Monday, June 9, 2008

ROGUE #1-#4

ROGUE #1 – January 1995
An Affair to Remember
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Dana Moreshead & Mike Thomas (colors)

At the funeral for Bella Donna’s father, Candra appears. She asks Bella Donna, the new leader of the Assassins Guild, to consider renegotiating their old pacts. She also implies that she can do something about Gambit and Rogue. In New York, Rogue meets Gambit for lunch before leaving for her annual visit to Mississippi. She tells him about her childhood friend Cody, who she accidentally put into a coma after kissing him for the first time. Gambit tells her not to focus on the past, which upsets her. Later, Gambit asks Storm for advice on dealing with Rogue. He decides to follow her to Mississippi. In Mississippi, Rogue visits Cody’s hospital room, only to be ambushed by the Assassins Guild. They tell her that Cody will be safe as long as she cooperates. The Guild member Singer gives a message from Candra, who wants to punish Rogue for taking away her memories while she was in a coma. She tells Rogue that Gambit is next.

Continuity Note
Rogue accidentally touched Bella Donna during the Gambit miniseries while she was coming out of a coma. This lead to a subplot in X-Men where Rogue demonstrated some of Bella Donna’s character traits. I assume that revealing that Rogue took away Bella Donna’s memories is supposed to explain this (I guess the idea is that she absorbed some part of her consciousness), but Rogue had already stopped using her mannerisms by the time this mini saw print anyway.

This miniseries was a part of the “Marvel “Select” series. Every issue has a cardstock cover with foil enhancements, bringing the cover price up a full dollar.

“Huh?” Moment
As Rogue buzzes past a fighter jet, she’s somehow able to overhear the comment the pilot makes about her in the cockpit. How exactly could she do that? Rogue has super-strength, not super-hearing.

Commercial Break
The upcoming “Age of Apocalypse” storyline is spoiled by an ad for Entertainment This Month. It reads, “The rumors are true! Professor X is dead!...Without Professor X, Magneto forms a new world where the hatred between mutants & humans explodes!” All of the AoA titles are listed, connecting their new names to the old ones. The ad copy also says that the X-Men are now “The Mutants’, which is used as a prefix for a few of the titles listed. That name never made it into the actual comics, but it’s interesting that it lasted this long in the planning stages.

During the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline, Marvel did a good job of selling the concept by stopping publication of the entire line of X-books and replacing them with renamed titles that took place in the new continuity. With all of the familiar titles gone, it was much easier to buy into the reality of the AoA storyline. However, this miniseries began a month or so before the event began, so it ended up running throughout most of the AoA storyline, undermining the effect of the regular titles’ cancellation. This was pretty poor planning on somebody’s part. During the “X-Facts” hype page, the Rogue mini isn’t even listed on the checklist once the AoA storyline begins. (There was also a Bishop miniseries at this time, but I think it only ended up with one issue running concurrent with the AoA comics. Even as an X-completist, I didn’t buy the Bishop mini because it also cost $3 an issue and there was only such much my 9th grade allowance could take).

I wish I could say this story was worth breaking the illusion of the AoA crossover, but this issue isn’t promising. A lot of it is just padding, as Rogue is given two pointless scenes to show off her powers in the beginning, and neither are at all interesting. The exaggerated Southern accents are pretty appalling, with one Assassins Guild member even spouting “it’s be her!” (That’s not a typo. “It’s be her”, as in “It is be her”.) Having Rogue visit Cody is a nice nod to her origin story and a good starting place for a solo adventure, but the rest of this reads like a sequel to the not-exactly-great Gambit mini. Wieringo’s art is nice, but I don’t think it meshes well with Austin’s inks. I think Austin was given some of the cartoonier artists to ink in the ‘90s because of his work with Art Adams, but I prefer a bolder line with Wieringo’s style.

