of her powers. Last I read, she absorbed Wonder Man’s powers. But when did she lose the control she gained during Mike Carey’s run?

    Kelly Thompson justified it on the Jay and Miles podcast, literally saying she found Rogue “boring” as team leader/student counselor during Carey’s run. I think it’s a regression of the character – unable to touch anyone and meekly brushing off a creepy Gambit

  9. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Rogue lost control of her powers about the same time she absorbed Wonder Man’s powers. It was definitely during Remender’s run on Uncanny Avengers and, as far as I can remember, it was either as a result of absorbing Wonder Man or due to some hex Scarlet Witch put on her at the same time. It was supposed to help her control the powers of multiple people she absorbed but it backfired somehow. All at the end of the Apocalypse Twins story.

  10. Anya says:

    I don’t think that was Kelly Thompson’s ‘fault’, though. She lost control of her powers after absorbing wonder man, for reasons… and never got them fixed again. That was the status before this mini, Thompson just didn’t try to change it.

    It was a pretty good mini, though I can agree with the ‘once it got started’ comment. Because #2 was better than #1, and it kept up the momentum from there.

  11. Anya says:

    Edit:Should have refreshed my screen before I posted, krzysiek already answered, lol.

  12. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    There is one thing I didn’t get about this issue. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rogue kisses Gambit at the end, right? And that happens once she re-absorbed the powers and the memories, right? So how can she do that?

  13. Person of Con says:

    I think it was the 90s cartoon that really cemented them into couple status in most people’s minds.

    Personally, if we had to pick a cartoon version of the character to go with, I’d pick the goth-Rogue of X-Men Evolution. (Not that anyone asked.)

    “In particular, a flashback to their first “meeting”, way back in the Muir Island Saga, does play on the details of the original (and very well, too; basically, Rogue doesn’t want the time when she was still under the Shadow King’s influence to count as their first meeting, and Gambit thinks it does).”
    I’m imagining a “I remember it well” parody here.

    “Their first major break-up in Uncanny X-Men #350 is referenced rather more obliquely, because while it’s an important turning point for them, it was also a desperately stupid story.”

    Very much so, yes.

  14. Anya says:

    And for some reason, I’m really like the phrase ‘a desparately stupid story’ don’t ask me why, I don’t know…

    Re:Rogue’s powers at the end of the story. According to the dialogue, she still had some of Lavish’s power left, since lavish can absorb,and also return powers and memories, it must have negated her own. Seems logical enough for comics anyways…

  15. NS says:

    Since that mess with Wonder Man, Rogue doesn’t immediately drain anyone she touches. I think she has like maybe a minute or so before things go south. She kissed Deadpool for quite a while in Uncanny Avengers (after he saved the world from the Red Skull by letting a mind-controlled Rogue beat the crap out of him until her guard was down and he could place Magento’s helmet on her) and he was comatose for a maybe a day or two, I think.

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