Perfect 10: Rogue

Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.

  1. Rogue #1-4: By Howard Mackie, Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin, Dana Moreshead & Richard Starkings. I love this one. It’s a really great blend of Rogue’s past and the mid 90’s status quo for her. This is a direct follow-up to Mackie’s Gambit miniseries and finds Rogue going against all of N’awlins – Candra, Belladonna and the whole Assassin’s Guild as they directly strike out at her loved ones to destroy her. In actuality though, it’s Rogue battling through every aspect of her past. Instead of being the closed off girl afraid of her powers, afraid of living, she barrels through every obstacle in her way, alongside dealing with her childhood boyfriend Cody and her current love interest, Gambit. She’s able to leave her guilt for what happened to Cody, as well as all her other past mistakes behind and try to live a new life with a bit more freedom. Wieringo’s art in this is on another level. Some of the most pure, eye pleasing superhero art you could ever want. The fights are choreographed wonderfully, Rogue’s hair & outfits have so much charm and Gambit looks every bit the scruffy rascal he is. I’m usually not a big fan of Mackie’s writing but he does some of his strongest work here. This is just a really solid slice of superhero comics and a worthwhile X-Men spinoff story, instead of an empty cash-grab.

2. X-Men #24: By Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Becton & Bill Oakley. This is the General Hospital episode featuring the X-Men. You expect Rogue and Gambit to bump into General Hospital legend Sonny Corinthos during their date. Soap Opera drama, romance and intrigue at it’s best in this one folks. While not the focus of the entire issue, the story is framed by Rogue and Gambit’s first official date as they wine and dine and carriage ride for a night. It is INTENSELY romantic and you can cut the sexual tension with a knife. If you dont start getting flush and your heart doesnt beat a little faster while reading this one, you maybe should see a doctor. It’s X-Men melodrama at it’s finest. The unique pairing of Sienkiewicz inking Kubert adds even more to the romance comic vibes of this one with his deep, dark, passionate style reverberating off the page.

3. Uncanny X-Men #172-173: By Chris Claremont, Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek, Glynis Wein & Tom Orzechowski. Rogue’s trial by fire. Phew, this one is almost too good. Claremont & Smith at the height of their magic powers here. The X-Men go to Japan for wolverine’s wedding right after Rogue joins the team after her short stint as a super-villain. Wolverine goes from wanting to cut her heart out to full on ride or die homies. This is the story where Rogue becomes a full fledged X-Men member for life and its beautiful to see. There’s so many great Rogue moments in here: Her leaning back on the bar playing good cop while Wolvie plays sharp knife handed bad cop. Her taking out ninjas strong arm style as she zooms through the air. Her sacrificing her life, jumping in front of a blast to save Logan’s love, Mariko. Her, dying, begging Wolverine to not subject himself to the side effects of her powers, even though it will save her. Rogue and Wolverine as a buddy tough guy team in the Japanese underworld is such a good idea for a story.

4. X-Men #188-204, Annual #1: By Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo, Clayton Henry, Mark Brooks, Humberto Ramos, Tim Townsend, Jamie Mendoza & More. This revolutionary little run of X-Men comics by Mike Carey is my second favorite run on the X-books ever, behind Chris Claremont’s original run. Most of this period is Rogue, with a full “take-no-shit” attitude, forming her own team of X-Men to deal with fascinating new threats. It hit just at the right time to re-energize the line and give us some of the most interesting, forward thinking ideas that have ever graced the line. Rogue is full force in this and the central character for every storyline, even if she doesnt factor into each and every issue. Each hand picked team member’s character and plot flows through her. She is the central heart of this team. It’s so cool and refreshing after all these years to see her as a rightful leader of the X-Men.

5. Rogue & Gambit #1-5: By Kelly Thompson, Pere Perez, Frank D’Armata & Joe Caramagna. This is the romantic comedy movie starring Rogue & Gambit. I love comics that take the time to incorporate the massive amount of continuity that has built up in a naturalistic way. I’m just such a sucker when you get the “Hey, remember this? And this? And this?” in comics but it’s used to serve the story, rather than bog it down. This one does that perfectly. Infiltrating a villain complex that seems to be just a couples resort, they play the romantic part well, getting swept up in their sexy surroundings and getting closer than ever.. But this time it’s different: they literally see into each other’s memories and emotions, they swap powers, they risk their lives for each other, they………..go to couples therapy. At the end it establishes such an empathetic and understanding connection that the old relationship blossoms anew in such a satisfying way. This is an X-Men history nerd’s dream, but it’s also such a fun, silly romp that anyone can pick it up and find something to enjoy about it.

6. Uncanny Avengers Vol.3 #1-23: By Gerry Duggan, Ryan Stegman, Pepe Larraz & many more. Rogue is the best Avenger. Dont believe me? Read this book. During a long period of bad X-Men comics, this book was the secret best X-Men title. This book got unfairly slept on and it’s an alltimer. Rogue takes center stage in this series as she organically takes over leadership of this team and steers them through good times and bad. Before his House of X/Powers of X coming out party, Pepe Larraz absolutely crushed it here. Duggan’s writing is so damn good. He excels at characterization and playful, natural dialogue. It’s extremely impressive how well he does it here as this team becomes the conglomerate of representatives from every single corner of the Marvel Universe. This book made me ship Rogue and Deadpool, a previously thought impossible development. Issue #22 (with the wonderful pun title of “Rogue Won”) and issue #23 are such emotional, endearing comics that serve to really show what a top tier character Rogue is.