ROGUE #2 – February 1995

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Terry Austin (inks), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Dana Moreshead (colors)

In New Orleans, Tante Mattie warns Bella Donna about Cody’s condition, but she won’t listen. Tante Mattie tells her that someone will be coming to help him soon. Elsewhere, Rogue flies over a forest, not sure if she should find Cody or warn Gambit about Bella Donna. She collapses near a stream, where an image of Tante Mattie appears in the water. She tells Rogue not to worry about Cody and to find Gambit. On his way to Mississippi, Gambit is confronted by Assassin Guild members. Rogue arrives and helps him defeat the men. That night, Rogue asks Gambit to hold her while they regroup in front of a fire. She leaves for New Orleans in the middle of the night. As soon as she arrives, she’s attacked by the Assassins Guild.

More padding. The characters are essentially in the same place they were at the end of the last issue, except Gambit now knows that Bella Donna is after him. The fight scenes aren’t very entertaining, and the villains are extremely dull. Mike Wieringo does a nice job on the water-image of Tante Mattie, but that’s the only interesting thing he’s given to draw. The big dilemma Rogue’s given is absurd – help the guy she put in a coma, or help her fellow mutant with superpowers. Gee, who do you think needs her more? And why exactly is Tante Mattie telling Rogue not to worry about Cody after she just told Bella Donna that he’s near death? Why would Tante Mattie want Rogue to find Gambit first when the story has already emphasized how much Cody needs help? Rogue’s characterization in this issue doesn’t work either. She often comes across as either needy or whiny, and her “touching” moment with Gambit just falls flat.

ROGUE #3 – March 1995

The Gauntlet
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Terry Austin (inks), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Dana Moreshead (colors)

Rogue fights against a group of Assassin Guild members in New Orleans, and then heads to Bella Donna’s mansion. Meanwhile, Gambit goes against Rogue’s wishes and follows her to New Orleans. Ignoring the warnings of his cousin Lapin, Gambit enters the city, where he’s quickly ambushed by the Assassin Fifolet. After entering the Assassin Guild’s base, Rogue fights off an attack by Gris Gris, Fifolet, and the shapeshifter Questa. She finds Candra, who reveals that the Assassins have kidnapped Gambit, Cody, and Tante Mattie. Candra removes both Bella Donna and Rogue’s powers to watch them have a final battle. Bella Donna pulls out a knife and stabs Rogue in the shoulder.

This is the first comic I’ve purchased specifically to review for this website. I never found this issue when the mini was being released, but even in my completist days that never really bothered me. This is one of those storylines I distinctly remember disliking when it first came out (I think I just viewed the whole thing as a waste of money, because I know I resented the cover price). Just like the previous issue, it’s filled with tiresome fight scenes that don’t serve to advance the story in any noticeable way. All that happens is that Gambit gets kidnapped and that Rogue loses her powers and is stabbed (a last page development spoiled by the cover). These events take up around six pages of this comic, while the rest is just obvious filler. There’s no drama to any of the extended fight scenes, with Rogue easily knocking her way through wave after wave of generic villains. Mackie makes one of the same mistakes he made in the Gambit miniseries, by having the characters repeatedly say that all of the Assassins Guild members have superpowers, while showing armies of Assassin goons with no powers at all. Rogue spends the first third of this comic fighting an army of generic Assassin Guild members, and the only thing we see that resembles a superpower is one member holding a glowing blade (which Rogue easily smashes). Aside from being boring, it’s just poorly executed.

ROGUE #4 – April 1995

Back To Life!
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Terry Austin (inks), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Dana Moreshead & Digital Chameleon(colors)

Rogue runs away to nurse her wound. Candra tells Bella Donna that their powers will return soon, so she’d better finish Rogue while she can. Bella Donna and Rogue continue their fight downstairs while Gambit tries to free himself from Candra. After beating Bella Donna, Rogue returns to find Candra telekinetically crushing Gambit. She demands that Candra let him go, and Candra responds by launching Cody through the building and into the sky. Rogue tries to fly after Cody, but her powers still haven’t fully returned. Candra offers Rogue a chance to be free of her powers and have a normal life with Gambit if she lets Cody go. Rogue pushes against Canda’s telekinetic field and flies off to save Cody. She retrieves him, but Cody is clearly dying. Tante Mattie uses her powers to mentally reunite Rogue and Cody during his final moments. He tells her not to blame herself for the accident that left him in a coma. Cody then waves goodbye to Rogue and passes away.

