In the years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve reviewed scores of X-Men comics. I’ve done snippets, paragraphs, and even full-blown examinations. And over the years, I’ve found that there is, frankly, a lot of crap that comes out. In writing reviews, for both personal fulfillment as well as trying to get those ever-elusive hits (without resorting to click-bait rubbish), I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to review bad comics than it is good ones. Perhaps that’s because it’s so much easier to explain how something is wrong and why it doesn’t work than it is to explain exactly why something is good beyond “this is good”. Perhaps it’s that people want to see something torn apart rather than supported.
Whatever, the reason, I’ve gotten a lot more run out of tearing crap down than building the cream up.
But once in a while, a book comes around that is just really good. It has a premise that a year ago I’d probably never have thought was a good idea. It comes out of a shock-ending to a forced “milestone” event that a year ago I’d probably have hated with every core of my being. It involves two characters that I’ve preached for years should not have anything to do with one another if they ever want to have readable stories told about them.
But once in a while, I’m proven very wrong. With her work in the Rogue and Gambit mini-series, writer Kelly Thompson proved to me that Rogue and Gambit belong together. Far more than Kitty Pryde and Colossus. Perhaps even more than Cyclops and Jean Grey at this point. The book was excellent and made me appreciate not only the strength of the two characters, but the strength of the relationship they’ve had over the past 25+ years. It was, in my opinion, the best Rogue has been written since Mike Carey left the line. It was the best Gambit has been written…probably since Fabian Nicieza was writing his solo book. Both characters shined because they had the other one to play off of. It made me think, for the first time since I was a kid watching the original animated series, that these two should be together.
I had just hoped that once the mini was done, some other writer would pick up on what Thompson had done and run with it. When I saw them get married in the pages of X-Men: Gold, my initial thought was that it had gone way too far too quickly. That was, until I saw at the end that Kelly Thompson would be taking the two characters off into their own ongoing title. And I got really excited.
So, with the release of Mr. and Mrs. X, despite having a rather unfortunate title (wouldn’t you think it would pick up a casual eye being called Rogue and Gambit?), I had high expectations for the title. Kelly Thompson had proven herself the perfect writer to handle these two characters, but could she keep the magic going?
I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.
The debut issue of Mr. and Mrs. X was quite astonishing (see what I did there?). My full review will be after the jump. There are heavy SPOILERS within.
One of the biggest problems with the wedding of Rogue and Gambit back in X-Men Gold #30 was that it was almost “blink and you miss it”. The book had been promoted and built to as the wedding between Colossus and Kitty Pryde. The entire thing – proposal and marriage – happened in the last five pages of a 30 page story. Sure, it got the shock thing nailed, but for fans of Gambit and Rogue (and I found out with my Top 100 X-Men List that there are a TON of them), the two characters really deserved a full wedding issue.
Well, that’s exactly what this issue delivers. To set up the premise of the title, Kelly Thompson made the wise decision to revisit and expand the flash wedding rather than to simply toss it out in exposition or even leaving it to the dreaded recap page. It picks up just after the proposal as both the newly minted bride and groom get themselves ready for the ceremony.
The fun part here is having all the X-Men characters jumping in to help out. Care is taken to the relationship between the characters, as the people helping Gambit get ready are Storm (who helps him get dressed), X-23 (who cleans up his unkempt hair with her claws), Bling! (who provides rings with her…uh…bling, I guess), and Bishop, whose longtime history with Gambit over the years has forged a unique friendship. Perhaps I’m not the only one who remembers the scene of them trying to rebuild Cerebro after the Phalanx Covenant in which Bishop calls Gambit ‘Remy’ for the first time, to his complete and utter shock.
On the other side, Rogue’s team is made up of Magik, Jubilee, Psylocke, Jean Grey and Pixie, as well as Iceman (not because he’s gay, but because he doesn’t want to be on Team Gambit), and Nightcrawler (not just because he’s her brother, but also because he doesn’t want to be on Team Gambit). Jubilee demands the traditional “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”, so they come up with antique earrings given by Psylocke, a newly picked bouquet from Jean, and a borrowed wedding veil from Kitty Pryde (if borrowing the entire ceremony didn’t count). For something blue, Abigail Brand shows up and reveals that she is actually Mystique in disguise. She had planned on just crashing the X-Wedding, but reveals her true identity so Rogue knows that her mom is there.
The fun part about Mystique’s appearance is that they do not brush over all the crap she’s done in the past to break up the couple.
