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Thursday, March 7, 2019

X-amining Rogue #1-4

"An Affair to Remember" / "Choices" / "The Gauntlet" / "Back to Life!"
Jan - April 1995

In a Nutshell
Rogue must defend herself & Gambit from attacks by Belladonna and the Assassins Guild.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Mike Wieringo
Inks: Terry Austin
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Editor: Lisa Patrick
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Issue #1: On the anniversary of the first manifestation of Rogue's power, in which she inadvertently put her childhood sweetheart Cody into a coma, Rogue tells Gambit about the incident before departing for her annual pilgrimage to the hospital where he resides. Meanwhile, as Belladonna assumes leadership of the Assassin's Guild on the death of her father, she is approached by Candra, who offers to renew her pact with the Guilds. Bella says she'll consider it, then kidnaps Cody as revenge on Rogue for stealing her memories, telling Rogue she'll do the same to everyone she holds dear. Issue #2: Rogue is contacted by Tante Mattie, warning her that Belladonna has Cody and is targeting Rogue's loved ones. After she helps Gambit defeat a group of Assassins sent by Belladonna, she urges him to let her handle things on her own. But when he learns his ex-wife is behind the attacks, he follows Rogue to New Orleans. Arriving in the city, Rogue is swarmed by Assassins, as Belladonna tells Candra she'll renew the Guild's pact once her business with Rogue is concluded.

Issue #3: Rogue escapes the Assassins, but Gambit is captured and taken to Belladonna's home, where Cody & Tante Mattie are being held. Rogue fights her way inside to find Belladonna & Candra waiting. Candra, eager to speed things along, removes both Rogue & Belladonna's powers. No longer invulnerable, Belladonna is ultimately able to stab Rogue in the shoulder. Issue #4: Rogue manages to knockout Belladonna as Gambit frees himself and attacks Candra, who easily overpowers him. But Rogue, her powers returning, manages to defeat Candra. However, Cody is dying, and there is nothing to be done. Tante Mattie uses her power to allow Rogue into Cody's mind to say goodbye. Cody tells Rogue he's never blamed her for what happened, then passes on to the next life.

Firsts and Other Notables
Rogue's first solo miniseries (the line's last of 1994; it'll run into early '95 alongside the "Age of Apocalypse" issues) is essentially a sequel to the Gambit miniseries, written by the same writer, following up on threads introduced there, including the termination of the Guilds' relationship with the External Candra, and Rogue having absorbed Belladonna's memories while she was comatose in Gambit #3.

Art comes from a pre-breakout Mike Wieringo, following on from his work on X-Force Annual #3. He is inked by former longtime Uncanny X-Men inker Terry Austin.

Rogue's childhood friend Cody, who was put into a coma when he and Rogue kissed and her powers manifested for the first time, makes his first physical appearance in issue #1 (he had been previously mentioned in earlier issues), and then dies in issue #4.

Tante Mattie, from the Gambit miniseries, returns, and gets captured by Belladonna for daring to not want the comatose Cody to die.


This series features the first appearances of a handful of Guild-centric characters who will pop up again later in Gambit's solo series, including Gambit's cousin and childhood friend Emil Lapin and Assassins Guild members Fifolet, Gris-Gris, Questa, and Singer.


Like the contemporaneous Bishop limited series, the first issue of this series has a foil-enhanced, cardstock cover.

The fourth issue concludes with a panel crediting Claremont & Michael Golden as Rogue’s creator.

The Chronology Corner 
This story takes place just before "Legion Quest" (specifically, between Uncanny #319 and X-Men #40 for Rogue, and between X-Men #38 and #40 for Gambit), with Candra appearing here following her encounter with Storm, Gambit & Phoenix in X-Men Unlimited #7.

A Work in Progress
Rogue & Gambit meet at Harry’s Hideaway, where Rogue tells Gambit about the first manifestation of her power, when she put her boyfriend Cody into a coma (first mentioned in Uncanny X-Men #185).


Storm & Gambit’s time together, when Storm was de-aged, gets a rare reference here (and an even rarer footnote to it).


It’s said that each of the Assassins has received their power from Candra.


