Rogue Touch: A Review

by Nicholas DiSabatino

ROGUE-TOUCH-cover-575

 When Marvel announced back in February that it was launching two new prose novels starring She-Hulk and Rogue, of course, I was intrigued. The idea of targeting women readers who may prefer the novel format over the traditional comic book layout is interesting, and there have been scores of X-Men novelizations outside of the traditional X-Men universe (some great ones from the 90s include the trilogy Mutant Empire by Christopher Golden, Prisoner X by Ann Nocenti, and Smoke and Mirrors by Eluki Bes Shahar). Unfortunately, Rogue Touch by Christine Woodward (the pseudonym for writer Nina de Gramont) sadly lacks the heart and passion integral to the character of Rogue with a weak plot and a forced romance.

According to an interview with Woodward on Examiner.com, Hyperion didn’t want her to retread any existing storylines and instead create a reimagining of Rogue’s past before she discovered the X-Men or even knew what a mutant was.  Unfortunately, this version of Rogue comes off as a weird hodgepodge with traces of the bizarre origin story Marvel commissioned from writer Robert Rodi in 2004, the physical goth style of her X-Men Evolution days, and a Stephenie Meyer heroine.

The story starts off promising with young Anna Marie suffering from her first kiss with Cody Robbins, where she discovers her absorption powers for the first time, and puts him in a coma. She’s left her home life in Caldecott County, Mississippi with her Aunt Carrie and has taken a job at a bakery in Jackson. Woodward excels in these early scenes where she describes in rich detail the life Rogue led before she discovered her powers, including a touching scene where Rogue keeps trying to write a letter to the Robbins and apologize for what she’s done to their son. Then of course because this is a romance novel, the mysterious stranger has to show up.

James, whose code name is ironically “Touch,” initially annoys Rogue, as he’s seen watching her from a distance outside the bakery, but then of course intrigues her, and the two go on the run together after Rogue accidentally touches her boss and puts her in a coma. But Touch is on the run as well, and after some prodding from Rogue, he tells her that he’s an “alien.” Around this time, I literally said, “oh man, really?” and thought of that horrible novel about a human/alien romance The Host.

Touch’s alien cohorts are after him and it’s up to Rogue to protect him. Other reviews of the novel claim that Touch felt like a cheap imitation of Gambit, but this is grossly inaccurate as Touch lacks both Gambit’s charisma and magnetism. Weirdly, throughout the novel, Rogue only uses her powers about 3-4 times, and one of these times,  she literally absorbs a Native American cave drawing (I kid you not). It’s a shame that Hyperion asked Woodward not to include the concept of mutants because without that Rogue simply views herself as some freak of nature whose power lies in sinfulness.

The novel struggles from a sluggish storyline with Rogue and Touch going across the country, getting into trouble, and inadvertently falling in love. Woodward interestingly has Rogue and Touch “touch” each other over clothing and kiss each other through a heavy ski mask. In the comics, I doubt Rogue would have ever been so brazen with her sexuality. Her experience with Cody affected her so deeply that I don’t think she would have ever taken sex or the act of touching so carelessly.

The “twist” that comes half way through the novel is unoriginal and does a disservice to Rogue’s characterization. Woodward’s Rogue is a deeply lonely, but impulsive girl who yearns for a boyfriend (essentially her entire characterization in the 1990s). This is fine, but left me wanting more. It would have been interesting to take the novel in a direction that either introduced her to Mystique and her experience with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and her eventual fight with Ms. Marvel or at least with the X-Men, but as is, in this universe, Rogue doesn’t learn about her powers or find a real home where she belongs. She is sadly reduced to a carbon copy of the original, feisty woman I’ve come to know and love from the comics.

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Nicholas DiSabatino has an MA from Emerson College, and has been previously published in Blast Magazine. He has previously shown his admiration for Rogue at Geek Outsider.

