Ever since ResurrXion, the X-department at Marvel has taken chances on characters who don’t usually get much time in the spotlight. Iceman and Jean Grey both impressed, as did the beginning of a team-up series between two X-Men with a sporadic history of solos: Rogue & Gambit. I enjoyed the miniseries’s first two issues, but I never got around to reading the rest. Thankfully, the entire five-issue story has been reprinted in trade paperback form with Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire. Does this volume breathe new life into the classic on-again-off-again relationship? Is it good?
This series accomplishes its most important–and perhaps most difficult–task: it makes Gambit and Rogue’s romantic relationship seem important and worth reading about. In their worst moments, the couple’s relationship has seemed unhealthy, largely due to Gambit’s skeevy behavior. Here, though, writer Kelly Thompson delivers a take on the characters that is more wholesome while still staying true to their voices and motivations. She references several moments from the couple’s pasts and weaves them together with the present day to craft a sense of how their lives have played out and how they got to where they are now.
One of the volume’s strengths is its excellent dialogue. Rogue and Gambit’s banter is frequently both funny and charming. The more heartfelt moments are also effective; I’ve never believed more in the pair’s affection for one another than I do in this series. Part of the premise is that Rogue and Gambit have to go undercover as a couple seeking therapy, and as a result they end up confronting their actual problems. It’s a deep dive into the pair’s troubled history, and it makes that history feel organic and purposeful rather than like the poorly written repetition that it sometimes was depending on the era in question.
A lot of this series’s success is also due to its art. Pere Perez’s line-work is thin and clean throughout, and the characters are well-rendered. Facial expressions and body language both contribute to the comedy, and the page compositions are fantastic. One particularly good two-page-spread features Rogue and Gambit arguing, and each of their speech bubbles contains artwork of a classic moment in their shared history. The action scenes are also well-drawn, with a solid sense of motion and clear sequences of events. Colorist Frank D’Armata delivers bright work that is fun to look at, and VC’s Joe Caramagna does a good job on the lettering.
My main qualm with this volume pertains to its villain. The antagonist is named Lavish, and unfortunately I had to go back and check to remember that. Needless to say, she isn’t a very memorable villain. She has plenty of Rogue and Gambit duplicates at her disposal, and the scenes where the heroes fight their cybernetic selves are entertaining. Unfortunately, Lavish herself doesn’t add much to the drama that any other villain with similar powers couldn’t. The volume’s pacing also gets a little wonky toward the end. Everything wraps up very quickly and conveniently, and while it’s not bad enough to be whiplash-inducing it’s still notable.
Overall, Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire is a fun and emotionally resonant ride. The titular characters are more interesting here than they have been in years, and their love has never been more touching. All members of the series’s creative team deliver strong work, and the only major downsides are with the villain and the semi-rushed ending. Neither of these cons hinders the volume’s overall quality too much; this series is ultimately a breath of fresh air in the midst of the X-lines more typical action-heavy team books.