Rogue meets Cody’s spirit shortly before he dies, and he’s surprisingly cool about the whole situation.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Storm cautions Gambit against smoking in Rogue’s Room.


Young Love
Gambit continues to have a hard time taking no for an answer.


Human/Mutant Relations
Belladonna derogatorily refers to Rogue as “Mutie ” throughout the series, despite being a mutant herself (unless the whole "Assassins got their powers from Candra" is meant to suggest they're not actually mutants, but if so, that needs to be made more clear).


Austin's Analysis
Rogue's name may be on the cover, but this is very much a sequel to the previous year's Gambit miniseries, picking up in the wake of the power shift between the New Orleans' Guilds & Candra and Belladonna's ascension to leadership of the Assassin's Guild (as well as Rogue's absorption of her memories in that series) and bringing back pretty much all the same players, thereby filling the pages of this series with the same sort of guild nonsense and goofily-dressed assassins as permeated the Gambit mini. To Mackie's credit, despite this being principally a Gambit story (or at least a story borrowing his trappings), he does a pretty decent job of keeping Rogue as the central figure in a story that isn't really about her; she never becomes a damsel-in-distress and Belladonna's singular rage at Rogue (which prompts her to target Rogue's childhood sweetheart Cody) helps keep Rogue as the focus even while Candra's Guild-related machinations swirl around her.

Still, given how many potential avenues there are for Rogue stories to explore (her relationship with Mystique, her past as a villain, her now-relative experience as a superhero), it's a shame that her first solo outing gets used to further Mackie's bizarre fascination with the lamer parts of her boyfriend's backstory. As with Lee Week's moody art on the Gambit mini, the Wieringo/Austin art here helps elevate this somewhat (even if Wieringo isn't quite up to his later form yet, with his more cartoony style highlighting, rather than underplaying, some of the more visually-outlandish character looks), but it's still hard to muster much enthusiasm for a series that is ultimately a watered-down sequel to a story that wasn't that great to begin with.

Next Issue
Next week: the hunt for Penance continues in Generation X #3 and Cable comes face-to-face with his son in Cable #19!

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13 comments:

  1. I had a weird experience with this series. I read each of the first three issues, and somehow missed #4. I never really felt a great need to get it, either, so to this day I have never owned or read the final issue of the series (and I only ever read those first three back when they first came out).

    I did like Wieringo's artwork, though. I thinkt this was my first exposure to him. And, not being a DC guy, after ROGUE, I probably lost track of him until he became the regular artist on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN a couple years later.

    Good point about this being a sequel to GAMBIT. Marvel apparently feels the same way, as it was part of the contents of their GAMBIT CLASSIC vol. 2 trade paperback.

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  2. I only read this first time now. It's a Rogue story alright despite the Gambit (or, GAMBIT) setting, so all the more shame that Rogue gets but very on-the-surface treatment with no character introspection whatsoever, and it's all a needless four-issue expansion of the once one-panel mention of Cody Robbins, (who should've been left as a name only), tagged onto the equally needless New Orleans guild war nonsense.

    That having been said, I gotta commend on Machie at least sticking to his own supporting setting. Godsdamnit I created the Tit Collector, and of the Tit Collector y'all will read! The editor probably nixed his further use of the sub-Neworleansian catacombs.

    Points for Rogue's classic hassling with the airplane pilots, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Points for Rogue's classic hassling with the airplane pilots, I guess.

      Dang, I totally just blew past the opening without making that connection. Definitely worth a call out (especially given the dearth of other material in this series).

      Delete
    2. Lemonade out of lemons: at least I learned a new word out of this.

      Now I'm afraid to go look up if Gambit calls our beloved planet that in any of the space. adventures.

      Delete
  3. Ug, the art. When you are used to Jim Lee or Kubert Rogue and then go to cartoon Rogue, what a letdown. The style has it's place, but when I'm going to pick up a Rogue series, I want to see something dynamic and attractive, this is so bland. I never read it, seeing the art turns me off and so does any mention of the Belladonna and the Thieves guild. Blah

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    1. Yeah, I really like Wieringo's art now, but it's still pretty rough at this point, and definitely atypical of the general style employed in the main books. I've grown to like it, but it definitely turned me off buying this series when it came out (along with the Guild nonsense that also chased me away from the Gambit mini).