 

5 Big Queer Geeky Weddings That Should Happen to Celebrate the Death of DOMA

In case you missed it yesterday… THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT (DOMA) WAS DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL!! The internet literally exploded with rainbow flags. It’s a great way to end LGBTQ Pride Month.  But for the geeks for equality out there, I thought I’d offer up a nerdier celebration.  Here are 5 couples that should tie the knot in celebration of this (long overdue) step towards social equality in the U.S.!

Batwoman (Kate Kane) & Maggie Sawyer

Kate and Maggie have had flirty repertoire ever since they first met on the pages of the rebooted Batwoman in 2006 and they hooked up not long after. By issue #17, Kate risked it all and exposed her Batwoman identity by proposing to Mags in full Bat costume. It’s four months and four issues later and I’m feenin’ for some wedding bells. Batwoman is pretty much the most high-profile lesbian character in comics (who wasn’t relegated to an alternate universe at that), so this wedding oughta be a Huuge and super awesome. Come on, just imagine the complementing black & red tuxes… right?!

Stahma Tarr & Kenya Rosewater

 

Okay so this one is a lot of wishful thinking, but when big things like the government actually supporting gay rights are happening, we gotta dare to dream big.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been absolutely adoring this duo. They’re pretty much perfect for each other, both straddling that strange complex line where they are both incredibly strong and powerful women, yet they have found themselves in abusive relationships….

Read the full article on UnleashTheFanboy.com

Ding Dong DOMA’s Dead!

Batwoman proposes to Mags
Phyla-Vell & Moondragon
Northstar & Kyle’s wedding
Donner & Blitzen (Milestone Comics)
Willow (from Buffy) with girlfriend Kennedy
Grace Choi & Thunder
Archie’s Kevin Keller and Devon get married

Brian Michael Bendis Loves Mixed Babies!

Finally, A Legit Cloak and Dagger Romance!

Ultimate_Comics_Spider-Man-24_Cloak_and_Dagger

Okay, so maybe not everyone was as excited as I was to see C-list Marvel superheroes Cloak and Dagger on the cover of last week’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #24, but, no matter where your geek love lies, if you don’t know this super duo, you should totally check them out.

Last week writer Brian Michael Bendis gave the heroes a new back story in the Ultimate Comics universe, but this duo has been fighting crime and superfoes since the 80’s. Their original history is interesting… in that slightly-problematic-but-whatever kind of way.

The original story has Tyrone (Ty) Johnson, a poor Black kid from South Boston meeting up with Tandy Bowen, a rich runaway from Ohio, on the mean streets of New York, where he considers stealing her purse before sweet little Tandy offers him money. When someone else actually does steal her purse, Tyrone retrieves it for her. Homeless and kind-hearted, the two take a liking to each other.

Naive Tandy just can’t stay out of trouble, however, and ends up taking shelter with a notorious drug dealer. Ty tags along to help her out and both end up injected with some crazy drug mix that gives them superpowers.  Ty becomes Cloak, the embodiment of darkness, able to manipulate darkness and access and navigate the Darkforce dimension and teleport through it.

Tandy, on the other hand, becomes Dagger, the embodiment of light, able to generate and manipulate life-force energy and use it to attack and also heal.  She also uses her power to “feed” Cloak, who, is perpetually hungry for light/life-force energy, but Cloak isn’t the only one who benefits from this. Dagger has to emit a certain amount of the life-force energy over time or else it builds up and she gets sick and loses control of her powers .

So you see why these two make quite the pair…

Hopefully, you also see a wee bit of problematicness with the whole story. Poor black guy turns into a life-force munching black hole,  rich white girl turns into light and life energy that she feeds to the black dude.  Yea…

BUT they also have one of the tightest-knit relationships in comics, and yet they never explored romance… Tyrone is into it, but Tandy never requites.  Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a super-close symbiotic relationship without it getting romantic, but we’re talking comics here.  So many less plausible match-ups have graced the panels.

And in the Ultimate Comics universe where the new Spider-man is a Puerto Rican and African American mixed baby, it’s super awesome to see another interracial couple! Comics are no stranger to interracial couples – Misty Knight & Iron Fist, Luke Cage & Jessica Jones to name a couple – but, to me the Cloak  and Dagger match-up is something of  a correction.

