X-Men 33 is significant since it represents one of the earliest relationship roadblocks (outside of the very obvious obstacle of Rogue’s powers) Gambit and Rogue would eventually overcome. It retells the story of an encounter between Sabretooth and a 17-year-old Remy many years prior, a story which Sabretooth intends to illustrate the Cajun’s untrustworthiness in order to drive a wedge between him and Rogue. Rogue makes a point of speaking to Sabretooth alone after his earlier claim that he and Gambit share a history (X-Men 28).
Sabretooth is able to tell the story with the help of a Memory Image Inducer, a piece of technology given him by Xavier to help unscramble his memories. Its ability to project the memories of its wearer no doubt makes it harder to doubt the validity of his story (and is a nice frame by which Kubert illustrates the telling).
The story is essentially this: As part of Gambit’s coming of age within the Thieves’ Guild, he is required to complete an important heist. In this case, he is to steal L’Etroile du Tricherie, “The Cheating Star” and is accompanied by his sponsor and adoptive brother, Henri Leabeau. The pendant was originally stolen from a wealthy Canadian financier by his mistress, young Genevieve Darceneaux, the young and beautiful daughter of a famous jewel thief. Rather than making it a straightforward snatch-and-grab, however, Gambit indulges in his last moments of freedom from his impending marriage to Bella Donna by making Genevieve fall in love with him in order to steal the pendant while she sleeps.
The obvious irony here is that Genevieve herself has done the same thing to many of her male victims. It is therefore difficult to muster sympathy for her broken heart. However, the story is further complicated - and made more lethal - by Sabretooth’s involvement, himself having been hired by the Canadian financier to retrieve the pendant from Genevieve. As always, Sabretooth’s methods of retrieval lack finesse (if not cruelty). Upon seeing Gambit make his departure with the pendant, he kidnaps both Genevieve and Henri, holding them suspended by ropes from atop the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Gambit is then forced to choose between saving one or the other and must forfeit the stolen pendant to do so.
As one would expect, he makes the decision to save his brother Henri, letting Genevieve fall to her death. With her dying breath, Genevieve confides that she truly loved Remy and that, had he asked, she would have willingly given the pendant to him.
Remy … I … Did love you … I would have … Given . L’Etroile To you …
This scene is probably intended to illustrate how much of a scoundrel Gambit was for the approach he decided to take (sleeping with then stealing from Genevieve). It’s worth noting, however, that simply asking Genevieve for the pendant would still have required him to make her fall in love with him and wouldn’t have spared her from Sabretooth’s deadly manipulations. Perhaps instead we’re meant to understand Henri’s earlier words of wisdom and experience:
You play a game when the Pinch is th’ thing.
A dangerous game.
In other words, thieving is serious business. When high stakes are involved, one can’t afford to act blithely. From his trademark banter and inappropriate flirting, even when in great peril, this is clearly not a lesson Gambit takes to heart (luckily for readers).
At the end of this issue, Gambit confronts Rogue about her conversation with Sabretooth. He seems primarily motivated by a desire to ensure that Creed hasn’t revealed any other secrets about his and Gambit’s mutual history that he wouldn’t want Rogue or the rest of the X-Men to know. Rogue reacts angrily, asking
What difference does that make? It’s not about you an’ Him! It’s about us! I’m in Love wit’ you–
Gambit tries to defend himself with the promise that he’s no longer the same man he once was which prompts Rogue to ask him what kind of man he is. His response is memorable and is one of the things that helped define their early relationship:
Dat’s why I need you … to help me find out …
Cause wit’out you, girl … I’m afraid o’ the answer.
With a few exceptions, I’m not a fan of Kubert’s pencils. His extensive use of cross-hatching and bed head hair make them seem unpolished. Nonetheless, there are still a few panels that are flattering to either or both of our favorite protagonists. Still, this is one of the issues you pick up for its historical value more than the beauty of its illustration.
Marvel.com released the above photo of Taylor Kitsch as Gambit today (click to enlarge). He looks great, but I’m surprised by the fedora. I suppose the brim gives him something to look out from under mysteriously. I like the decision to have him wear contacts that tint only his irises red. The traditional red-on-black would have probably been difficult to make look believable (not to mention uncomfortable).
In 1991, Marvel kicked off a second X-Men book headlined by writer and industry icon Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee. The series, entitled simply "X-Men" shattered previous records and helped catapult Marvel’s foremost team of mutants to the forefront of the minds of many fans. The pair collaborated on just three issues before the writing was handed off to John Byrne, causing an abrupt shift in direction. X-Men Forever is an ambitious "What If..?" series where Chris Claremont has been given the opportunity to continue writing the story of the X-Men as he might have written it more than 17 years ago.
