Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What if Rogue possessed the power of Thor? (Marvel)
What If...? #66 When: October 1994
Why: Simon Furman How: John Royle

The Story so far...
It has long been theorized that for every defining decision made in life, there are infinite worlds where each possible and even improbable outcome is played out. This is truth, and the Watcher is pledged to observe and record the events on each, including a world where a woman stole the power of Thor, becoming a goddess unto herself!

Long before she was a charter member of the X-Men. the mutant called Rogue joined her mother, Mystique, in the formation of a new Brotherhood of Mutants. Disillusioned by the birth of her spirit stealing powers, Rogue willingly submits to the terrorist actions of Mystique's group, which eventually brings them into conflict with the Avengers!

In our world Rogue permanently absorbed superhuman traits from Ms. Marvel, granting her enhanced strength, speed, and flight, and the burden of living with actions that left Marvel comatose. In another world, however, events take a considerably different turn, and a remorseless Rogue crosses a line from which she will never be able to return, and neither will Thor...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Rodolfo MigliariARTWORK: Andrea DiVitoStrength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Beast 6 (Genius)
Speed: Beast 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thor 6 (Generator)
Agility: Beast 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting Ability: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Thor 5 (Lasers)

- The Avengers are: Thor, Spider-Woman, Vision, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Beast, and Jocasta.

Plotting against his half-brother, the Norse god of mischief, Loki, uses illusions to manipulate the rages of the green goliath known as the Hulk!
The scheme is intended to draw Thor into a combative trap, but Loki's plans come unravelled when a distress call from Rick Jones is picked up not only by Thor, but also the Wasp, Ant-Man, and Iron Man! Despite initial misunderstandings, the unlikely team forms an alliance and easily defeats the god of mischief - thus, the Avengers are born!

Though their adventures would see the roster subject to change, the growing number of associated heroes would only lend credence to the claim that they are Earth's mightiest heroes! United, the many iterations of the Avengers would face foes of minor, or cosmic natures, always willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good, a philosophy embodied by charter members like iconic early recruit, Captain America.

Though the eventual issue of superhero registration would split the team on principle, both sides would ensure the Avengers name would live on.
In an official capacity, Tony Stark leads the team as officially registered operatives of SHIELD; while a collective of street level heroes, including the likes of Dr. Strange, Power Man, and Spider-Man, fight the good fight in secret.

- A tumultuous and unstable childhood in Mississippi masked a dark secret in the history of a girl named Anna Marie. Unbeknownst to her, a genetic time bomb was ticking away, destined to awaken during pubesence and the moment of her first, and last kiss. Upon discovering an innate mutant ability to drain the energy and mind of other living beings upon skin contact, this fragile young girl became the withdrawn woman known as Rogue.

Manipulated by her birth-mother, Mystique, Rogue would become a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, and during this time undergo another transformation. Battle with Ms. Marvel would grant Rogue superhuman strength and the power of flight as a result of extended contact between the two.
This milestone occurance would leave a lasting guilt with Rogue, and help shape her into the woman she was destined to become, as a member of the X-Men.

The Math: Avengers Ranking: Thor (#17)

What Went Down...
This story actually omits the Watcher, instead revealing this tangent from the perspective of the precognitive mutant called Destiny, whose premonitions give her insights into the many likelihoods of any decision. It is she who foresees a dreadful future as Rogue does battle with Earth's mightiest heroes.

The battle already in progress, Spider-Woman blasts desperately at the grinning villain who keeps a palm to Thor's face. Like a superhuman leech, Rogue draws upon the godly energies of the Norse storm deity, gaining his invulnerability.

The Avengers rally their forces under the field leadership of Vision. The synthoid approaches Rogue, who is contemplating the dangers of holding on to her prey too long. Her focus remains unbroken as Vision phases his arm through her gut, increasing his density to near normal - a move that would render pain and unconsciousness on most ordinary adversaries, but not a god.

Suddenly Rogue recoils from Thor, screaming as raw energy beams from her eyes and mouth. Seeing an opening, Vision directs the Avengers to attack in her moment of weakness, but this serves only to snap Rogue out of her daze. She swats Vision with the super human strength of a god, whilst shrugging off the stinger blasts of Spider-Woman.

