X-Aminations: Rogue & Gamit (2 of 6)

If you’ve forgotten, Rogue and Gambit have been sent undercover to a “Private Wellness Retreat” that seems to be a shady operation in which mutants are disappearing.  Since Rogue and Gambit have had the shakiest of start-and-stop relationships this side of Kitty Pryde and Colossus, Kitty sends them in as a couple seeking therapy, probably so she doesn’t have to go herself, since she and Colossus are fine right now.

The book is basically a tribute to the 27-or-so years that Rogue and Gambit have been saddled with each other, and for whatever reason, despite being undercover, they are not even trying to cover up who they actually are.  Not that it would be particularly easy.  Gambit’s eyes are a dead giveaway while Rogue has been a pretty public figure with the Avengers Unity Team (yes, that’s still a thing), and the whole thing is seemingly geared towards mutants in which case the two are practically celebrities.  And the book is also featuring on their relationship, so you need them actually talking about it.  It’s summed up in one awesome splash page:

Rogue & Gambit 002-003

For those of you not familiar, that covers, clockwise from the top-left:

  • Rogue showing up for their first date in a fancy dress.
  • The end of said fancy date in which Gambit ducked a tripwire but failed to tell Rogue.
  • Rogue abandoning Gambit in Antarctica after learning that he had gathered the Marauders and led them to the Morlocks for the Mutant Massacre.
  • Gambit kissing someone, though I’m not really sure who.
  • Both of them being run through by Vargas during an alien invasion.
  • Gambit with his former wife, Belladonna.
  • Rogue kissing Magneto, after choosing him over Gambit.
  • Rogue kissing Deadpool, which led to the restoration of Wonder Man.
  • Joseph kissing Rogue on the forehead after revealing a device that could dampen her powers.
  • Gambit kissing Storm.  Not sure when, but it’s happened a lot.

So with that info dump out, they get down to explaining how they first met.  Funny thing is, in all the time that the two have been a couple(-ish), this little point has never been shown.  You see, waaaaaaay back at the start of the 1990’s, Marvel revamped the X-Men line for the new decade with the launch of the adjectiveless X-Men to launch the Blue/Gold era that we are now in the process of copying.  If you’ve never owned a copy of X-Men #1, chances are you know somebody who did, because it’s still heralded as one (if not THE) greatest selling comic books ever, and certainly the top of the X-Men franchise, in no small thanks to not only the comic book bubble that was about to burst, but also that it launched with FIVE different covers.

Before that could take place, the Shadow King story that Chris Claremont had been building towards for years had to be fast-tracked so all of the various X-Men characters could be brought back together, with a wheelchair-bound Professor X in charge, in the X-Mansion.  This included Gambit, who was a new addition to the recently reformed X-Men (the ones with the blue and gold X-Men uniforms), as well as Rogue who had recently popped back up after vanishing during the end of the Australian period, had her first fling with Magneto, and finally had the Carol Danvers persona purged from her psyche.  During the actual story, the two do not cross paths whatsoever.  They are never in the same place at the same time, save for one splash team page at the very end of the epilogue issue, X-Factor #70.

The next time we see them, in the pages of X-Men #1, some time has passed with the X-Mansion being rebuilt and the Blue and Gold teams being formed off-panel, with both Rogue and Gambit being put on the Blue team.  Their first on-panel dialogue with each other comes two issues later when the team, having been mentally manipulated into joining Magneto and the Acolytes, have a moment in Asteroid M’s swimming pool.

roguegambit1st

This panel shows, besides Chris Claremont’s penchant for having his heroes constantly yell out what their powers do and Jim Lee’s penchant for putting men into Speedos (and ignoring the art not matching the dialogue in having Rogue’s hand be exposed), the mutual interest between the Southern Belle and the Cajun Charmer, as well as showing Gambit’s belief that should they just have that first touch that maybe her powers won’t work on him.  It was an odd thing for him to think, but really worked with his overconfidence in himself and his abilities.  Why wouldn’t Rogue’s powers work on him?  Because he’s Gambit and that’s good enough for him.

