Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Top Ten Rogue Stories of All Time (Part Two)

And here's the second part to the Two-Part look at the best Rogue Stories comicdom has ever offered...

6.) The Light That Failed. Uncanny X-Men #246-247

This two-part story sees Nimrod (mentioned in Part 1) come back in a BIG way to get revenge on the X-Men. Rogue takes center stage as she (under the control of the Carol Danvers personality) don Carol's old Ms. Marvel outfit to take on the bigger, badder, and meaner Nimrod. Rogue makes the ultimate sacrifice here by allowing herself to get sucked into the mystical portal known as the Siege Perilous along with the team's robotic nemesis.

7.) Rogue in the Savage Land Uncanny X-Men #269, 274-275

This three part story is the direct sequel to #6 on this list, showing Rogue getting spit out (literally) of the Siege Perilous months after entering. She's now split into two people: Rogue and Carol Danvers, but soon learns that there's only enough life force between them for one person. This story sees Rogue finally regaining her own mind, and teaming up with the X-Men's former nemesis Magneto in a story that brings the two closer together than anyone may have ever expected.

8.) Supernovas, Primary Infection, Red Data X-Men (Vol. 2) #188-199

It's hard to break this saga into one story, as it details Rogue finally standing on her own two feet LONG after she and Magneto fought side-by-side in the Savage Land stories. Cyclops recognizes Rogue's unorthodox conduct in the field by giving her command over a team of X-men of her choosing. This story sees Rogue in command, taking on brand new foes. Over the course of the storyline, Rogue loses complete control of her powers, and goes absolutely insane after absorbing over 9 billion separate personalities. One of her darkest points, but it sets her up for a rebirth.

9.) X-Men Legacy 220-224

After regaining her sanity, Rogue sets off to the X-men's old headquarters in the Australian Outback to find herself. What is meant to be an introspective journey turns out to be way more than she bargained for when she finds herself as a pawn in a game that the X-Men nemesis Danger sets up against the team's former leader, Professor Xavier. By journeying through all of her past mistakes, Rogue and Xavier defeat Danger, and get her to agree to help Xavier keep his long-standing promise to Rogue. This story concludes with Rogue gaining full control over her powers for the first time in her life.

10.) Utopia X X-men Legacy 226-227

After nearly a two year absence, Rogue returns to the X-Men...only to find them under siege by the Government. Rogue, leading a small team consisting of her former lover Gambit, and converted enemy Danger, must make their way through the city of San Francisco to rescue missing members of the Young X-men. This is the first time Rogue sees action after her powers mature, and readers get to see her in a leadership role as well as bonding with the younger generation of mutants.

...and there you have it: my list of MUST READ stories involving the character of Rogue. Each of these stories see her character build and advance. You see her going from villain to conflicted hero to hero to leader. There's plenty of action as well as character growth, and each of these stories comes with excellent writing and (in most cases) stellar art (opinions vary drastically on the art in the issues comprising #8, and I wasn't overly thrilled with the penciller for #9 either). You may note though that the (real time) gap between the Rogue in the Savage Land story and the Supernovas issues is about 16 years. That's rather depressing when you consider that the character either sat stagnant or regressed during that period of time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Top 10 Rogue Stories of All Time (Part One)

Comic book fan site recently published their list of all-time best Rogue stories. Some of their choices were right on, but a couple of them were way off the mark. So as a lifelong Rogue fan, I decided to counter their list with one of my own. So here are the first five picks (I'm doing these in chronological order, not preference) for the required reading list of any Rogue fan...

1.) Avengers Annual #10 and Uncanny X-Men #158
Technically, these are two separate stories, but they fit together as the best look at Rogue's brief career as a villain. Both are written by character creator Chris Claremont, and both tend to show Rogue as just a real bitch. Other stories taking place in this 'era' portrayed Rogue as a spoiled little girl who wanted a glamorous life, or just a really conflicted pain in the ass. Avengers Annual #10 begins after Rogue attacks Carol Danvers, absobring her powers and personality, and Uncanny X-Men #158 is her first encounter with the X-men, with Carol along for the ride. Seeing as how Uncanny X-men #158 is the only time readers actually get to see Rogue and Carol Danvers square off (instead of being told about it after the fact), it's important to me to group the two issues together.

