X-Men Vignettes #45 (1992)
Writer – Ann Nocenti
Pencils – Dave Ross
Inks – Josef Rubenstein
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Bob Sharen
Edits – Milgrom, DeFalco
From: Marvel Fanfare #60 (December, 1991-January, 1992)
Welcome back to… X-Men Vignettes?! That’s right — today we’re in “lost episode” territory, taking a look at the story that was set to appear in Classic X-Men #45 (March, 1990)… but instead, sat in a drawer for a couple of years… until Marvel realized the final issue of Marvel Fanfare (January, 1992) came up a dozen or so pages short!
Huge thanks to Chris U. for letting me know this story exists… and for sending me on a merry hunt! I’m always looking for excuses to hit da bins…
Without any further ado… let’s have a goo…
Our story opens with a playfully peculiar Rogue sneaking up on Mystique to give her a skin-to-skin bop on the nose. This, as you might imagine, freaks out and annoys Raven… but, Rogue assures her that she only touched her long enough to steal a single thought. Not sure which one, but I suppose that doesn’t really matter. All this is to establish is that Rogue’s acting a bit reckless with her powers. Right off the bat, I’m really not digging this art. I know Marvel Fanfare (especially at the very end of its run), felt very much like the repository of inventory stories… which, ya know, this is one (remember, this was supposed to appear in Classic X-Men #45 some two years earlier) – but, add to that the rushed-looking art and it makes it feel even more like an afterthought. Rogue’s facials in particular are rather unpleasant. The last panel on the second page looks like it’s out of an old women’s prison exploitation movie.
Anyway, Rogue tells Mystique that she’s gotta “get her kicks” somewhere… and, by “kicks” she’s talking skin-to-skin contact. Mystique isn’t cool with this at all, and reminds her that they’ve got a big mission this evening. And so, we jump right into it. That night, Mystique and Pyro are waiting around for Rogue to show up… complaining about having to deal with an adolescent. When she finally arrives, Rogue is dressed… um, I think it’s supposed to be “sexy”, but it comes across in the art as more… skankily awkward? Anyway, she tells Pyro that he’s lookin’ hot, before Mystique starts giving the lay of the land.
The mission is… to spring some dude named Jason out of the McCarthy Medical Treatment Center and have him join up with the Brotherhood. To do so, Mystique is going to assume the form of one of the staff doctors… while Rogue’s going to pretend to be a relative of Jason’s who’s really wanting a visit. The pair manage to make it past the first security checkpoint… which is to say, the first old man sitting at a desk — however, aren’t so lucky with the second. He, despite knowing “Dr. Forbes”, still demands to see his identification card. And so, Rogue kisses and kayos him. Worth noting, Rogue seems really turned on at the sight of her “mother” shapeshifted into a fella.
After kissing the old man, our woozy Rogue shares the thought/memory she’d stolen from him with Mystique… and it’s that he stole his mother’s wedding ring and pawned it. From here, it’s checkpoint number three… which is, well, another old man at a desk — only, this one’s got a gun! Rogue sweet talks him a bit before kissing him too. Mystique’s beginning to worry that, should she keep this up, young Rogue’s gonna lose her mind! And, indeed — it looks like she’s about to!
Finally, at this point, there’s nothing standing between the Brotherhood and Jason Nolastname — and so, Rogue lets herself into his solitary confinement gimmick. Only, she locks Mystique out — ya see, she’s still not done having fun. Remember, she’s gotta “get her kicks” anywhere she can. Now, this Jason is… some dude… who, I’m pretty sure we never see again. He’s sitting silently on a very modern-looking couch. Rogue approaches, calling him handsome (he’s not), and asking if he likes her (he doesn’t seem to).
She tells him that she’s a freak, just like him… and goes to start giving him a shoulder massage, if the art’s any indication. Still locked out, Mystique radios over to Pyro to command him to start melting his way through the wall… and so, he gets to sprayin’.
By now, Rogue’s already removed her elbow-length gloves so she might… get her kicks. Jason, however, has a different idea — sorta. He grabs her by her (bare) wrist, tells her he’s not to be played with… and, tosses her across the room like a sack of laundry! Now, since there was skin-to-skin contact here… maybe Rogue sucked up a memory or thought? She’s sat on the floor — and knows that, for Jason, touch, is pain… I think?
At this point, Jasons demeanor changes… he softens. Telling Rogue that she wants to live… but, it’s possible to live “too much”. So much so that you become sealed off. Is this making sense to anybody else? He tells her she’s lucky she can’t touch… and they exit the cell together. I tell ya, it’d be a sweet scene… if it made any sense. Or, maybe I’m just an idiot.
This takes us to the wrap up… Pyro finally melts his way in, giving the Brotherhood (and guest) a clear path to escape… and so, they do. We close out with Rogue asking Mystique for help… and, we out.
It’s kinda like riding a bike, covering these Vignettes — it’s almost like I already knew what to x-pect before even beginning. This was… an inventory story. It wasn’t one begging to be told, it doesn’t really change anything — it’s just a character-focused little ditty from the long ago… and another reminder that, despite her first appearance depicting her to be a woman in her mid-to-late 40’s, Rogue was actually a precocious young teen when she got her start. I feel like this story really worked hard to (over)correct on that.
That said, however… was it any good? Ehh… being a man who still suffers flashbacks to X-Men Unlimited (the real X-Men Unlimited), I may not be the right fella to ask. I feel like I can smell an afterthought inventory story from a mile away… which, reasonable or not, does affect my enjoyment level. It’s like, if the people getting paid to put this stuff out don’t care — why in the world should I? That’s kinda how I’m walking away from this story. Add to that, the rushed and loose artwork… it’s just a recipe for disinterest.
The only way this story can pay off (to me), is… and, this is going to sound odd… but, if there were more chapters of it coming down the pike. Who is Jason? Why is he so important? What’s Rogue’s “lesson” here? I feel like, had Nocenti been given more pages/installments… we may have gotten some of those answers. As it stands now, this feels unfinished. And, since it never will be (at least to my knowledge), we’re left here scratching our heads wondering what the point was.
In the comments, the last bit of Vignettes were compared to something Marvel was doing over in Solo Avengers, where the backup stories included there, rather than being one-offs… became multi-part stories. I feel like there’s a lot to this theory… and, had Marvel decided to keep the backup feature going, we would’ve probably gotten another 1-4 chapters of this Rogue/Mystique story spread out over then next handful of issues. It’s really the only way a story like this makes sense (at least to me).
Overall — it’s kind of a worst of all worlds situation. As a two-part story, it’s both too long… and too short. If Marvel were never planning on following up on this (and, as this is the final issue of Marvel Fanfare, it doesn’t seem like they were)… it may’ve been just as well not to publish it at all.