The thing is, with that gap between the defeat of the Shadow King on Muir Island and the Blue team going on their maiden voyage against the Acolytes, the first encounter between Rogue and Gambit was skipped.  By the time we catch up with them, they’ve already established a flirtatious friendship with a growing interest in one another.  This continues to grow through the remainder of Jim Lee’s run and well through Scott Lobdell’s run up until they finally have that first kiss and SHOCK her powers actually do work on him.  The actual When Remy Met Anna has never been covered on panel.

Here, 27 years later, we get to that and turns out it’s a disputed matter between the two, to the point of deeply buried hostility.  As Rogue tells it, their first meeting came behind the scenes of X-Factor #70 in which Gambit tells Rogue that while they were both under the influence of the Shadow King they had a fight that led to a snog-fest and wants to explore it further.  Rogue is surprised by this news, partly because her time under the Shadow King’s influence is like an all-night bender in her head, but mostly because it meant that Shadow King managed to control her absorption power.  She then took off to talk to Professor X about it, but apparently never actually did.

Gambit, of course, takes offense to that, but does mention that Rogue’s story ends like they all do – with her flying off and leaving him behind.  Instead, he believes that since they both remember what happened while under the Shadow King’s control, then this should count as their first meeting:

roguegambitfirst

If you care, this would have taken place just before the events of Uncanny X-Men #279, where Gambit had joined up with the also-controlled Wolverine and Jubilee.  Gambit exits the scene just before Wolverine gets ambushed by Forge and freed from the Shadow King’s control, which immediately leads to Rogue attacking and also getting dropped by Forge.  That might have been the greatest moment Forge ever had in his entire history.

rogueblasted

Anyway, that freed Rogue from the control.  So, that means that the encounter between Rogue and Gambit probably happened right before Gambit encountered Wolverine and Jubilee, which would also explain why Rogue was nearby in the source material, so it works.

What also works are the jokes about Rogue’s tattered costume in the first story:

rogueshredded

Writer Kelly Thompson is making fun of the source material from ‘The Muir Island Saga’ that saw Rogue appear in Uncanny X-Men #280 with her clothes conveniently shredded after the island exploded.  And the only one, to boot:

roguewhat

That said, in Rogue’s actual appearance in X-Factor #70 in which she reunites with Mystique, she’s fully clothed in the costume she had been wearing in the Paul Smith-drawn Uncanny X-Men #278, though then sporting her usual green palette rather than the blue and gold of the earlier issue.  I suppose you could say she showed up to Muir Island with that outfit, changed into the caped one that she was wearing when she first met Gambit, which got shredded in the battle, then changed back into the original one after talking to Gambit in this flashback, but before she met up with Mystique in X-Factor.  Does that work for everyone?

Oh yeah, in X-Factor #69, Whilce Portacio drew her in her Australian-era costume.  I give up.  We’ve been talking about costumes too long.

What doesn’t work is the storytelling sense of retconning in a first kiss to establish the foundation of the relationship between Rogue and Gambit.  The entire draw of the relationship between the two characters was that he couldn’t touch her.  He was the charming thief, but she was so special that it was worth the extra effort.  That made their first actual kiss in X-Men #41 a really big deal.

roguegambitkiss

Not only that it happened, but the story that built from it, dealing with Gambit’s past.  To just shoehorn in a moment of passion to start things off and wave away the character point of Rogue’s lack of power control as “Shadow King made it work” is just bad.  Do you really need take that first kiss from Rogue and Gambit?  It was an iconic moment in X-Men history.

By having Rogue aware that the Shadow King could control her power, it undermines the story told by Mike Carey of Professor X’s relationship with Rogue in helping her with her power in X-Men Legacy.  It makes the revelation that the auto-absorb function was a mental thing come at the ‘Muir Island Saga’ instead of post-‘Messiah CompleX’ which throws shade on Professor X for taking so long to get around to fixing it.

And that, in turn, reminds me that they undid that and made it uncontrollable again, which just grinds my gears, but I digress.

Anyway, they find some mutants being experimented on and we’re to be continued.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the X-Men

There are two questions I repeatedly get asked by the various people in my life who learn that I’m a lifelong comic book fanboy.  One is ‘Who is your favorite superhero?’ which is always a letdown for them when I have to explain who the Blue Beetle is.  The other is ‘I love the movies/shows and I want to start reading the comics.  Where do I start?’