Continuity Note
Candra says that Gambit “always” betrays her, which follows the hints laid in the Gambit mini that they have a history together.

Now that it’s over, I feel confident as labeling this the most egregious cash grab coming out of the X-franchise at this point. As weak as Cable’s first year was, at least it didn’t have an overpriced gimmick cover on every issue. Including a story this mediocre as a part of a prestigious new line of titles is indefensible. With material like this, it’s not surprising that the “Marvel Select” line didn’t last. Rogue consistently comes across as either hesitant or whiny through most of the story, and really doesn’t do an awful lot to redeem herself in the final act. Mackie’s handling of her accent is often distracting, or just painfully bad. Rogue alternates between her standard “Ah” and the proper “I” for large sections of the story, misuses “y’all” for the singular instead of plural (this is basic Southern slang that for some reason comic creators always screw up), and sometimes says nonsensical garbage like “you’ve got to have made the choice” and “but this not a game, Belle.” (actually, it’s hard to tell if Mackie was trying to write a dialect or if “is” was just accidentally forgotten in that last example).

Even if you just want to enjoy this as an action-heavy story that showcases Rogue’s powers, the ending couldn’t be satisfying. Rogue takes out Bella Donna with a feeble punch that’s relegated to a small, simple panel. Candra is defeated indirectly because she wasn’t “prepared” for Rogue to break her telekinetic grip, which somehow leads to her being knocked unconscious. This conveniently happens when the story has less than five pages to go, of course. Any creative uses of Rogue’s absorption power aren’t seen at all, as she just punches her way through whatever threat arises. The ending with Rogue’s goodbye to Cody isn’t that bad, but it’s not enough to redeem such a weak story. You could get a lot of good material out of Rogue’s past with Cody and her guilt over his condition, but instead the miniseries wastes most of its time on having Rogue punching through seas of generic goons while fretting about Gambit. And since the story never offers any insights into their relationship or really gives Gambit anything to do, you’ve got to wonder what he’s doing here in the first place, aside from commercial reasons. Wieringo’s unique art remains nice to look at for most of the mini, but it’s too sedate to carry the bland story. I guess my allowance should’ve gone towards Bishop instead (at least John Ostrander wrote that one, I think).


Teebore said...

"I didn’t buy the Bishop mini because it also cost $3 an issue and there was only such much my 9th grade allowance could take."

I had the same problem at the time, but I actually chose the Bishop series over Rogue's (probably because of the Pacheco art, which even back then, I liked).

It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember really liking the Bishop series.

And to this day, I still don't think I've read this Rogue miniseries (or the Gambit one, for that matter). Somehow, my lack of interest in the Rogue/Gambit relationship (I was always more of a Scott/Jean guy) managed to override my completist tendencies.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is really one of those things that you read so we didn't have to.

The Gambit/Rogue relationship always seemed so belabored and needlessly complicated. They so easily turn off countless peoples powers, but never can for Rogue? She can't wear a nullifier neck collar for 20 mins so she can neck with Gambit? Nobody can create a forcefield? Some sort of all body second skin? This kind of pseudo science is used 3 times a month in the Marvel universe, but not for the decade of their relationship?

And the Theives/Assassin Guild crap just muddies the water.

There actually seems to be the nugget of a reasonable story here, Rogue saying her final farwell to the tragic consequences of her very first power use. But that could have really been wrapped up in a one off.

Nicholas said...