Rather than a narrative that can’t help but recall the U.S.’s awkward racial history of the (literally & metaphorically) dark black man lusting after the pure white woman who wants no part of it, this Tyrone and Tandy reflect an America that’s increasingly mixing it up without the slightest thought. You can see these major differences even just in the imagery. Older Cloak and Dagger images often show Cloak looming ominously or possessively over Dagger, whereas Bendis’Cloak and Dagger cover has the couple side-by-side.

Bendis’ alternate history Cloak and Dagger meet up not as racial stereotypes —  a poor homeless thief and a naive rich runaway — but rather as student class presidents of their high schools. And they fall for each other right away, nary a hesitation over race or class, just straight up love.

The universe that Bendis is writing in Ultimate Comics Spider-man is just so awesome. So colorful, so modern, and a hell of a lot more interesting because of it.

I love this duo and I love seeing them in love.  Can’t wait to see where their story goes. Brian Michael Bendis, you rock.

Geeky Queer Reads For Year-Round Pride

Just because LGBTQ Pride Month is wrapping up this week doesn’t mean we can’t keep the Pride going year-round. For the bookish out there, here are some suggestions to keep the rest of your year a queer and geeky ride!

For A Little Summer Sci-Fi Adventure

PROXY_coverProxy by Alex London

Summer is no time for those long heavy reads that weigh you down at the beach and put you to sleep at the park. Instead, run out and grab the sci-fi thriller Proxy Penned by former foreign correspondent Alex London who is no stranger to action, this all ages novel is a fast-paced, breezy read that’ll keep you amped for all the summer fun. Proxy follows two boys Syd and Knox who grew up worlds apart yet intimately connected. Knox is wealthy and care-free while Syd, as Knox’s “proxy” must accept all of the punishments and negative consequences of Knox’s actions. Eventually the two boys realize they have to come together to fight the system, and that’s where the adrenaline-ride begins… The main character of the novel is gay, a rarity in sci-fi, but his sexuality doesn’t define him or his story. You can get the first 3 chapters free, here! Plus, the sequel Guardian just came out this May!

To Tide You Over Until Season 8:

Queers Dig Time Lords by John Barrowman, Paul Magrs, & Sigrid Ellis

For the Who fans in the crowd… They haven’t even set a date yet for season 8 of Doctor Who, and we all know that the Christmas Special always just makes us want more and soonish!  Not to mention, with Matt Smith leaving the show, curiosity as to who will be the 12th Doctor has got Who fans feening for some Time Lord antics.  So get your fix, celebrate, and analyze Who and some of the show’s great queer characters, including Captain Jack Harkness (in fact, Captain Jack himself wrote an introduction to the book!) and Vastra and Jenny, and these Who fan-scholars even take a look at the Doctor’s own fluid sexuality. Check out Emily Nordling’s review of the book over at Tor.com.

 

For Fall-ing Back Into the Groove

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales 

Fall means back to school, back from vacation, back into the groove of work and school after an always too-short summer, but “groove” doesn’t just mean a notch in your coffee table, so get groovin’ with  Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life.  An all ages novel, kids can enjoy this fun story of a group of young misfits who come together over a love of music, but covering the lasting themes of friendship and acceptance, adult readers can enjoy this hilarious and honest look at friendship, family, and how neither ever stops being complicated and totally worth the trouble.

For A Little Winter Escapism

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi

It’s not out until December, so aside from the description there’s not much to go on. But some key words from the description — namely startship, plasma coils, sky surgeon (I don’t even care what that means! just yes.) — have got me interested… Well, that and this crazy trippy awesome Ascension playlist the author Jacqueline Koyanagi put together for the book on Spotify. Besides, just look at that cover… a queer brown woman in space? And she’s some kind of engineer?  INto it.  I don’t know about you, but I can think of no better place to be in the dead of winter than outer space, far far away from uncomfortable family dinners, among a wacky space-faring crew of a delusion “wolf”-man, a Heisenberg-ian pilot, and a bold, hottie captain.