2.) Rogue and Wolverine in Japan Uncanny X-Men #172-173
Rogue's first adventure as after her reformation and admittance into the X-men. She's paired with Wolverine in a buddy-type adventure against the Japanese underworld. Wolverine was the member of the team with the biggest and most valid reason for hating Rogue, so it seemed fitting that he'd be the one to give her her "Baptism by Fire". Swallowing her joining the team must have been an equally hard sell for fans at the time, but this story proved that she was there, and she was there to stay.

3.) Uncanny X-men #182
Rogue's reasons for joining the team centered around her permanently absorbing the psyche of Avenger Ms. Marvel, and the split personality driving her insane. Eleven months after joining the team, readers are given their first real insight into this. Rogue hears an answering machine message from one of Ms. Marvel's old flames, triggering her stolen memories, and causing her to believe that she truly is Ms. Marvel.

4.) Uncanny X-Men #194
It's the X-Men versus Nimrod, the mutant hunting robot from the Future. After incapacitating nearly every member of the team, Rogue is left with no choice than to absorb the powers of her teammates. It's the first time readers get to see Rogue using her powers in such a manner and shows just how big of an asset she is to the X-Men. In an ironic twist of fate (or possible deliberate homage...), Rogue defeats Nimrod by using Nightcrawler's powers to teleport his left arm off (causing a major systems malfunction). Years later, Nimrod kills NIghtcrawler by calculating the trajectory of his teleport, and extending his left arm so when he reappears, he is impaled through the heart.

5.) Uncanny X-men #218
After the events of the Mutant Massacre, the X-Men's ranks dwindle, and they find themselves taking on new recruits. When the Juggernaut goes on a rampage, it's up to Rogue and the new X-men to stop him. This is Rogue's debut as 'team leader', made all the more important as one of the X-men under her command (Dazzler) was a former opponent during her villain days. It'll be another 100+ issues before Rogue officially gets the command of her own squad of X-men, but this issue is a perfect preview of how strong of a leader she is.

A Love Letter to Mike Carey...

To be fair, this is about a year late (if you wanted to be a dick about it, you could actually say it's 5 years late, but don't please...) I realized this week that I've been reading the X-Men longer then I haven't. To be honest, I've been reading about them longer then a lot of my friends have been alive, and I owe all that to Rogue.

I'm not sure why, but the cover to UNCANNY X-MEN #182 just captivated child-me. I had no idea that the woman on the cover's name was 'Rogue'...I had no idea who Rogue was...hell, I had no idea who the "X-Men" were. All I knew was that I had to have it, and have it I did, and I've been a fan ever since.

Rogue's had a rough go at it in the ensuing two decades, most of it due to writers who had no idea how to handle her. A brief history of Rogue in the comics, for those of you who don't know:

Rogue is a mutant with the power to absorb other people's powers and memories by making skin-to-skin contact. She was raised by evil mutant (and all around bitch) Mystique and her lesbian lover Destiny. Under orders from Mystique, Rogue attacked awesomesauce Avenger Carol (Ms. Marvel) Danvers resulting in Rogue gaining all of Carol's powers, memories, emotions, and personality permanently. This lead to her having a split personality, and slowly going insane. Seeking help, Rogue sought out the X-Men. She ended up joint them and slowly coping with her split personality. She was a tragic and strong character who kicked ass and occasionally had a breakdown. She eventually lost Ms. Marvel's personality but kept her powers. You'd think that would make Rogue the greatest character ever, but right about that time she met and fell in love with Gambit, resulting in her becoming nothing but a whiner who spent more time fretting about how she could never touch Gambit. This continued for over 10 years until she eventually lost Ms. Marvel's powers...and got even more useless. I mean for the love of god, Rogue became so much of a worthless whiney bitch that they cast Anna Paquin in the X-Men movie series...