What does this mean for Rogue and Gambit fans? The couple will essentially be granted a tabula rasa, erasing years of angst-ridden interaction and storytelling that has made many devoted fans of either character anxious that the two go their separate ways. Some key events in the couple’s history that will be erased include:
Where exactly does this leave our two heroes? For one thing, Rogue is still just a team member, not yet having any leadership experience. She should also still have the powers she absorbed from Ms. Marvel (flight, superstrength, and invulnerability), never having undergone the repeated depowerings/repowerings of the last few years. Gambit isn’t even necessarily a part of the team and is really just hanging around because of his friendship with Storm. He has yet to be accused of betraying the X-Men (X-Men 8). To give some additional context, according to ComicMix.com:
During their latest mission, the Blue Strike Force met the newly formed Acolytes and witnessed the apparent death of Magneto (at the hands of his Acolyte Cortez) on Asteroid M, which has just been destroyed.
When asked in an interview by Wizard Universe about the direction he intends to take the books, Claremont explains:
It’s very much an evolution of the story elements and structural elements that I had in mind but, as often is the case, the devil is in the details. The fact is that the characters have changed and evolved since then and the world has changed and evolved significantly since then. X-Men Forever is presenting what Mark and I visualized as the next step in the mutant saga.
Claremont has always done a good job writing an empowered Rogue (Uncanny X-Men 269, 274), though fans give mixed reviews of his previous treatment of Gambit. In fact, when asked about the changes that were made to his plans for Gambit’s backstory (which he had originally intended to strongly link to that of Scott and Alex Summers), he responds:
The Gambit in X-Men Forever is the Gambit who was in Uncanny up to #278 and X-Men #1 through #3. He’s technically not even an official X-Man. He’s just been hanging around for a bunch of weeks and, as we establish in the preview, he’s not even sure he wants to stay. He’s playing it by ear. Circumstances will arise that may make up his mind for him, but everything is considerably more fungible. Nothing in this is going to be like what you’re used to seeing.
From the first cover preview, it’s clear that many characters are being re-envisioned - at least in appearance. There’s a good chance that this decision was made to match intended changes to the characters’ previous continuity, or at least to give them a more updated appearance. Gambit in sunglasses and a suit definitely has my curiosity piqued, and I’m pleased with the two-toned, tailored nature of Rogue’s costume.
X-Men Forever will be released bi-weekly and premiers in May, 2009. Preview issues will be released in March and April. Artwork will be by Tom Grummett.
Description: The desert ghost-town that was once the X-Men’s HQ has been reborn as a city of the damned with only one inhabitant: Rogue. But as Professor X and Gambit struggle to reach her, they discover that sometimes one is a very large number.
X-Men Legacy 221 is a look back at several key moments in Rogue’s personal backstory as framed by the simulations of sentient intelligence and technological "mutant," Danger. The opening scene finds a bewildered Remy and Charles in an illusory Valle Soleada, a place that Remy explains to Charles as:
Me and Rogue - we used to live here, a long time back.
He’s alluding to a storyline that started in X-Treme X-Men 31, where he and Rogue took a sabbatical from the line of duty after both were grievously wounded and lost their mutant powers. The two moved into the mutant-friendly community of Valle Soleada, determined to give having a "normal" relationship a try. The fact that he refers to this time as "a long time back" may be intended to show how far from that happier time he considers them to have be now (X-Treme X-Men 31 was originally published in 2003). This trip down memory lane is interrupted by the seemingly random arrival of Nimrod, a highly-advanced super-sentinel from the future. The reasons for his presence are initially confusing since Rogue originally battled and defeated him in Australia.
X-Men Legacy 221
Fans nostalgic for Rogue’s earliest incarnation will love one particular illustration here, reproduced from Uncanny X-Men 194, where a simulated Rogue has simultaneously absorbed the abilities of her unconscious teammates, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and Colossus, leaving her a metallic, blue furball. Perhaps in a nod to the original, in this simulation she’s sprouted a tail, something she was previously thankful not to have absorbed from her foster brother:
Chyort! Here goes another costume! I should count my blessings. At least I have not sprouted a tail.
As violently as the battle between a phantom Rogue and phantom Nimrod plays itself out before Remy and Charles, it fades away before its completion, leaving the two men free to continue seeking the real Rogue.
Meanwhile, Rogue is reliving a storyline wherein she’s being hunted by the X-Men (reference needed). I really enjoy the way that Carey writes Rogue’s dialog. At one point, the absorbed persona of Mystique shows up to implore Rogue to give over temporary control so she can protect them from her simulated pursuers. Before she can even speak, Rogue interjects:
Oh Lord! Could this - keep until - another time? Mah dance card is full right now, Mystique.
While dance cards originated in 18th century Europe, it’s not too far-fetched to think of them being used at antebellum balls, and the phrase seemed to fit very well with Rogue’s Southern background.
