Ladies and gentlemen, gather round for the main event. No, not the mass brawl between the X-Men and The Avengers the front cover would have you believe. Instead we are here to witness Rogue deal with her powers again. It seems that Christos Gage believes we haven’t really explored enough of Rogue in this title so far.
Granted the issue has the X-Men fight the Avengers, but it is merely window dressing for more of Rogue’s navel gazing. Understandably, she is the focus of the book as she is undeniably the main character and Gage won’t let us forget that fact. But having another issue about Rogue and her powers is starting to feel tired. It felt tired when Mike Carey was on the book and he actually sorted her powers out. Stop me if I’m wrong but haven’t Rogue’s powers been addressed and haven’t all the problems that come with them been fixed? Gage’s script put us back to square one with Rogue, as the confidence in her powers that she showed merely months ago is now gone. Her fear of going too far and enjoying it from last issue is replaced by her fear of hearing voices in her head. Even if this fear is realized here by some clever strategy on Moon Knight’s part, it still drowns the book in recycled concepts from a character that clearly needs a break from the spotlight just become interesting again.
Now it isn’t all bad as the actual fight is well executed. Gage makes up for some insipid inner monologues with a few good tactical ideas. Notably, all these fun ideas come in the form of Iron Man. But his armor allows him to dominate the fight both narratively and visually. His dialogue maybe a little arrogant and aggressive, but his presence is easily the highlight as he works well as an antagonistic force. She-Hulk and Falcon are there just so Rogue can get their powers and although Moon Knight has a nice role to play he makes little impact. This is also mirrored by the lack of other X-Men in the book as well. All these characters are there and fighting, but as stated before this is the Rogue show with Iron Man as the main villain of her story.
It is also worth a mention that the conclusion of the thematic strands Gage proposed in the first part of this story have been done away with instantly. Although it is actually quite logical that Rogue and company have come to the conclusion that they can’t realistically stay out of a fight for the future of their species, it does mean that the idea of keeping children out of the fight has been dropped. In fact it is quite literally ignored.
Artist Rafa Sandoval really does a fine job in presenting a fun fight. The art isn’t mind-blowing or enough to leave a lasting impression, but he does at least deliver a clear and frenetic issue. He starts proceedings with a nice double page splash as both teams engage each other. However Gambit must be the most flexible man in all of comics as some of his acrobatic poses seem almost impossible for a person with a normal bone structure. Aside from Gambit’s odd poses the rest of the cast look impressive. Rogue against She-Hulk is a quick fight but has a great sense of weight to it. Iron Man nearly steals the show visually, but only because he is such a unique visual presence when placed around normal people. He is imposing and the art really details the “punch” his attacks have. But for all her problematic monologues Hulk-Rogue really works, with Rachelle Rosenberg’s color choices really complimenting each other. In fact the final image of Hulk-Rogue is akin to the old pin-up pages you used to get.
The book crumbles under the weight of its star, but still delivers a fun fight. Sandoval’s art is solid and he really knows how to stage a fun if forgettable brawl. But there is something lacking in the narrative that leaves the issue struggling to truly entertain. The outcome of the issue won’t surprise anyone; after all it is an X-Men book. But that isn’t the problem here. It is Rogue who is becoming a burden as her character keeps going through the same motions she has been doing since her inception. Add to the fact that no other character really gets any time and it adds to the feeling that something is missing. There is a chance for the title to recover though as we are promised a focus on Frenzy, if nothing else a break from Rogue would be nice.