In a Nutshell
Gambit confronts Rogue over the memories she absorbed from him.
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Cam Smith
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Kevin Somers & Malibu Hues
Editor: Bob Harras
As they make their way towards Seattle, Iceman continues to push Rogue to discuss the memories she absorbed from Gambit, but she relents. Meanwhile, Gambit arrives in Seattle himself, hoping to find Rogue and settle things between them. He tracks down Iceman at a local college bar, shortly after Rogue flew off, exposing her and Iceman as mutants. In New York, Graydon Creed watches a news report on Gene Nation's attack, and toys with the idea of running for President. In Seattle, Gambit & Iceman track Rogue to an rundown theater, a place she was led by Gambit's memories. Gambit tries to convince Rogue to return with him to the X-Men, but she refuses, saying she needs to find out for herself what the memories she took from Gambit are and why they cause him so much pain. When she presses Gambit to tell her about the memories, he won't do it, fearing it would destroy everything he's attained for himself. But he does offer himself to Rogue completely, extending a hand to allow her to touch him once again. Rogue, however, turns away. They both declare their love for one another, but Rogue says she needs more time away to settle her feelings, and flies off. Gambit tells Iceman to return to the mansion, but remains in Seattle himself for a few more days to clear his head. During his wanderings, Mr. Sinister appears, telling him that nothing is settled, and he'll need to reckon with their past together eventually.
Firsts and Other Notables
This is Fabian Nicieza's last issue of the series, ending a run which began with issue #12 and ending his association with the X-books (which went back even further than that) for now (he'll return towards the end of the 90s to work on some limited series and satellite series, including the solo Gambit book where he'll tie off some of the loose ends left by this issue). Accounts vary as to the rationale behind his leaving, but in general, it seems as though some level of disagreement between Nicieza and editorial/Bob Harras about the direction of the series he was writing led to his departure (Nicieza, for his part, says he was fired, though he was neither given nor asked for a specific reason as to why).
A past between Mr. Sinister and Gambit is teased in this issue, the details of which won't be fully revealed until that aforementioned Gambit solo series (but would, in the meantime, prove to be further grist for the "Gambit is the Third Summers Brother!" rumor mill). Meanwhile, the big secret at the center of the drama in this issue won't be fully revealed until Uncanny X-Men #350 (when it turns out that Gambit assembled the Marauders for Mr. Sinister and led them into the Morlock tunnels ahead of "Mutant Massacre"; the Gambit series will then reveal Gambit did this in exchange for Sinister helping him get his powers under control).
Rogue effectively leaves the X-Men this issue (even though she’s been away from the team on her road trip with Bobby since the return from "Age of Apocalypse"), though she’ll still make occasional appearances between now and her return circa “Onslaught”.
Gambit is worried that if Rogue ever figures out his secret, it’ll end both their relationship and his time with the X-Men (something that will prove to be true, for a time, when his secret does come out).
Graydon Creed’s run for President, a plotline that will feature in the X-books for the next couple years, begins here.
As with Uncanny X-Men #325 this month, this issue is ostensibly a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the "All New, All Different X-Men", though the events of this issue have very little connection to anything involved in that (the closest we get is that, eventually, Gambit's big secret in this issue is tied into "Mutant Massacre", and the other anniversary issue also referenced that story). It also gets a triple gatefold, foil-enhanced cover and extra pages as a result (with the novelty here that the larger cover is meant to be viewed vertically).
For whatever reason, I have very specific memories of purchasing this issue - I bought it at my local comic shop after biking there with my best friend. It was lightly raining that day, so I took care to make sure the issue was fully wrapped in the store's bag before putting it in my backpack, just in case any rain seeped through my backpack. We then biked back to his house and I was so excited to read it after all the hype about how it would finally reveal Gambit's secret that I read it in my friend's bedroom while we were ostensibly hanging out (he wasn't into comics, and was probably playing a video game or something while I tore through it).
And, after all the hype leading up to its release (my memory is that Wizard teased this issue relentlessly), I remember this issue as being one of the first cracks in my previously-unwavering wall of belief that anything and everything the X-office did was great and awesome and all part of a grand plan. Upon finishing it, my first reaction was "that's it? That didn't reveal anything!", the first time I can recall every being that disappointed by a single issue, a disappointment born of the way the books would string readers along promising big reveals without really revealing anything, in a way that certainly had happened before (like with the non-reveal of Cable & Stryfe's relationship at the end of "X-Cutioner's Song"), and would definitely get worse in the years ahead, but to which I had been mostly oblivious to/accepting of prior to this.
By no means did my reaction to this issue stop me from reading or buying anything at the time (if anything, my consumption was only to go up after this), but I do still look back on this as being one of the first issues when I realized, however fleetingly, that it was possible for Marvel to release an X-book that I didn't immediately fully embrace without question, and that sometimes, the machinations of marketing could overwhelm even the best of creative concerns.
A Work in Progress
Iceman is using his powers more like his AoA counterpart, riding a pillar of ice high into the sky and being more willing to abandon a fully humanoid shape while iced up.
Rogue points out that when she first joined the X-Men, she used her absorption powers more casually, something that is certainly true (Rogue’s angst over not being able to touch anyone is very much a 90s thing).
Rogue rightly points out that Iceman is running away from his own problems just like she is.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Thanks to its connection to the grunge scene of the early 90s and the emerging "coffee culture" of the mid 90s, this issue's Seattle setting gives it a somewhat dated feeling that was likely unintentional at the time.
As Rogue leaves, she and Gambit declare their love for one another.
When a group of college students who were previously ogling Rogue learn she and Iceman are mutants, they turn on them.
Let's get this out of the way right away: as tenuous an anniversary celebration of the "All New, All Different" X-Men as Uncanny #325 was, this is even less a celebration of that, connecting in no discernible way to the events of that issue, its callbacks to notable X-Men history, or the launch of the "All New" X-Men. This issue is also stunningly underwhelming in terms of meeting any expectation of paying off the Gambit/Rogue conflict simmering since the return from "Age of Apocalypse". In fact, it's a masterclass in narrative wheel-spinning and the illusion of plot progression: with it's fancy cover and extra pages, it certainly feels like something important happens in it, but by the end, everything is more or less the same as when it started: Rogue is still away from the X-Men, she's still in love with Gambit but mad at him for a secret she doesn't fully understand, and the readers are no closer to knowing what, exactly, drove her away (and what Gambit is so terrified of keeping secret) than before (with the possible exception of now knowing Mr. Sinister is involved, which, let's be frank, was probably a pretty safe assumption to make in 1995 anyway). Iceman is going back to the X-Men now, though, which is nice, I guess.
All of that said, when released from the weight of its expectations, this isn't a bad issue. Kubert is on point throughout, taking advantage of the extra pages to do some really nice, impactful double page spreads, which makes everything feel bigger and bolder than the narrative actually is. And this issue is a great example of that staple of superhero comics, the "characters deal with their feelings via expressions of superhero violence" story, as Rogue, Gambit and Iceman fight their way into, through, and out of a derelict theater while shouting about their feelings in the emo-est city of the early-to-mid 90s. As any kind of anniversary celebration, this is without a doubt lacking, and it is by no means the turning point in the Gambit & Rogue relationship it was billed to be. But if you can move past all that, it's quite fun and well-crafted.
Tomorrow, X-Force battles Mimic in X-Force #46! Friday, Wolverine hits the bar in Wolverine #93. Next week, Generation X #8!
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