This always gets the ‘frozen, wide-eyed, smiling stare’ from me as my brain tries to find an easy-to-understand answer that will get them a story that can be a) easily obtained, b) easily gotten into, c) satisfy what the particular person is looking for in a comics experience.  Are they looking for a hobby going forward?  Are they looking for an adventure or two with a particular character?  Do they want happy?  Do they want tragic?  Do they want characters interacting with other characters?  Do they want easy to read or do they want to have to ponder the content?  There are so many variables, and unfortunately, the comic book medium is not one that can easily be hopped into for new readers without someone pointing the way.  And in Marvel’s case, the books are about as unfriendly as the movies are friendly.

So then I started thinking about it.  How would I get someone started on reading the X-Men?  How would I tailor it to get a younger fan in today’s media-heavy world to get the kind of experience I got out of it when my brother hooked me in 1991?

So that’s what we’re going to do today.  Here’s my X-Pert’s Opinion on how to get started with Marvel’s favorite mutants in the comic book medium.

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x-Aminations: X-Men Gold #21

We’re revisiting the Brotherhood of Eeeeevil! Mutants that launched this title less than a year ago, which means we’re dragging up the new Pyro and Avalanche that came with it.  If I’m not mistaken, Iceman brought the original Pyro back to life, so now we have two Pyro’s.  Do you care?  No one editing this mess seems to!  Those two jokers are busted out of Mutant Jail by Mesmero who basically just turns his power-blocking collar off and walks out the door so they can GO ATTACK THE X-MEN AGAIN!

So Kitty gathers the Gold team, except Old Man Logan has decided he’s too much of an Old Man (maybe because there’s some other Logan running around?) to play X-Man anymore, so he quits.  Rachel pops back up, now wearing spikes on her costume like she had in the 80’s, and is ready to go, and also throw in Magma, who was manipulated by Mesmero the first time this crew came around.  Kitty makes a point that she’s got X-Factors on her team, and it’s probably not a good idea to go.  And then she goes anyway.

And then they lose.  Seriously, it goes splash page, attack, and then they all just kind of fall down in three pages with Kitty going “I knew this was going to happen!”.  This is basic cookie-cutter stuff.  Villain breaks out of jail, heroes show up, villain beats heroes down, heroes rise back up.  There is absolutely ZERO interesting anything here.  The new Pyro gets a name (Simon) and a generic origin (he caused a big fire and Mesmero found him).  And for god’s sake, won’t somebody tell them that Magma is not the effing Human Torch?  They have her flying around and shooting fire at people.  THAT’S NOT HOW THAT CHARACTER WORKS!  Magma doesn’t have FIRE POWERS she has LAVA POWERS.  THAT’S WHY THEY CALL HER MAGMA!

And what happened to the marriage proposal from last issue?  It’s not in the recap page, it’s not mentioned at all in the dialogue.  You would think that when you leave the previous story with a cliffhanger like that, you would follow it up with stories about it?  Maybe even a passing mention?  It makes me think that maybe Colossus and Kitty Pryde’s engagement is one of those editorial decisions that got tacked onto the back of the story to bump sales and doesn’t really mesh with the story they wanted to tell.

This book is not very good.

Arrow – “The Devil’s Greatest Trick”

Previously on Arrow, Black Siren had killed Vigilante in front of Black Canary.  The group had also discovered what evidence someone had given Cayden James to make him believe that the Green Arrow had killed his son.  Would Oliver be able to convince Cayden that someone else had killed his son?  Will it even do any good?  How is Dinah going to handle the death of Vincent?

Arrow logo

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X-amination: Iceman #10

It’s never fun when an ongoing title gets cancelled within it’s first year, no matter how much I loathe said title.  Take Iceman (please), for example.  Writer Sina Grace has spent her first nearly 10 issues setting up a new status quo for her title character, one that gets him away from the X-Men, into a new locale, sets up a new romantic interest, a new arch-nemesis, and gets him ready to really get into what the book is going to be moving forward.  And now that she finally just about has all the pieces into place, her book gets cancelled and now she has to get everything back to where she started so Iceman can be used again as an X-Man now that he no longer gets a spotlight.

That means that the whole move to Los Angeles gets aborted and the fledgling relationship between Iceman and Judah Miller also gets nixed.  To her credit, Grace is leaving the character usable for other creators without adding baggage to him that someone else may or may not ever even want to use.  It’s a shame no one ever bothered to do that for Jubilee.