      Delete
  4. "Art comes from a pre-breakout Mike Wieringo"

    Much as with the Gambit mini, the art is the best thing we get out of this mini too. I would have liked to have seen Wieringo's take on Generation X, he could have been a good fit for that title post-Chris Bachalo.

    "Rogue's childhood friend Cody, who was put into a coma when he and Rogue kissed and her powers manifested for the first time"

    Considering what happened with Carol Danvers, Rogue is lucky she never had Cody 2.0 stuck in her head, occasionally usurping her body...

    "Assassins Guild members Fifolet, Gris-Gris, Questa, and Singer."

    I just can't with those names.

    "Storm & Gambit’s time together, when Storm was de-aged, gets a rare reference here (and an even rarer footnote to it)."

    I love how the footnote points out it happened a long, long time ago...and that was only 4 or 5 years after it happened, our time.

    "Storm cautions Gambit against smoking in Rogue’s Room."

    In some ways, maybe it's a good thing Rogue can't kiss Gambit at this point, then. "Sugah, I love you and all that, but ya taste like an ashtray".

    "Still, given how many potential avenues there are for Rogue stories to explore (her relationship with Mystique, her past as a villain, her now-relative experience as a superhero), it's a shame that her first solo outing gets used to further Mackie's bizarre fascination with the lamer parts of her boyfriend's backstory."

    Yeah, they could have still have the Cody sub-plot while having the rest of the material actually be about, you know, Rogue herself.

    I never understood how Mackie was allowed to write both this and the Gambit mini, given that he wasn't writing any of the X-titles at this point. If anything, you'd think Nicieza would have written them. Of course, the Bishop mini was written by Ostrander and not Lobdell, so maybe that was the point, farming out the mini series and one shots to people not writing the X-titles...

    wwk5d

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  5. "I never understood how Mackie was allowed to write both this and the Gambit mini"

    Frankly, I never understood how Mackie was allowed to write ANYTHING.

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    1. Same here. I guess he was just super dependable, since he stuck around a LONG time on a lot of titles.

      The only real appeal to me for this was the art. Wieringo will probably be my all-time favorite comic artist. I remember seeing his art here and on the Flash, and there was really nothing else like it. It was bright and clean, and it had the energy of the late 80s anime I was watching without being a bad tracing of it (you know the ones). His art was like opening a window on that first warm spring day.

      Delete

  6. // Fifolet, Gris-Gris, Questa, and Singer //

    Don’t stop now… You’re more than halfway to “Cell-Block Tango: Kewl ’90s NOLA Remix”.

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  7. I heard you will become Wieringo if you eat meat in Canadian forest.

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  8. I agree with everyone above in regards to Wieringo being a poor fit for this story. It, too, turned me off when I first read it. And still does.

    Rogue's childhood friend Cody...makes his first physical appearance in issue #1.

    Out of curiosity, are the back-up stories from the first half of Classic X-Men's run not considered canon?

    I ask because there's a Rogue-focused back-up story that features Cody. It ran in the final or penultimate issue of the Dark Phoenix reprints.

    It was one of the few backups not written by Claremont nor the artwork of John Bolton.

    It was penned by Ann Nocenti and titled "Her First & Last".

    I distinctly remember it because it was the first time I realized how emotionally and psychologically abusive Mystique was to Rogue in raising her. Prior to the story, I had always imagined Rogue being taken in at the latter part of her adolescence (thus making an active choice in her villainy). Where this story presented her as clearly a young teen or pre-teen - thus made it more apparent her abandonment issues were exploited.

    Sorry! /Sidebar analysis. ;-)

    Anyway...does that story count?

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    Replies
    1. That depends. The guy she kisses in that story is called Freddy, not Cody. And he doesn't end up in a permanent coma, just the usual turning-unconscious-and-then-waking-up routine that happens when Rogue makes skin-to-skin contact with someone.

      It happened in Classic X-men #44.

      wwk5d

      Delete

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