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By Marc Strom
Rogue could use a helping hand right now.
Luckily, writer Mike Carey and artist Scot Eaton plan on lending her one with X-MEN: LEGACY #220 on January 28, which kicks off the five-part "Salvage" storyline bringing the X-Men's resident Southern Belle back into the spotlight in a big way.
But with everything Rogue's gone through recently, it should come as no surprise that Carey describes the character as "kind of fragile" when Charles Xavier—aka. Professor X—first re-encounters her in the deserted Australian town the X-Men used as a home base for a spell in the late 80's.
"She's trying to take stock of who she is and where she is at this point in her life, and she's haunted in more than one way by Mystique," Carey elaborates on Rogue and the specter of her adopted mother. "She had a single moment of freedom and peace when the Messiah Child removed all the memories and personalities that had been accreting in her mind, but then almost immediately she touched Mystique and now she has that one inescapable presence in her mind—the last one she would have chosen, given their painful history.
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"But Rogue isn't someone who just sits around saying 'woe is me.' She's got definite plans and she's working on them. That's why she's chosen this very remote and uninhabited place. Unfortunately, it's about to get a little less uninhabited."
Since LEGACY has followed Xavier as he attempts to regain many of his lost memories and confronts the people he has wronged in his life, Carey felt it natural to next bring the Professor into contact with Rogue.
"In a way it's what we've been building towards for some time now," the writer remarks. "Professor X has been working his way through old debts—visiting people he feels he has unfinished business with, including Wolverine, Cyclops, Juggernaut, Carter Ryking et al.
"Rogue is someone he's thought about many times, but she was the furthest away and the most inaccessible. Now her turn has come. We know that Xavier lied to her when she first joined the X-Men—holding out the hope of a cure he couldn't actually provide. Now, many years later, he's going both to own up to the lie and to try to keep that promise."
"Salvage" brings Rogue's current story, which Carey began when he first entered the world of Marvel's Merry Mutants back in 2006, to a conclusion the writer had mapped out from the very beginning.
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"This was always going to be where we ended up, although I never imagined that the way we'd finally get there would be so long and convoluted," Carey admits. "I chose Rogue as the leader of my 'Adjectiveless' team mostly because I wanted to take her on this journey. 'Messiah CompleX' opened up some new possibilities, and we played to them, so some of the beats will happen in a different way now, but yeah, this is the pay-off I always had in mind."
Letting readers into the thinking which led him to so dramatically rock Rogue's world, Carey explains that, like much of the X-Men's tumultuous existence, it comes back to evolutionary theory.
"Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould had this theory about evolution, which has come to be called 'punctuated equilibrium,'" the writer prefaces. "Basically it means that in any environment things stay the same for a long time, then they're thrown into turmoil and there's a lot of change very quickly, then there's a new status quo that's stable for a while, and so on.
"A super hero franchise has that property, too, and I just felt it was Rogue's turn to be taken to a new place and given some new perspectives. Bear in mind, I'm saying that as someone who loves the classic take on the character. I'm not reinventing her in any sense at all—just opening some doors for her."
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Though much of LEGACY has dealt with Xavier and his past relationships, the upcoming storyline will also delve into Rogue's, as her former lover, Gambit, also makes his reappearance—though Carey remains mum on whether the two will rekindle their turbulent romance or not.
"I think their relationship is definitely in a hiatus [at the moment]," he notes. "Gambit actually tried to kill Rogue after he became one of Apocalypse's Horsemen. He's tried to atone for that since, by helping her to recover from the combined effects of Hecatomb and Strain 88 and to free her from Mr. Sinister's clutches—and I think Rogue is aware that he wasn't exactly himself when he made that attack on the mansion.
"But she came out of her coma [in 'Messiah CompleX'] into the aftermath of a war, and far from happy about the decisions Mystique and Gambit had taken on her behalf. She asked to be alone—told him not to follow her. He doesn't know where he stands now, and, to be fair, I don't think Rogue does either."
Looking back at their storied history, Carey reflects on just what made the two characters click in the first place:
"I think in the early days it was partly that Gambit was way out on the edge of the group—an enigma, mistrusted by many of the other X-Men—and there was always a spice of both mystery and danger to their relationship which persisted right up until the reveal that Gambit had once worked for Sinister.
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"The mutual attraction between them was finely balanced by the problems arising out of Rogue's powers and the mystery surrounding Gambit himself. When Gambit came back into the fold, though, in some ways I felt like it became a sort of default position for them to be together-and-yet-not-together. Like an operatic aria that just keeps hitting the same emotional beat with slightly different phrasing. It's good to put some uncertainty back in, I think."
Aside from his reunion with Rogue, Xavier will also face another menace from his past, a villain whom Carey would not name, but who has a considerable history the Professor.
"Given [the] central themes [in LEGACY] of unfinished business, redemption and atonement, it's kind of surprising that there's one debt Professor X has never referred to or—as far as we know—thought about in the course of his personal journey," Carey hints. "That omission is about to blow up in his face in a fairly spectacular way, which is as close as I want to come to naming the villain. It's someone Professor X wronged—badly, maybe unforgivably, a long time ago. And we haven't heard the whole of that story yet..."
But Carey also promises a veritable plethora of baddies will make their presence known over the course of the next five issues as well.
"['Salvage' introduces] some new characters I'm very fond of, [some] underachieving bad guys whose role in the story is to create crises that other people have to deal with. And it's got Sentinels, too. And Marauders. And Genoshan magistrates. There's no shortage of people to boo."
X-MEN: LEGACY begins the "Salvage" with issue #220 on January 21. And for more Rogue, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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