By Theron Couch — A bad drink is often saved by the right chaser. In fiction, happy endings make great chasers, able to cleanse and forgive any unpleasantness in the story that came before. Rogue and Gambit, after years of will-they-won’t-they tension, took a major step forward in their relationship in the recent Rogue and Gambit mini-series, before finally hitting real pay dirt with their spontaneous wedding in X-Men Gold #30.
As if all that wasn’t enough, though, now they’re headlining a brand new series that starts Wednesday, Mr. and Mrs. X by Kelly Thompson and Oscar Bazaldua. This happy ending is one hell of a chaser, one that forgives a series of past missteps related to how these two have been depicted, including villainy, underdeveloped characterization, and an arguably disturbing first meeting between them. It’s that first meeting—as well as the first appearances of each character—that I'd like to discuss today.
Rogue’s First Appearance
Rogue’s first appearance was Avengers Annual #10, and there was very little in that book to indicate she would spend decades as one of the most popular X-Men. Rogue shows up as part of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in an issue that starts with Carol Danvers being found unconscious, thereby kicking off a mystery that culminates in a confrontation between the Avengers and Mystique’s aforementioned Brotherhood.
Before the main event battle, though, Rogue assaults the Avengers’ heavy hitters all on her own, using her powers without the restraint commonly seen in her X-Men years. Rogue single-handedly eliminates Captain America, Iron Man, Vision, and Thor. But for all that power, her place in the story is essentially just as muscle for Mystique’s team, with no real character development aside from use of her powers. As she flees at the end, there’s no suggestion of redemption in her future; Rogue’s first impression is that of a powerful enemy to be seen on a recurring basis.
Gambit’s First Appearance
Gambit, on the other hand, first appears as a hero. Sort of. Uncanny X-Men #266 opens with Storm in the custody of the Shadow King and his Hounds. Gambit is engaged in thievery at the mansion where Storm is being kept—a perfect setup for him to help her attempt an escape. This Gambit, however, is a man of few words, lacking the flirtatiousness that later becomes a hallmark of his depictions.
When Gambit chooses to help Storm, it’s not because she’s an X-Man or a mutant, but rather because he suspects that she is Ororo Munroe, herself a famous thief. In this issue Gambit is little more than a cipher. The reader is given no special reason to care about this new character—except, perhaps, that he’s an active thief; Storm could have been rescued by anyone. Mutants come and go in X-Men, and there is nothing in Uncanny X-Men #266 to suggest Gambit would stick around.
Rogue and Gambit in Love
Over time—and despite mutually rough beginnings—both Rogue and Gambit find a home on the X-Men, and eventually their characters are fleshed out. Being on the same team, it’s only a matter of time before the two start appearing together. Their first interaction takes place in the Chris Claremont and Jim Lee X-Men #1 and their romance begins in X-Men #4, several years after Rogue’s first appearance and roughly one after Gambit’s. To have a romance start so quickly, one can only assume it was love at first sight.
Well, it was something at first sight, if not exactly love.
In the recent Rogue and Gambit mini-series, it is revealed the couple actually first became entwined during the Muir Island Saga—which pays off machinations at work in Gambit’s first appearance. The entire X-Men team is on Muir Island during Uncanny X-Men #278 - 280, and the Shadow King has taken control of all of them. To avoid spreading himself too thin, those in the Shadow King’s thrall are free to act on their own when he isn’t in direct control. Their personalities, however, are dark and violent reflections of their normal selves.
These are the conditions under which Rogue and Gambit first meet, according to Rogue and Gambit #2—first meet and, it’s suggested, first make love. On the surface, the encounter can be see as one of simple lust and little more—but not to Gambit, who points out that even under mind control the two were drawn together. And maybe he's right, because they did start their little dance soon after.
Ultimately, Rogue and Gambit have experienced almost every permutation possible both as individuals and as a couple. Their fictional history began in a much different (and darker) place than where we find the couple now. In some ways, this makes their wedding the best happy ending of all. Rogue and Gambit have never quite forgiven themselves for what they’ve done. Perhaps they never can. But if a marriage is a leap of faith, maybe the message is that they each forgive the other, even if they can’t forgive themselves. Anyone who’s followed their histories knows that Rogue and Gambit have often been a rough drink. In that regard, Mr. and Mrs. X looks to be one hell of a chaser.