The ‘will they/won’t they’ couple is an enduring trope because the tension created between the two is intoxicating. They bicker and argue but underneath it all is a deep affection – an affection that the characters themselves will often be oblivious to, leaving audiences to hang on their every insult while they wait for one to confess their love to the other. It’s Benedict and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, Leia and Han in The Empire Strikes Back, and it most definitely applies to Rogue and Gambit.
Their relationship has been a rocky one since day one, but it endures through Marvel’s many reboots and retcons. Though their relationship didn’t find its way into the X-Men films, Rogue and Gambit were among the mutants included in the 1990s’ X-Men animated series, and the show certainly helped to cement the two as an item in the eyes of its young viewers – viewers who today are looking to comics for more of the characters and stories now dominating mainstream media.
A mini-series starring these two X-Men is a real stroke of genius, playing to their strength as a popular pair who recently haven’t had much time in the spotlight. Written by Kelly Thompson (whose current Hawkeye series is another great read) with art from Pere Perez and colors by Frank D’Armata, Rogue & Gambit #1 is a fun start for what promises to be a very enjoyable book.
This issue wastes no time bringing readers up to speed on the titular couple, but it does so without too much exposition, just a succinct and beautiful two-page spread (above). In only a few pages, Perez and D’Armata are able to suggest the loads of baggage between the characters in a way that newcomers can get the gist of their colorful past and longtime fans can reminisce about the many moments on display. It’s certainly a meta-textual opening that doesn’t really connect narratively with the rest of the book, but it’s perfect for setting the stage.
From there, Thompson quickly puts the story in motion, teasing the larger threat of abducted mutants (isn’t it always?) and how it’s a problem that only Rogue and Gambit can solve – together. One of Thompson’s strengths as a writer is her knack for character dialogue, and here she absolutely nails it between Rogue and Gambit. Even scenes with Storm and Kitty Pryde have this sense of familiarity, hammering home how long these characters have known and worked alongside one another. Even quick asides to newer X-Men like Pixie and Armor revel in that shared history – especially that of Rogue and Gambit, with Psylocke offering to spill all the juicy details to her young teammates hungry for gossip.
The focus, however, remains on getting Rogue and Gambit together and alone so that they themselves can hash out that history. The premise of the their mission is pretty inconsequential, with Rogue and Gambit masquerading as a troubled couple seeking therapy at a fancy resort (which really isn’t all that far from the truth). But the point here isn’t what they’re doing, rather how they’re interacting while doing it. Thompson excels in these moments, giving them banter that’s funny but also insightful, exploring the dynamic of their storied relationship.
Beyond that opening two-page spread, Perez and D’Armata give Rogue & Gambit #1 a consistent look. There isn’t much in the way of superhero action outside of an opening scene inside the Danger Room – which, along with the old school Sentinel, helps in giving this book a real classic X-Men vibe – but Perez handles it expertly, with striking composition and panel layouts. Conversations between characters are equally dynamic as expressions can range from amusement to exasperation. D’Armata’s colors compliment all of this, giving the book a bright palette to match the breezy attitude.
Rogue & Gambit #1 is a great first issue for this mini, giving us just enough of a hint of what’s to come while also offering up what we really want – Rogue and Gambit, trading barbs and enjoying every minute of it. The scenes between these two crackle, but there’s just enough underlying melancholy to remind us of how it’s all fallen apart in past. This is an easily recommendable book for both longtime fans and those who’ve always wanted to check out this fiery duo but haven’t. Simply put, buy this book.