Anyway, that potential was finally tapped when Marvel Comics handed part of the X-Men writing reigns to one Mike Carey. Coming on board with X-Men (volume 2) #188 in 2006, Carey immediately dropped Gambit from the book, made Rogue team leader, and had her start experimenting with her powers in new and interesting ways. Rogue became innovative, daring, and dangerous. Over the next three years, Carey took Rogue on a roller coaster that saw her go insane and lose control of her powers to the point that her touch meant instant death. While Rogue spent the entirety of the massive crossover event "Messiah Complex" in a coma, she came out of it cured of her afflictions and leaving the team to 'find' herself after Mystique risked the life of a rather special infant to bring Rogue's powers under control and restore her sanity.

When she resurfaced, Rogue was faced with all her past decisions, adventures, and mistakes. She went though a mini-Odyssey, the results of which were Rogue's powers finally maturing to the point that she is now able to touch without harming the other person.

Rogue is a fascinating character when looked at from a metacontext and non-fictional point of view. She was created in 1980 by Chris Claremont, a man who wrote the X-Men non stop from 1974 until 1991. Whereas her teammates: Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and others were either created by other people, or as a gestalt between Claremont and his art team (who often times served as co-plotters for the story), Rogue was the only member of his team that he could claim sole creative rights. As such, she can almost be looked upon as an in-story presence for the writer. That she was (for the majority of her Claremont penned stories) merged intricately with Carol Danvers - a non-Claremont created character, but one whom he had 'rescued' from a horribly misogynistic and sexist plotline, and therefore felt very protective of, just reinforces that metaphor. In fact, when Claremont found himself under increasing control from editors and pressure from new artists, one of the first things he did was to write the character out of the book where she stayed until he began his swan song on the title a few years later.

When Claremont exited the book, the X-men were at the peak of their popularity. They were Marvel's number one selling franchise. Their Saturday morning cartoon was just beginning, they were showing up on t-shirts, they had their own toy line, and talks of a movie started to pop up. This resulted in a very strict editorial hand that seemed to mandate that while the X-Men could go on adventures, they had to stay in a form that was recognizable to the general populace (on the off chance they decided they wanted to pick up the comic). That meant that the members of the team who were in the mainstreams consciousness (Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Jubilee, Gambit, and Beast) were basically frozen in the form they appeared when the cartoon debuted. For Rogue, that meant the whiny conflicted sop who was too in love with Gambit for her own good. Creators on these books continuously tried to begin interesting stories, only to be told at the last minute that they would deviate too far from the status quo, and have to change their endings. This lead to no one really knowing what was going on, and several story lines reading like a complete mess. Even when Claremont came back to the books, his storylines were jumbled and confusing, and seemed to change course in a heartbeat. The character who seemed to suffer the most from this? You guessed it: Rogue.

So where am I going with all this? anyone who enjoys infinitely serialized fiction of any kind (comic books or soap operas) knows, you don't ever really get change or growth with characters...instead, you get the illusion of change or growth. But with Rogue, under the caring pen of Mike Carey, we've actually gotten real change and real growth. Rogue is still recognizable; Rogue is still an X-Man; Rogue is still a mutant with the ability to touch others and absorb their powers...but she does it on her own terms now. Even better, in the set up to the story that saw her powers mature and reach a point where she has them under control, Carey established Gambit in a way that makes Rogue interested in pursuing a relationship with him, but also keeping him at arms length for the time being. The result is a chance for him to truly explore Rogue's character and develop her as a strong, in-control of herself hero. Rogue is no longer defined by her powers or the limitations they place on her, nor is she defined by her relationship with Gambit. Carey put the character through hell, only to pick her back up, set her on her own two feet, and put her on a path to move forward, a path that not many other A-List fictional characters get to embark on. So, as a lifelong Rogue fan, I wanted to just take a moment of my time to say "Thank You" to the man who not only saved the character from mediocrity, but who also turned the character into one worthy of the label "fan-favorite".