The Vision's synthetic body is reduced to spare parts as he hurtles through the Avengers perimeter, reaching a crash landing inside the headquarters mansion, much to the shock of his wife, Scarlet Witch.

Outside; Hawkeye, Spider-Woman and Wonder Man do their best to pool their powers, but it's a similar scene as Rogue turns the strength of the Avengers' powerhouse against them. With a mighty Norse blow, the villainness sends Wonder Man on a similar path to Vision. Merciless in her march, Rogue hoists a vehicle through which WM had crashed, and brings it crashing down upon him with interest!

Beast and Jocasta leap from within Avengers mansion.
In another world Beast and Rogue would be great friends and teammates with the X-Men, but here, the only contact between them is offensive. Rogue swats the bounding Beast, leaving him to crash across the battlefield.

Despite quipping in Thor's unique tongue, very little of the Avengers' thoughts penetrate Rogue's mind as she rampages against the heroes. In a single blow the superhuman southern belle brings her fists down upon the street, causing a quake that rattles the foundations of adjacent buildings, burying Hawkeye and Spider-Woman beneath a shower of rubble!

Jocasta next feels Rogue's wrath, as her energy blasts are easily shrugged off, and her metallic casing is penetrated by Rogue's invulnerable fist. In a frenzy, the mutant rips away at Jocasta's circuitry, revelling in her powers, until it clicks.
With the rush of combat and the absorption of power settling, Rogue begins to feel the weight of her actions.

As Wonder Man frees himself from his burial beneath a van, he bares witness to a terrifying sight. As Rogue struggles to formulate a plan of action, she reaches for Thor's hammer, and despite it's many enchantments against evil, she lifts it effortlessly...

ARTWORK: Rodolfo MigliariThe Hammer...
In true What If style, it's a devestating victory for the magnificent mutant, Rogue! For those who love their supet stock; though she leaves Thor technically in a coma, we're going to notch it up at a third kill stat (for Vision, Jocasta), making Rogue one lethal customer!

If you've been following this month's Cover to Cover, you'll already know we've been throwing the X-Men a bit of overdue goodwill in a month of good house keeping. A lot of overlooked items are getting checked, and this issue actually fullfils a few of them. I mean, sure, there's that X-Men connection, but there are a few other influences on this particular selection.

She-Hulk and She-Thing? Why, they're old friends of the Infinite Wars!
She-Thor on the other hand, was something that managed to completely stay below my otherwise marvelous Marvel radar! It was over on Comic by Comic that the loveable Rich Lovatt whipped this doozy onto the board in an unashamed celebration of the spin-off character currently appearing in The Initiative.

As much as I would have loved to meet his challenge to feature the lightning wielding lass, I haven't had any opportunity to pick up the Initiative title, nor was I reading Thor at the time. I suppose you could've surmised that already, given that I didn't even know who she was, but I digress... Because sure, I don't have that she-Thor, but I do have Rogue! Compromise!

It might disturb some readers to know that Thor actually has a bit of a history with gender-bending tales. At various times, including the post-apocalyptic future of Earth X, Thor has been transformed into a woman to learn humility. This action in itself has probably had sexist undertones, but no doubt it's a predicament some other folks might like to see handed down to the less considerate in the comics reading community. Lessons in humility could be learned by all, as fanboys worldwide discover an anthemic meaning in Madonna's, For a Girl.

Of course, this issue of What If features a tale about Thor becoming a woman in a much less literal sense. I had actually wanted to feature this issue the last time we hovered around Rogue, late last year [Ultimate X-Men #49].

With the exception of a period of bliss during Morrison's run, which was surrounded by other contributions by folks like Joe Casey and Brian K. Vaughan, the X-Men have been on a downward spiral into the creative bowl for a couple of decades. Incestuous storylines gave way to self-referencial nightmares, and constant revamps eventually gave way to a bland blue and yellow goop that darkened as it decayed in and around the already mentioned New X-Men.

During this period of foul characterisation and garbled plot, it was especially surprising to see the decision to cull the mutants to a rough-estimate of one hundred and ninety-eight, give or take a few astute fanboy observations. Editorial saw hope in minimizing the mutant menace, rather than using the palette of characters available to move forward with edicts to steer away from mistakes passed.

