Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why The Hell Isn't Marvel Investing In Rogue?! Rogue: The Complete Collection Soars!

The Good: Two engaging stories, Most of the artwork, Interesting characters
The Bad: Somewhat repetitive plots/emphasis on supporting characters, Some of the artwork
The Basics: One of the best graphic novels I've read in a long time, Rogue: The Complete Collection tells two very engaging Rogue stories!

With all of the various reboots to the Marvel Comics universe in the last few years, there have been a number of characters who have been killed off, rebooted, recast or just flat-out forgotten. One of the characters who seems to survive all of the various changes in reboots is Rogue, usually of the X-Men. I was fairly surprised to discover that (to date) there have only been two comic book series's focused (fairly) exclusively on Rogue, which have been anthologized as Rogue (reviewed here!) and Rogue: The Complete Collection. After the first cinematic X-Men (reviewed here!), I would have thought there would be an explosion of interest in the character of Rogue. I was, apparently, wrong. Today, though, I finally picked up and read Rogue: The Complete Collection to better understand the source material for the Rogue character whose cinematic rendition I am a fan of.

Rogue: The Complete Collection is an anthology of the twelve issues of Rogue that were published from 2014 - 2015. The book is an anthology of two storylines, "Going Rogue" and "Forget Me Not." One of the nice aspects of Rogue: The Complete Collection is that, despite some references to events in the "current" (at the time) storyline for X-Men, the book is remarkably self-contained and accessible to new readers.

"Going Rogue" opens with Rogue avoiding returning to the X-Men's school because Remy (Gambit) was recently blinded by her on a mission and she now finds it difficult to be his caretaker. Fortunately, Rogue does not have to wait long for a mission; there is a new mutant in Mississippi affecting the laws of reality and physics and the X-Men head in to try to save her. Rogue steps up and incapacitates Lauren, the little girl with the very powerful mutant powers, and she stays in Mississippi to try to locate the girl's parents. In her investigation, she meets Campbell, a mutant who is able to completely resist her touch and from whom she gets no psychic impression. Rogue returns to her childhood home where she encounters her Aunt Carrie, while Lauren disappears in the X-Mansion and Havok and Beast forget about her existence. At Aunt Carrie's house, Rogue learns the truth about the woman who raised her and soon after Campbell resurfaces. Campbell takes Rogue to a nursing home that houses a Shaman who knew Rogue's mother, Priscilla, and Rogue reads his mind to find out what happened to Priscilla. After Moontreader dies, reality starts slipping apart again and Rogue must figure out who is responsible for all the weirdness in her old stomping grounds . . . and if Campbell can actually be trusted or not!

"Forget Me Not" opens virtually the same way as "Going Rogue," with Rogue borrowing memories from a human through the slightest touch. While at a diner, Rogue hears a news report about Shiro Yoshida (Sunfire) and sees a picture of herself with Sunfire and Mystique. Concerned because she has no memories of ever being in Japan - even when she was with the Brotherhood Of Mutants - and when she contacts Shiro, he confirms he does not remember the photograph's events either. When Silver Samurai sends a plane for her, Rogue is attacked by Lady Deathstrike! Evading Deathstrike, Rogue makes it to Japan where she finds herself embroiled in a conflict between Sunfire and his cousin, the Silver Samurai, and in the crosshairs of Blindspot. As the Silver Samurai is reborn as the Silver Shogun - taking over the Toyko mobs - Rogue is given memories back of her time spent with Blindspot and Mystique and she must step up to stop the Silver Shogun and Lady Deathstrike definitively!

Even those who have very limited knowledge of Rogue will know from the artwork of the opening panels that something is not quite right in Rogue's world. Rogue is first seen in surprisingly little clothing, walking with (apparently) parents, without any gloves on. Knowing that Rogue is unable to touch other people without either absorbing their mutant powers or killing the human, Rogue: The Complete Collection gets right off to a start where the reader is thrown in the deep end of the character's story. Rogue is on her own, possessing pretty impressive telepathic powers, and is clearly coveting a very different life from the one she had as a superhero.

"Going Rogue" has enough elements in the story to instantly make the reader suspicious of the reality of the situation Rogue finds herself in. Reality is breaking down in Caldecott, Mississippi - where Rogue is originally from - and she soon after encounters a Mysterious Stranger, A Man With All The Answers and The Doppelganger of herself. These are all archetypes and make the reader suspicious of whether or not the whole story will simply dissolve at the resolution of the events, especially after Rogue starts to forget why she came to Mississippi at all. Despite the subversions of reality, Campbell's explanation of his own nature is handled surprisingly adeptly to be satisfying to the reader and the subsequent journey to the Far Banks and the confrontation between Rogue and her long-lost mother are handled quite well.

In fact, had I not read Rogue before, Rogue: The Complete Collection might have gotten off to a truly perfect start. The "Going Rogue" story has a number of similarities to Rogue, not the least of which is that the solo Rogue story quickly turns into a "Gambit chases Rogue on her solo mission back to Mississippi" story. The second story is burdened some by having more supporting characters with complex backstories. Despite that, Tony Bedard and the other writers who worked with him to construct "Forget Me Not" manage to tell a very engaging, character-centered retcon story for Rogue.

While "Forget Me Not" is initially burdened by bringing in a whole bunch of characters from the Tokyo in the Marvel Comics universe, the ostensible purpose of the six-episode arc is to introduce Blindspot. Most of "Forget Me Not" is a retcon story that fills in gaps in Anna Marie's backstory involving her time spent with Mystique on a mission that was intended to end Blindspot's time with their little "family." Blindspot is an intriguing character, though she does steal some of the thunder from Rogue near the climax of Rogue: The Complete Collection.

The artwork in Rogue: The Complete Collection becomes unfortunately more erratic as the book goes on. The entirety of "Going Rogue" is well-rendered and "Forget Me Not" starts off well-enough. But then, in Chapter Eight, there are some panels where Rogue is all head and boobs; she looks like a Rogue cosplayer of diminutive proportions. Chapter Ten features an unfortunately PG version of Lady Deathstrike slicing off Sunfire's legs, such that one does not know it actually happened by the artwork; only the artwork on subsequent pages that reveals the body later on. The erratic artwork is a little distracting, but it is indicative of the bigger problem with Rogue: The Complete Collection.

Rogue: The Complete Collection illustrates that Marvel Comics does not truly know how to make the character of Rogue pop on her own and they are none-too-keen to invest big in figuring out the right formula for the character. Rogue: The Complete Collection has, essentially, two stories with two different primary writers and a revolving door of cowriters. That illustrates a lack of faith in one writer's vision for the character and stories, much the way the declining artwork in the book shows that the project was not given its first-string artists for the attempt.

The result is that Rogue: The Complete Collection is a graphic novel that is good and mostly solid with a lot going for it on the character and artwork front, but fails to truly give Rogue her own direction where she is the undeniable protagonist of her own volume. Rogue deserves more than that, as do her fans.

For other works with X-Men, please check out my reviews of:
House Of M By Brian Michael Bendis
The Road To Civil War By Brian Michael Bendis And J. Michael Straczynski
Avengers Vs. X-Men: It's Coming


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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