“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
Where do I even begin? How about I attempt to tell you what’s been happening with one of the X-Men’s most storied couples – Rogue and Gambit. In 2017, under the pen of Kelly Thompson, the two starred in a duo-book aptly titled Rogue & Gambit.
Throughout the 6-issue mini-series, the two X-Men are shown infiltrating a couple’s retreat to discover the whereabouts of mutants that had journeyed there in recent months. Using their past relationship as cover, they arranged to stay on the isle and received couples counseling.
While investigating, they also dove deep into their past with each other. In the end, the two didn’t just save the day and beat the ‘big bad,’ but also rekindled their romance. Both heroes would then be included in the last issues of Marc Guggenheim’s X-Men: Gold – most notably the 30th issue.
In it, longtime X-Men lovers Kitty Pryde (I’m not calling her Kate, Duggan) and Colossus were to ‘finally tie the knot.’ Unfortunately for Mr. Rasputin, Kitty – after having a semi-drunken discussion with his sister, Magik, the night before – literally left him at the altar.
Once the initial shock wore off, Gambit decided not to waste the rare gathering of friends and proposed to Rogue on the spot. They were married the very same evening and then headed to space for their honeymoon in the pages of Mr. and Mrs. X – their second duo-book in as many years.
Also written by Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. X ran for 12-issues and depicted the first few weeks of their union. Highlights included the introduction of Xavier’s half-Shi’ar daughter, Xandra, the evolution of Rogue’s powers, an awesome X-Men holiday dinner party, an adventure in Mojoworld, and finally Gambit solidifying his position as the king of the International Thieves Guild.
What also came up more than once was the idea of the two having children. This bothered some people – mostly on Twitter. I don’t see why. It’s a perfectly normal conversation all committed couples have. Whether to expand one’s family or not is a big decision. Typically, the idea is brought up long before marriage is even considered.
Why am I talking about this? If you’re asking, then you may not have read the sixth issue of Excalibur yet. That is, of course, you’re reading Excalibur at all. I wouldn’t blame you for skipping it. It’s not much to write home – or even blog – about.
To keep it short – of all the Dawn of X books that have followed last summer’s House of X and Powers of X, Excalibur is my least liked. Sadly, it’s one of the best-drawn books, but that’s not enough to save it. At all. The pacing is bad, and the dialogue is even worse. However, the worst part is how Howard portrays each of her characters.
I could go on and on about her Jubilee, Betsy, and Apocalypse, but we’re here to talk about Rogue and coincidentally – her husband – Gambit. From the moment she got her mitts on the two, something was off. Rogue is stiff and icy lacking any of her normal sass. Gambit is an immature, brash, uncharacteristically clumsy, bumbling hothead with absolutely no charm or swagger.
While Tini has had 6-issues to embarrass Gambit, Rogue – at the end of the 1st issue – ended up sealed in a magical box. There she stayed, only seen in the background or when Gambit needed to look especially pathetic, until the very end of the 5th issue.
We did get to see her in a dream realm being guided by a flame-dog (Rachel Summers) to regain consciousness, but that was about it for that. She woke up, murdered Apocalypse, and then in the next issue while sharing a hot-tub with her husband declared that she was no longer interested in having kids.
Just like that. No prior warning since it was first briefly brought up in Excalibur #1. It’s not the end of the world for someone to say they don’t want kids. It is a big deal when that someone is married, never said anything of such prior, and is named ‘Rogue.’
I’m not going to sit here and list every or any canonical instance that displays Rogue explicitly saying that she always wanted children. It’s a #@[email protected] fact that one of her biggest fears is not being able to have a real relationship and a family.
It’s been a driving force behind her desperation in finding a way to control her powers. Every iteration of the character that has been faced with this decision and found themselves in a position to have kids, has. Whether it was with Gambit or Magneto – Rogue’s always wanted children.
So, for any writer to come along and just say that she’s decided to not ever have children is a big honking deal. It’s a major character development moment that deserves to be chronicled. Not spat out as she and Gambit were mulling over buying a car.
While Rogue was stashed away in a box, Tini used her as background art as the story developed and moved forward despite her condition. Other than the brief dreamscape portion of Excalibur’s fifth issue – there was no insight as to what she was going through. In the sixth issue, she described nightmares she had while being unconscious.
Apparently, it was enough for her to decide to shut down her womb. A unilateral decision that Gambit didn’t even question. It is her body, but that’s something that affects the rest of both their lives and not even an “are you sure” from her husband?
That’s not the worst part of this. I could have been fine with this development had it been handled right. How? Well, this is a comic book. We, the readers, have full access to Rogue’s thoughts. That includes her dreams.
Tini had the opportunity to have us empathize and sympathize with her characters but squandered the opportunity. She could have shown us first-hand what Rogue was going through, instead, she chose to tell us about it. Not to mention, Gambit’s response. I expect him to ultimately support her, but humans react.
Didn’t have to be extreme, but something other than a venerable “yes, dear,” would have sufficed. In Mr. and Mrs. X, Thompson teased that it was Gambit that had a touch of baby-fever – whether he wanted to admit it or not. To see him just “oh, well” away the whole endeavor based on a bad dream was… sad. This wasn’t Rogue coming to a sound decision. It was a writer using a popular character as a mouthpiece for their own personal views on a tempestuous topic and it surely wasn’t earned.
Personally, Gambit and Rogue are my two favorite X-Men, but my love for the characters isn’t enough for me to justify supporting Tini’s Excalibur. If you love it, more power to you, but I simply can’t get jiggy with this ish.