Somehow, amidst the chaos, Rogue was a character who managed to rise through the ranks. Hovering between fashion faux pas of the bland black and red outfit newer readers might recognise, and the daggy vintage of the white striped green cloak, Rogue took on a position of leadership in the X-Men that isn't unreasonable for a senior member. As the teams were fragmented by creative drafts, the favourite uncle of the X-verse was able to steer Rogue through some sort of progression, taking her beyond the timid swirl of frustrations and inadequacy that had characterized her in the recent past.

If you've jumped onto the X-Men with Messiah Complex, that last description might have you a little confused about timelines. Alas, it seems Rogue's inadequacies have again been pushed to the forefront. It's too soon to tell for sure if this will be a lasting tale of morose brooding, or a mcguffin in a much larger tale, but it's exasperation of the Nth degree.

Against all odds, the X-Men have come back to the forefront of a lot of readers' lists with Messiah Complex. The story, which for all intents, seemed to meander it's way through a messy conflict featuring some of the enduring, but thoroughly boring personalities still living in the X-Men Universe. Mystique, stripped of the good that came from her solo adventures under Vaughan, is again a thinly motivated mutant terrorist leading a band of evil mutants whose names I do not know, or want to know. As critical as I am of Joss Whedon's "Astonishing" X-Men contributions, you probably have to give him credit for using his moxy to remain removed from the mess of the core titles. Not that he isn't guilty of similar crimes, relying heavily on the past in equally frustrating, but much less unattractive ways.

Somewhere in the maelstrom of all this, Rogue has undergone some sort of transformation. Honestly, the ham-fisted Christ-allagory not even considered, this whole mutant-zero baby story just reminds me of everything that screwed the pooch. Without granting service to a story that seems to reboot the X-Men yet again, it sounds like Rogue will again become a character distanced from those around her, with motivations uncertain because of the influence of Mystique, who is now said to be the only remaining bank of memories absorbed.

I don't mean to be overly negative, and we've been coming down on a lot of topics a lot lately. It should be noted that the issue reviewed, though not perfect, is one of many great issues of the now classic series. In fact, the conclusion of the story, which is something I hope to revisit in the future, paints exactly the kind of contrasting picture I'd like to see of this character.

Rogue managed to work her way through the punkish rebellion of her earlier years, but the hurdle of brooding melodrama is a foe proving most worthy.
This roughly amounts to our discussion the last time we looked at Rogue, and I'm not sure I have an easy, or specific solve. Without even getting into the design innovations of soft-latex bodysuits, I want to say there's forward momentum to be granted to the character. I want to say there's some sort of momentary light at the end of her tunnel, even if on-going stories throw up new hurdles.

What about you, fearless reader?
What are your thoughts about the progress of one of Marvel's franchise mutants? Has the character's depiction in the feature films only hindered any chance of development, or is there still hope for Rogue when she returns in the rebuilding series, X-Men: Legacy, dedicated to a new team post-Professor X's shooting.
Make your feelings known by hitting up the comments, where all remarks are welcome!

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 4.5

Unfortunately neither this issue of What If, nor the story it's based upon, Rogue's first appearance in Avengers Annual #10, have been reprinted recently. If you're lucky, you might be able to hunt down a copy of "X-Men: Famous Firsts" or "The Greatest Battles of the Avengers" on Amazon. By utilizing links provided on the Infinite Wars for purchases, you help support your favourite comic book fight blog! Yay!


Krod said...

There's another Rogue vs. The Avengers fight (or fights) that I'm sure you know about... Avengers Annual #10 (I think it's 10 at least...). The debut of Rogue---and she cleans up. I have it in a collection of X-Men first appearances I got as a kid.

At first that's what I thought this fight was going to be.

I've never read this comic, but good fight. You wrote a good description. Keep 'em coming.

Mike Haseloff said...

Yeah, I neglected to mention that this issue of What If branches out of the events of Avengers Annual #10 in the main sections, but slipped it into the footer. Every now and then there's an extra little bit of info next to my panning for Amazon kickbacks.

Cheers! ;-p

Krod said...

My bad! There was a lapse in time between my reading your post and my commenting on your post. The Avengers Annual #10 reference slipped my mind in that time.