The Token Test: A Bechdel Test for Characters of Color in Fiction

So, there I was watching Zod and the caped Mr. Kent plow through 20-story buildings, when the camera halted for a minute and began following an extra at the scene of the destruction for a strangely extended period of time… and the extra was ethnically South Asian.

Finally, the camera breaks the shot and pulls back to reveal more extras, running for their lives, and lo!  many of them were people of color too!

That’s when it hit me, just how hard Man of Steel  was trying to make a more diverse Metropolis!  And between the more colorful crowds and the two major Black characters Perry White and General Swanwick, they did as good a job as one can probably do with one of the whitest superhero franchises out there.

Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) being all heroic.

And they took a shot at gender balance too… But even with a handful of seemingly non-stereotyped women characters, the movie doesn’t quite pass The Bechdel Test.

If you don’t already know it, The Bechdel Test came out of Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. Movies or stories that pass The Bechdel Test must meet all of these criteria:

(1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

So for Man of Steel…  (1) More than two women? Faora, Lois, Mrs. Kent, and Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mother – CHECK.

(2) Who talk to each other? CHECK

(3) About something other than a man?  Well… no.

Faora chokes out the Kent moms

In fact, the primary form of the inter-woman dialogue was fairly violent… and it wasn’t just about a man, but a super manSo, 2 out of 3. Nice try but no gender balance award.

Now what about the people of color depicted in the film? How can we tell how the film rates there?

Obviously, like The Bechdel Test, the biased treatment of characters of color in fiction is much more complex than a 3-step test can ever capture. But like, The Bechdel Test, a test — let’s call it The Token Test — could simplify and generalize some of the issues in POC treatment in fiction so that we can get the conversations started, talk about the issues more easily, and maybe force creators/publishers/studios to think about these things before putting their beloved brain-babies (or wallet-stuffers) out into the world.

Well, lets try one on for size…

A work of fiction that passes the test for biased treatment of characters of color in fiction will…

(1) have at least two characters of color,

The most obvious issue in the treatment of characters of color in fiction is that, well… there is no treatment.  Many shows/books/movies/video games simply don’t include diversity in the cast list, and those that do tend to be guilty of tokenism. One character of color, included for the sake of diversity.  I imagine this first rule will make most films and TV shows fail right away

who (2) aren’t somehow related or dating

Micky and Martha, Doctor Who’s token black companions navigate space, time, and tv seasons to find each other

TV shows and movies in particular thought they were wising up after they got called out for tokenism, and that’s when the couples and families started making an appearance. TWO characters of color!  But… of course, they were dating each other or the second characters was our token’s sibling or parent… Nothing wrong with POCs dating each other, but it’d be too easy if we let cheap ploys like that pass this test!

and (3) regularly speak more than a few lines

From the token Black woman who pops in for a quick “aw hell no!” to the token Latina who exists to occasionally suck her teeth and roll her eyes, we’re all familiar with the token who’s sole purpose is to be the resident POC with a line or two to legitimize their existence. Rule #3 will be the fail safe against having several tokens conveniently stationed in the background but for a few exhortations.

(4) about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes

And finally, some works of fiction can get past all of the previous steps, with a diverse cast of characters who aren’t related or dating and actually have a few lines and decent amount of screen time, but every single one of those lines will be laced with racial stereotypes or is only about race. The token Asian guy helps the main character with math homework and kung fu… The token latino is mowing lawns to pay for a house full of kids… The token Indian guy hacks your main character’s computer or yells something from a grocery store doorway… Rule #4 is there to stop that nonsensery.

According to this test Man of Steel  could pass with flying colors, depending on how one feels about the lines allotted to the POCs in the cast.