Last issue, the relationship seemed to get a permanent end by Daken stabbing Judah and leaving him to bleed out on the floor.  That made the fight between him and Iceman dreadfully more personal than it already was.  But, as we find out, Judah’s not dead after all and the two kids we saw for a brief moment last issue (Idie from the Five Lights team in Generation Hope, and the mutant spit girl, Michaela) get to him just in time.  LUCKY.

Michaela runs after Zach, the teenager who turned on everyone, and stops him from dampening all the students’ (who are still locked in the Danger Room) powers, which allows them to beat the program.  Whether they actually leave the room or not is never mentioned.  At least it gave a good reason why all the mutants in the school can’t join in the fight.  The X-Men themselves?  They are all at a bar across the street and never stop to wonder why Iceman has not shown up.  To be fair, they have been drinking.

So then we get a big, stupid fight between Iceman and Daken in which they spend time discussing how important love is before Daken gets really powerful with his ‘death seed’ power until Iceman defeats him with a kiss.  Literally.  Kisses him and ‘freezes’ the death seed, because I guess he couldn’t freeze it without putting his mouth on an orifice.  Daken hits the ground, and Iceman just lets him wander off without, you know, locking him up or making sure the death seed doesn’t UNFREEZE.  Anyone who has read a story involving the death seeds of Apocalypse are probably beating their heads into a wall right now, but realistically probably none of them got to issue #10 of Iceman.

Oh, and Zach?  The student who betrayed his teacher and caused this whole mess?  Michaela hocks a loogie through his shoulder, flicks him in the ear, and he just gives up.  What do you want?  There were only three pages left and there’s still a romance to break up.  Oh, speaking of that, Judah gives the tried and true “Your life is too dangerous for me” line that breaks up every hero/NPC romance and that’s the end of that.  Then Kitty tells Iceman they need him with the X-Men and as a way of apologizing to him, she tells him to pick a team of X-Men and she’ll make him the leader.

One issue to go and this whole thing will finally be done.  Honestly, this is actually one of the better issues of Iceman, in my opinion, but that’s probably mainly because it gives him a chance to finally be Iceman rather than stumbling around as the book’s premise is set up.  It’s also an adventure of a hero who happens to be gay rather than a ‘gay hero’ if that makes sense.  The thing that makes Iceman work in a one-on-one fight is when a villain takes him for granted as a threat since he is, after all, Iceman.  That gives him a chance to use his powers creatively, since he’s long past the point of ‘I have this potential if only I knew how to harness it’.  Iceman has been doing cool stuff with his powers for decades now, so when he hops around all the ice he’s made, or pulls up 50 clone bodies that he can control, or freezes someone from the inside out, it’s a cool use of his powers.  Had this been the book they had been doing, giving him adventures with the side-character stuff in the background, perhaps this title might have gotten a wider audience.  Probably not, but we can think of what if.

I think #11 is the last issue, but maybe it goes to #12.  This certainly seems like a penultimate issue, so I think I’m right.  I can’t say the prospect of Iceman leading a team of X-Men excites me.  I think he’d be better suited to the mentor role of a team of students, which is an open spot in the X-Line now that Generation X is also wrapping.  I’d certainly like to see that over a FIFTH team of proper X-Men, and considering all that’s happened here, it really seems like the direction it’s heading.  Of course, had they done that to begin with instead of doing the whole ‘move to LA with new boyfriend’ thing, perhaps this book might have gotten a wider audience.  Probably not, but we can think of what if.  As is, Idie and Michaela alone (along with a brief bit of the kids beating the Danger Room) have done more than the students of Generation X did.  It shows that if you’re going to showcase the kids, use some interesting ones.

THIS WEEK IN SPIDER-MAN – Spider-Man #237: Sir Not Appearing In This Film

Are you as excited as I am to see Miles Morales throw down with a classic villain like Hobgoblin? And judging from the look of Miles’ costume this battle is going to be pretty intense. I can’t stand the suspense anymore! Let’s get down to it!

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Review: ‘Black Panther’

I’m not sure if “highly anticipated” accurately describes Marvels latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Black Panther. What I do know is that: 1) the significance of this movie cannot be understated, and 2) Marvel knocked it out of the park with Black Panther. An explanation and a recap after the break, with as few spoilers as possible.

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