This is a perfect example of what this book does so right. It takes into account what has happened before and builds on it to carry forward. This is something that has been greatly missing from the X-Men line as a whole for a while now. It either goes forward on whatever they feel like doing, whether it actually happened or not, or it gets the general idea and then screws up on the details. I’m not saying that every story has to take care of every little thing that’s ever happened. No one needs to be reminding Jean Grey that she used to play nurse for the boys in the Silver Age, but someone should be able to remember that it wasn’t actually her who became Dark Phoenix.
It also explains something that I brought up in the wedding issue itself, which is how Rogue and Gambit kissed when last we heard, Rogue was back to not being able to control her absorption powers. The answer comes in probably one of the most frequent fan questions when dealing with Rogue. “Why doesn’t she just wear a power-inhibiting collar all the time?” So in this case, she does slip one on, and yes, she was in fact wearing it in the scene of X-Men Gold. Because nerds like me go back and check.
And they even answer the fan question by explaining why she doesn’t wear one all the time when not needing to use her powers.
Simply put, inhibiting the part of the brain that triggers mutant powers gives the user an X-tra strength headache. And this is another example I like a lot. Explain away a frequently dropped question in a single panel. Now everyone who asks can get an answer as well as an issue to reference it in.
They even remind us all that Rogue is really ticklish, which is something that I don’t think has been brought up in 33 years.
Rogue handles it better from Gambit, though. When Nightcrawler did it, she nearly broke him in half. Of course, they’re married, naked and just did the horizontal mambo, so she was probably in a lot better of a mood.
History not brought up is that in that issue of Uncanny, Nightcrawler attempts to sneak a kiss. But that’s not really weird – he does have a thing for adopted sisters. Hah – they call her ‘Daytripper’ in that article. Better than ‘Prestige’, I guess. Maybe Nightcrawler has a thing for women with bad code-names as well.
Where was I?
To get away from all the craziness of X-Men life, the two head off into deep space for their honeymoon, but really they should have known better. The X-Men have been having space adventures for longer than either of them have been on the team. Of course, Kitty comes a-callin’ (not bitter about them stealing her wedding) because there is a space emergency and they happen to be the closest to it, even though Rogue does try to get her to use any long-range teleporter for backup instead.
And there’s another sign of a quality writer. If your story calls for the honeymooning mutants to be called into action, take a moment to explain WHY it has to be them. I read so many stories nowadays that just happen because they are happening, with no rhyme or reason. For example, the team gathered in the currently running New Mutants mini series (Magik, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Rictor, and Boom Boom, gathered by Karma) are pulled together simply because on a list of characters who appeared in the original run of New Mutants, they were the ones who weren’t wanted by anyone else. That’s not a good reason for gathering a team or picking members.
Here, it’s simple. Rogue and Gambit have gone into space to get away from everyone. Something happens near them, and unfortunately by their own plan, no one else is anywhere near them. So it falls on them, as two experienced members who have recently proven to be able to handle missions on their own, to handle it. It makes sense and it pushes the story forward. Imagine had they simply drifted into the target and gotten pulled into it. The reader would then be forced to accept that in all of space, someone with a past history with the X-Men just happened to have something going on exactly where Gambit and Rogue decided to go, on a whim, on their honeymoon. That happens a lot in comic stories nowadays. It’s lazy writing and has to rely on the reader’s suspension of disbelief.
The funny thing here is that usually when I’m reviewing comics, I have to explain how it could have been done better rather than how it’s usually done worse. See why I like this book?
That X-Men character I mentioned, by the way? Definitely not someone I was expecting to see in a 2018 comic.
Along with her we get a handful of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard for a brief fight scene before Rogue gets teleported away with the macguffin onto a ship with Deadpool for the cliffhanger.
That’s a lot for one issue. We get the entire wedding for a fun little X-Men family action, then we’re off and running. Space adventures can be hit-or-miss in X-Books, but tying in an old Excalibur character (which makes sense to why it was so urgent to former teammate Kitty) works. And if you think back to the Scott Lobdell/Joe Madureira era X-Men, Rogue and Gambit were two of the five X-Men (along with Beast, Bishop and Joseph) that helped save the Shi’ar from the Phalanx, so they do have history.
I can’t say I’m thrilled about a Deadpool guest spot two issues in, but I suppose if it works with the story, it could cause a sales bump. And this is a book that deserves a decent audience. If I have to suffer through the return of a god-awful book like Iceman, I deserve a quality book like this one.
Okay, I don’t deserve anything. But I’ll enjoy it however long it goes.
This was a fantastic debut and probably the best book in the line right now.