By Jon Durmin
Now Anna Marie Raven, long known only as that spunky southern super siphoner Rogue, has been with us for quite a long time. She’s rarely strayed from the X-Men since joining their ranks back in the unforgettable Uncanny X-Men #171. Just when you thought she couldn’t be any more uncanny, our bold, battlin’ belle joined the ranks of the Avengers almost three years ago. Not bad for a lady who first made her name as the villainous headliner of Avengers Annual #10.
Speaking of that fine publication, within its pulse pounding pages Rogue used her mutant powers, the ability to absorb the memories and powers of others, to darn near permanently swipe the mind and powers of Ms-cum-Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. So it’s little wonder that many readers, especially those less familiar with Rogue’s early history, think of her as possessing the extra-terrestrially-endowed flight, invulnerability and super-strength of the inestimable Ms. Danvers. The fact of the matter is though, Rogue has, at this point, spent almost as much time sans those abilities as she did with them as a gimme. Now, while she’s got some similar abilities in current continuity (at least pre-Secret Wars) after absorbing Simon “Wonder Man” Williams, I think it behooves any exploration of Rogue as a rich and interesting character to focus on her power/memory stealing touch. After all, that inability to touch others, that talent affected isolation, has defined her over the years far more thoroughly than any pick-up powers she’s acquired along the way.
Rogue’s power of power and mind theft leads us to our angle for approaching this RR (or RRR). Our mission here is to suggest ways to reinvigorate and elevate our less headlining Marvels, and time and again it seems celebrating the best and most interesting core aspects of these characters is the surest means to that end. For our fabulous female fighting force, the thing that is most distinctly Rogue is the blessing and curse of her own mutation. We’ve seen this well explored and celebrated by writers like Chris Claremont, Mike Carey, Christos Gage & Rick Remender to wonderful effect, and to take Rogue further, this aspect of character must be integral.
You can’t have exciting adventures for your heroes without exciting antagonists for them to challenge. For Rogue, she’s historically been light in this area. She’s no stranger to the deep and delightfully developed rogues’ gallery of the X-Men, but those aren’t Rogue’s rogues (still with me?). Among those foes the only one who could really be considered “her” villain, might be Rogue’s oft meddling step-mother, Mystique and she isn’t even consistently a villain. She may be a mess at some times, and she may be malevolent at others, but by and large Mystique is doing her best to be an ally to Rogue as often as she’s been in conflict with her. Considering Mystique for a moment can help direct us to select a couple other enemies for our super heroic siren. Mystique’s powers of mimicry sets her up to be a natural practitioner of espionage. Likewise, Rogue’s ability to see behind the veil of other’s minds with a touch makes her a natural lie-detector and detective. How better to approach Anna Marie afresh than to follow that thread and get her involved (as we’ve proposed in the past for her comrade in arms, Storm) with some street level detective work?
Who would Rogue, mutant detective, find herself up against in some gum-shoeing goodness? For our first suspect I propose attorney, super-criminal, and would be criminal mastermind Janice Lincoln. As the daughter of Spider-Man foe and crime boss Lonnie “Tombstone” Lincoln, Janice has the drive and ambition to succeed her father as a criminal heiress in New York. Lacking the mutagen meted superhuman strength, speed, stamina and reflexes of her pallid papa, Janice has had to rely on her impressive intelligence to make a name for herself in the criminal community. Her intelligence and the latest, and greatest Beetle armor. For those whom the name Janice Lincoln didn’t ring an immediate bell (and if it didn’t, seriously, stop whatever you’re doing, no matter what it is, and go read Superior Foes of Spider-Man right now) she is none other than the current version of the classic Spidey-Rogue the Beetle. With her criminal canniness, and an armored exterior protecting her from our skunk-scalped super-heroine’s parasitic palms, this Beetle is sure to provide Rogue with more of a challenge than she’s bargained for. With that challenge comes great opportunity for Rogue to showcase her skills and savvy sans powers when she inevitably foils Ms. Lincoln’s schemes. Of course more mystery lies beneath for Rogue. Is Janice serving her father? Acting as part of the Sinister Six? Running the show herself? Or are there other forces at work?
For one possible answer to this we turn to Rogue’s second new enemy: the Secret Empire. The Secret Empire is most well known as a break away sect from the original Hydra. They’re a subversive group that operate by directing criminal activities that are intended to draw a profit, distract from their infiltration of and manipulation of the offices of power, or both. Though leadership of the Secret Empire has changed over the years it is always headed by an individual known as “Number One”. There have been at least a half-dozen Number Ones overseeing the Secret Empire’s evil aims to date (including a US President). The identity of the new Number One is yet another major mystery for our Ms. Anna Marie to unravel. As with sorting out the mystery or the Beetle’s plans, Rogue’s powers will help her more in investigating their intrigue than with smashing her way to a solution. How deep does the Secret Empire’s conspiracy run this time? Is the Beetle their pawn, their master, or a separate threat altogether? If we cross our fingers and spin the wheel of Rogue Roulette perhaps Rogue can sort it out and save us from their sinister scheme.