One of the most popular relationships in Marvel comics is Rogue and Gambit. The X-Men duo captured the hearts of many with their relationship being showcased not only in the comics but also in X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men: Evolution.
I first fell in love with them when I was an angsty pre-teen and I have continued to love them into my slightly less angsty adulthood. They had a fantastic dynamic and rapport. I could see how much they grew to care about each other over time. Their long-lasting relationship was filled with some truly wonderful moments and a healthy dose of melodrama.
Unfortunately, like most comic book romances they eventually went their separate ways and for a while. It seemed like their relationship was irrevocably broken until Rogue & Gambit, a 5 issue mini-series written by Kelly Thompson. The series did what I thought Marvel would never do, put them back together.
This mini-series is fantastic. Thompson clearly wanted to tell this story and her love for the characters and their relationship is apparent on every panel. You can tell that she wants them to work out their problems and get back together as much as longtime readers do and that is why it is such a special comic.
The plot is pretty typical X-Men fare, but it accomplishes exactly what it needs to. Mutants are going missing during a couples counseling retreat on an island called Paradiso. Kitty Pryde sends Rogue and Gambit to go investigate and they are forced to not only deal with the missing mutant couples but their relationship. They reluctantly decide to take full advantage of the retreat, sharing a room and even attending couples counseling. To my surprise they actually take the counseling sessions seriously, honestly discussing their trauma and how it created serious trust issues between them.
These sessions end up having a positive effect on their relationship. They address why their relationship fell apart the first time around. Rouge explains that it was never about not loving or choosing him. She admits, Gambit was her first real love, and she was terrified that if she put everything into him and they ended up not working out and she would never recover. She had to learn if she could survive without him, so they broke up and she tried relationships with other people, but now she thinks that they may be ready to come together again and Gambit agrees. They decide to get back together and it seems like their relationship could be better than ever.
However, everything is not as simple as it seems. Rogue and Gambit realize that their powers and memories are fading. They can barely remember why they came to the island in the first place and decide to investigate. After some adorable banter, they discover a room full of copies of themselves wearing various outfits from throughout their history. It turns out a villain named Lavish has been luring mutants to the island and taking their memories and part of their powers to create copies of them. Rogue and Gambit quickly realize that they’re going to have to fight their way out of this. Throughout this fight, they regain a memory whenever they defeat a duplicate. While this premise is a bit ridiculous, I think it is the perfect conflict for this story, because it forces them to literally fight with past versions of themselves and face their traumatic memories head-on.
I loved how Thompson handled this. They know they have to fight these duplicates but every time they defeat one and get a memory back it is a painful experience. They acknowledge that there are some memories they’d rather not relive and Rogue for a brief moment even considers walking away and not regaining their memories, admitting that a clean slate is very tempting. She wants to be with Gambit, but she is plagued with doubt. She tells him that she doesn’t know if they will be able to hold on to each other when all of their memories come back, but Gambit simply tells her that they will just have to make sure that they do. That is the core of what this series is about, Rogue and Gambit deciding that they love each other more than anything and that they’re willing to face the past head-on so they can have a future together.
When I first heard about this mini-series I was concerned, I thought the only way they would put these two back together would be to ignore their complicated history altogether. I thought it would just be fan service and a means to an end, but I was wrong. This is not just a fantastic story, it is a true love letter to Rogue and Gambit that should be the template for how to bring all comic book couples back together. You shouldn’t put characters back together just for the sake of it, and you can’t just ignore the past. This story only works because they are willing to embrace both the great and terrible parts of Rogue and Gambit’s relationship. I am so happy that after almost 30 years of history this couple finally seems to be in a good place and I can’t wait to read more of their stories in the future!