The problems with Rouge in the 90s are probably best exemplified in this mini. Rouge finally gets a miniseries spotlight yet the majority of the plot and villians are actually Gambit villians pulled from his own mini. Many fans decried that the Gambit/Rouge relationship became a detriment to their characters and this was a prime example. Sure the mini involved Cody but did little else to expand Rouge's gallery (heh). Besides Cody was never really that interesting of a character so much as a prop to explain Rouge's background and most people just assumed he either died or woke up from his coma sometime after Rouge ran away.

One of the biggest problem's with Gambit's background characters is they were rarely fleshed out enough to be interesting and making them the focus of a Rouge miniseries where she has even less of a connection to them was a big mistake. Where's the Rouge miniseries that has to do with her past with Mystique, or her psychic scars from Ms Marvel, or how she and Nightcrawler now view each other. Gambit belongs in there in Rouge's tumultuous life but as part of the mix not the as an overbearing main ingredient.

menshevik said...

Thanks for your take!

As a longtime fan of Rogue I was very disappointed in the series when it came out, especially as a lot of the time Rogue was handled as if she was the guest star of a series that more properly should have been labeled "Gambit vol. 2" (it continued storylines left over from the preceding Gambit mini). Of course that was part and parcel of the misguided Rogue/Remy Romance they were pushing those days, which has to be one of the most dysfunctional romances in superhero comics ever. Back then the relationship even bordered on the abusive with Gambit's playing mind-games with Rogue that he might be immune to her touch etc. The thing was that for the purposes of this plotline Rogue was largely wimpified, suddenly and for no good reason becoming scared to touch Remy. (If Rogue's portrayal had remained consistent, she would have simply put things to the test by touching him to see whether or not he was impervious). Rogue was greatly weakened as a character by this "romance" - before she got with involved with Gambit, she was a kick-ass character and a star in her own right, afterwards she was too often written primarily as Gambit's girlfriend (or adjunct), which at least to me was a shame because Gambit really is a much less interesting character than Rogue (or indeed most other X-Men). And this was a great shame because Rogue was inherently strong enough to interact on terms of equality with Magneto, both in the Savage Land trilogy (UXM #269, 274, 275) and in AoA.

Another big problem was the retcon that Cody Robbins had been put into a permanent coma by Rogue's first kiss. This struck me as wildly implausible and at least IMO contradicted established continuity. There was nothing in Rogue's own account of the incident (UXM #185) to suggest anything serious had happened to Cody, and it always seemed that the only time something permanent happened to one of Rogue's victims/donors was when she permanently absorbed Ms. Marvel's powers and memories, which came as a surprise to her. That would not have been such a surprise to Rogue if something like that would already have happened with Cody, and Rogue also would have been much more wary of touching people than she in fact was before she became involved with Gambit. Had Cody fallen into a permanent coma after her first kiss, Rogue would have had no reason to assume that the effect of her touch normally was only temporary and thus she would not have risked touching her surrogate mother or kissed that other boy as she did in a Classic X-Men backup story.

The fact that the Rogue mini was published alongside Age of Apocalypse was really the least of its problems at the time as it was clearly set before the events that set AoA in motion.

Nicholas said...

Another problem with the whole "Cody was always in a coma the whole time" thing is that they never addressed that if Cody had it it that bad then it mean't that Rouge probably should have most of Cody's memories if not a part of his personality hidden deep inside. That was never addressed and would have made a big difference by at least explaining the emotional connection between them cause otherwise it reads like "Rogue visits some guy she knew once."

Even then that wouldn't solve the main problem of the series, which was that it was a half assed Gambit sequel. It was barely a Rogue story since it involved most of Gambit's background characters and yet it wasn't even good enough of a Gambit sequel since it writes Gambit out pretty easily and only paid lip service to their relationship. Hell even the original Gambit mini had a sort of milestone moment when Rogue declared her love for Gambit which I think continuity wise was the first time she uttered the phrase for him.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...