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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.