I know Rogue and Gambit are one of the canonical Big Romances of superhero comics, but I couldn’t say for sure that I’ve ever actually read a comic with the two of them together as a couple. Not that this presents any real barrier to reading Rogue & Gambit #1. The issue does a great job of positioning them and their relationship in simple, understandable terms.
This begins with the very first pages, which double as a quick refresher and visually stunning opening sequence. After a page showing flashes of their relationship, next to stark white panels, all arranged in a nine-panel grid -- that reliable indicator of time broken down into single moments -- on the page turn the book opens up into a dizzying double-page splash. As the pair tussle in the foreground, the background smashes like glass, each shard reflecting a different classic Rogue-Gambit moment.
It’s not entirely clear how this sequence fits into the story yet -- the smart money says we’ll return to it later in the five-issue miniseries -- but it’s a great statement of intent for the comic that follows. There is a standard-issue X-Men plot, about a holiday resort that seems to be sucking mutants’ powers, but the focus is firmly on this couple, the history of their relationship and where they stand now.
Kelly Thompson’s dialogue makes the two talking through their problems – which serves to catch the audience up on this most complicated of relationship statuses -- feel completely natural. Bringing up his promiscuity or that person she last made out with is the stuff of most couple’s arguments, even if they don’t in my experience usually include Deadpool’s mutant kissing factor.
The one area where the comic slightly stumbles is when it comes to expressing the pair’s chemistry. Pere Pérez’s art feels like the exact midpoint of every X-Men comic published since the turn of the millennium, and he handles action and conversation equally competently, but his figures are a little stiff. For all the open shirts and thigh-high boots, the art is fairly sexless. It’s all the more obvious when you flick back to the cover, or the tease for next month’s, both of which are drawn by Kris Anka – one of the best in the biz for equal-opportunities sexiness.
In this first chapter, though, that isn’t a huge problem. Given it’s a story about a couple reconnecting, or failing to, a little awkwardness between the two leads is actually quite appropriate. Whether the art is able to turn up the heat -- and indeed whether the developing relationship of Rogue and Gambit will require it to -- remains to be seen, but this first issue certainly has me crossing my fingers.