In what will probably be the favorite scene of the issue for many fans, Gambit and Xavier find themselves in a simulation of Genosha, infiltrating the prison where a powerless Rogue was beaten and mishandled by her captors (Uncanny X-Men 236). In an especially moving scene, Gambit comes upon a disheveled and injured Rogue. It’s only at Xavier’s insistence that what they are seeing isn’t real that he’s convinced to move on:
X-Men Legacy 221
Meanwhile, having escaped from the X-Men, Rogue finds herself confronted with a far more brutal group of foes: the Marauders. She demonstrates a great deal of self reliance and courage, managing to disable Scrambler, Blockbuster, and Prism before being overwhelmed by Vertigo, Sabretooth, and Scalphunter. The issue ends in a cliffhanger where readers are lead to question whether an unyielding Rogue has been shot by Scalphunter.
While each Rogue-centric story - her battle against Nimrod, her flight from the X-Men, her unfortunate incarceration on Genosha, and an encounter with the Marauders - is necessarily brief and resultantly shallow, it’s still an enjoyable pageant. The historical treatment that pervades the Legacy books is applied well here, and Carey highlights a couple of memorable episodes in her life without having to fall back on the commonly chosen Carol Danvers stories. I also found Scott Eaton’s more traditional pencils to be the perfect complement to scenes which span multiple decades. Overall, this was a really great issue for fans, especially those who recall the original stories that are referenced, and it will be interesting to see how the "BOOM" effect at the end of the issue is resolved next month.
Description: It’s the moment that X-Fans have been waiting for - Rogue makes her return to the X-Books. But while Xavier seeks out Rogue, who is searching for him? Hunter becomes hunted and friend becomes foe, in a story that will change your favorite Southern Belle forever.
This issue opens on a superfluous story (read: one not involving our two favorite protagonists) about a S.W.O.R.D. base in peril but quickly switches to the reason we all bought the comic in the first place: Gambit and Rogue. Feeling guilty both for his inability to help Rogue learn to control her powers and for his original assertion that he ever could, Xavier seeks out Gambit in his hometown of New Orleans to ask for his assistance in interceding on his behalf with Rogue. Gambit is initially reluctant, recalling Rogue’s firm insistence that he give her time to herself (X-Men 207) but is eventually convinced by something Xavier says:
Remy, she said she didn’t want you. But if she needs you? What if she can’t get through this on her own?
X-Men Legacy 220
I found the interaction between Xavier and Remy quite believable. Remy has never really deferred to Charles as a mentor. It’s perhaps this lack of diffidence that has always made his relationship with Charles more interesting and all the more enjoyable than those of his peers.
In another scene, we find Rogue meditating at Maynards Plains, Australia, a site formerly associated with the now-deceased mutant, Gateway. Her thoughts are repeatedly interrupted by the self-emulated persona of her foster mother, Mystique, having previously absorbed her (X-Men 207). The question arises whether the personalities Rogue has absorbed actually deserve to be considered sentient. Mystique’s “ghost” is clearly offended at the idea that she doesn’t really exist. Rogue sticks to her assertion that she herself is the one manifesting Mystique, however, which makes one wonder why Rogue continually seeks to punish herself (and what would have happened if she hadn’t absorbed Mystique).
X-Men Legacy 220
This calm and collected interaction is markedly different from the one that occurs later in the book when Rogue is temporarily convinced that a woman visiting a nearby mining town is actually her foster mother in disguise. Grabbing the woman by the front of her clothes, she yells furiously:
All ah wanted was to find a way to get my head back together. To get mah power under some kind of control. Ain’t it enough ah got you inside mah mind? You gotta stalk me, too?
It’s at that point that the woman reveals that, while she is in fact a “shapeshifter” of sorts, she isn’t Mystique. She’s Danger, a sentient manifestation of the Shi’ar programming of the X-Men’s training system, the Danger Room. She’s chosen Rogue to use as a “conduit of revenge” against Charles Xavier. I’m personally curious what would make Danger’s plans specific to Rogue (aside from Carey’s obvious and admirable goal to return Rogue to the mainstream books).
X-Men Legacy 220
Overall, this was a great issue. I really enjoyed Rogue’s conversations with her “phantom” foster mother and am happy about the fact that she’s finally determined that she is perhaps the only one capable of helping herself. And while Eaton’s artwork may lack the panache of Ramos or Bachalo, it’s definitely solid in a more traditional way. I thought his illustration of Tujague’s in New Orleans was a particularly nice touch.
Originally created in 1998 and re-established in early 2009, Sugah & Spice is a blog devoted to Marvel characters, Rogue and Gambit of the X-Men.
Disclaimer: Rogue, Gambit, the X-Men and related entities are © Marvel Entertainment.