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.
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.