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June 22, 2018

Rogue and Gambit #1 (Review)


Rogue and Gambit #1
Marvel Comics, January 2018
Writer: Kelly Thompson

Rogue and Gambit is a new comic book series from American publisher Marvel Comics. It focuses on two popular members of the mutant superhero team X-Men: first, Rogue, who has the power to absorb memories and abilities through skin contact (and who also has super strength and flight, as a result of permanently absorbing another superhero’s powers); and, second, Gambit, who has the power to charge objects with kinetic energy (which is usually utilized as exploding projectiles.)

Rogue and Gambit are popular as a romantic couple among fans, even though the two are:

a.) portrayed as no longer romantically linked; and

b.) have always had a rocky relationship plagued by practical problems (Rogue’s abilities make physical contact difficult, if not impossible), and emotional baggage. Perhaps the fact that the two cannot even kiss is a reason for the popularity of the two characters as a couple: the romance is chaste and sexually unattainable. When they have kissed, in years gone by (see the images below), the results have been catastrophic:

This issue wastes no time or pages in reminding people of this odd coupling. To its credit, this first issue also does a good job of setting up a plot which hearkens back to the 1990s (the heyday of both the X-Men comic and its Saturday morning cartoon adaptation). The X-Men have a training room called the Danger Room, which features hyper-realistic battle simulations. This story features a Danger Room training sequence featuring “old school” designs of the Sentinels (giant robots programmed to hunt down mutants), ending with an awkward moment.

There is also a mystery that involves a place called Ciudad Paraiso, which serves as a private retreat/resort for superpowered mutants. This mutant resort is also the place where the X-Men’s ridiculously superpowered monitor computer, called Cerebro, detected groups of mutants “winking out of existence” at the same time.

Upon learning of this, the X-Men’s current leader/headmaster, Kitty Pryde, decides to send both Rogue and Gambit undercover as a mutant couple in need of rest and relaxation as a way of resolving their issues with each other. They do not need to pretend. There is some interesting character development that helps establish Kitty Pryde’s new role, and differentiates her from the more rigid, rulebound approaches of previous headmasters Professor X and Cyclops. The character jovially admits to abusing her authority in order to pass on the more awkward tasks to subordinates (Kitty Pryde and her former romantic partner Colossus could have easily taken on the mission themselves), something her predecessors would never have done.

There is also great characterisation when it comes to the scenes involving Rogue and Gambit. It perfectly establishes Gambit as the clingy ex-partner who disrespects women’s personal space. Gambit comes off as really unlikable, as it makes obvious why Rogue wants nothing to do with him. It is very respectable writing.

For aficionados of the superhero genre, there is not a lot of action outside of the short danger room sequence. But the exchanges between the different characters are engaging enough as they offer just the right amount of drama and humor. The story also makes great use of a nonlinear narrative structure in order to establish a rhythm of sorts: writer Kelly Thompson uses a flashback to describe the events that led to mutants disappearing, which is a plot springboard to Rogue and Gambit being assigned the mission. This is juxtaposed to quiet moments where the couple settle in and decide to enjoy their time in the mutant resort. And then the issue ends with a cliff-hanger in which Gambit and Rogue are captured.

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