7. What If? Vol. 2 #66- What if Rogue Possessed the Power of Thor?: By Simon Furman, John Royle, Bambos Georgiou, Tom Smith & Janice Chiang. This one is based on Avengers Annual #10 but in this reality Rogue uses her powers to suck everything out of Thor, killing him and stealing his Godly power. Taking Mjolnir and finding hersel completely screwed up, Loki pops in to trick her into allying with him to invade Earth and Asgard. When she confronts Odin, she is snapped out of it by his grief for his fallen son and she exclaims she wanted to be better than this, she just wanted to be somebody. This is when the remnant of Thor inside her talks to her and inspires her to turn to heroism and take his place as the new Mighty Thor. We see her join the heroes in defeating Loki and start a long life as the Goddess of Thunder, Odin’s new daughter and Earth’s new superhero. This is an offbeat choice but it shows you how damn cool Rogue is, cool enough even to be the new Thor. What If? comics were a gift.

8. X-Men Legacy #220-260; Age Of X: By Mike Carey, Scot Eaton, Clay Mann, Daniel Acuna, Steve Kurth and many more. More Mike Carey. After a small detour with Professor X, Carey comes back to Rogue and gives us a series where many things change and many stories are told but the one rock of the whole run is that Rogue is the headliner. A lot of these issues could’ve been a solo Rogue comic. Whether delving into her past, her teaching the new mutant students, her as a focal point of a reality altering crossover, or forming various X-Men teams to carry out specialized missions, this book has it all, sugah. I love this run. It has it’s ups and downs for sure, but this period serves up new ideas, brings back underdeveloped slept on characters, gives us new X-Men, new takes on old relationships, and so many exciting story beats that uses deep continuity to their advantage. None of it happens without the stellar work done with Rogue in every issue. The man spends most of this entire run writing a love letter to the character. It’s everything I ask for in a comic book.

9. “Her First and Last” from Classic X-Men #44 & “The Mission from Marvel Fanfare #60 : By Ann Nocenti, Kieron Dwyer, Dave Ross, Hilary Barta and more. A lot of stories try to show you how traumatic it would be to have Rogue’s powers and accidentally steal someone’s entire life of memories into your mind, but none are more successful than this small backup story. I really like this one because it shows you Rogue as a teen and why she ever goes along with her surrogate mom, Mystique’s villain plans as well as providing an insight into Rogue’s shattered psyche. Against the pleas not to get close to this boy Freddie, she ends up kissing him and gets a whole lifetime of memories force fed into her mind all at once. It’s shown how wrong this is as it’s said this is something that could be received piece by piece in a loving, enjoyable, intimate way in a normal relationship, but now she can never have that. It’s such an unwanted violation that it causes her to try and repress it and leave behind any chance at a normal life. She represses it all and speaks like a broken, hyperactive person that cant stop to dwell on anything or she will fall apart and volunteers for whatever Mystique wants her to do, exclaiming “I…I don’t care. I’ll do anything”. In the next issue we see Rogue even more off the deep end, stealing everyone’s memories she can, bit by bit on a mission with Mystique’s Brotherhood. She seems equal parts delirious, ecstatic, suicidal and lustful. She at this point is ready to pretty much throw her life away. She’s lost all sense of herself and any hope for a life. It ends with her aghast, asking Mystique to help her. It’s a chilling and powerful examination of how truly FUCKED UP Rogue’s powers and mental health are, as only Ann Nocenti could deliver.

10. Excalibur Vol. 4 #5-6: By Tini Howard, Marcus To, Erick Arciniega & Cory Petit. I wrote a lot more in depth on these two issues when I picked Issue #5 and Issue #6 as Dishes of the Week picks. Throughout this new run Rogue had been put into some weird coma and wasnt able to be a part of the action. In #5 we get a great dreamscape moment where she finally enters the fray and get some great lines from Rogue like “I listen to my heart, my mind and the gospel of Miss Dolly Parton” and “But I ain’t a kept woman”. She then explodes on the scene in full force with all of her trademark Southern sass. Howard writes her first few pages with the character and immediately just GETS Rogue. After letting her lie for a bit off the table, she writes some of the best moments ever for the character. Marcus To also draws her so amazingly, with a huge head of glorious long locks. It’s exactly the way you want Rogue to act and look. In Issue#6, after the fighting has stopped, we get some quiet moments where Rogue and Gambit discuss having kids, as “Make More Mutants” is a new Krakoan creed. In the leadup and during this series, I was terrified we’d get the tired old trope of now that Rogue and Gambit are married, they’d HAVE to have children. In this issue, she details why she doesnt want kids in a relatable, understanding way. It’s a refreshing change of pace from reality and fiction for a person to NOT want to have kids and that hit me VERY personally, as I had a vasectomy at the age of 29 and had decided long ago for various reasons not to have children with my wife.. The fact that all of this really went well with Rogue’s established history and characterization was just the cherry on top.

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