(1) At least two characters of color? General Swanwick and Perry White. CHECK

(2) who aren’t somehow related or dating? CHECK

(3) and regularly speak more than a few lines? Tough call. Perry White is an iconic character in the Superman universe and received a decent amount of screen time, slightly more than General Swanwick. Both characters certainly spoke more than the usual token, if you ask me so I’ll give it the nod, but it could certainly be debtated.

(4) about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes? CHECK

What do you think? Letting ’em off too easy?

Let’s see if the test works for works of fiction we know shouldn’t pass the test.

Some will be obvious, like The Avengers movie:

At least two characters of color? Noope.

FAILS.

Or Game of Thrones:

At least two characters of color? Yep. Currently, Grey Worm and Missandei, and I suppose the very rare appearance of Salladhor Saan. Oh right and the horde of brown slaves that the Khaleesi has freed who’ve only spoken the word “mother” in one of the most racially charged scenes of the series.

who aren’t somehow related or dating? Yep.

and regularly speak more than a few lines?  Nooope.  I mean, if the Unsullied are mostly POCs under those helmets, 99.9% of them literally never speak. And sorry, a thousand brown people chanting “mother” to their white savior doesn’t count.

FAILS.

Shows or movies with big casts might present a bit of a problem too, like  The Walking Dead which clearly has it’s issues (particularly surrounding T-Dog), and definitely wouldn’t have passed the test in Seasons 1 or 2, but in its current state, actually does manages to pass:

At least two characters of color? Yep. Currently, Michonne, Glenn, Tyrese and his daughter, and maybe Morgan will come back…

who aren’t somehow related or dating? Yep. So far (minus Tyrese and his daughter)!

and regularly speak more than a few lines? Yep. Given Glenn’s leading role, the promise of a more involved Tyrese, and ever since Michonne started talking, it qualifies. Pre-Michonne, T-Dog’s lack of dialogue (ahem, and character development) would’ve disqualified it.

about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes? Yeps. Mostly.

PASS (and crossing fingers they don’t muck it up next season, the comic sure pushed the line)

And what about Defiance? :

At least two characters of color? Yep. Rafe McCawley and fam and Tommy Lasalle

who aren’t somehow related or dating? Well Tommy isn’t related to the McCawleys, so… yea… just barely

and regularly speak more than a few lines?  Not really. The McCawleys namely Christie, Quentin, and Rafe have been getting a lot of screentime, but most of the speaking is coming from Rafe (Graham Greene). Tommy, however, is more or less a plot tool at this point. Hell, he doesn’t even make the fuller cast promotional posters.

So Nope. FAILS.

But don’t worry there are some geeky works of fiction that would pass the test!  Like, the new Mighty Avengers comic out in September! And possibly the forthcoming Sleepy Hollow TV show. And this season’s True Blood  actually passes the test:

At least two characters of color? Yep. Tara Thorton, Lafayette Reynolds, and Luna Garza played by Indian & Dutch American actress Janina Gavankar. Plus Jurnee Smollett-Bell joins the cast this season as a series regular Nicole

Who aren’t somehow related or datingYep. Tara and Lafayette are cousins, but Luna isn’t related or dating either of them. And here’s hoping Luna sticks around cause without her the show doesn’t pass this rule.

And regularly speak more than a few lines? Tara and Lafayette have been major show stealers since season 1, and Luna was a major character in seasons 4 and 5, though we’ll see for season 6.

About something other than race or racial stereotypes? Okay, so sometimes the “aw hell nahs!” from Tara and Lafayette are a bit too frequent, but they themselves are actually important to the plot and have their own storylines.

PASS!

Clearly, what I’ve come up with isn’t perfect, but, for a general test, it actually kinda works!

But I’m just getting the discussion started. What do you think? Too strict? Too easy? Rules you would add/change/get rid of?

Nvidia Shield Price Chopped to $299

nvidia-shieldDown $50 bucks. Would you buy Nvidia’s unique full-controller and display combo for $300 bucks?

Tech

Apparently realizing that people enjoy paying less money for things, Nvidia is knocking the price of its Shield gaming handheld down to $299.

That’s $50 less than the original price for Shield, which launches on June 27. Those who already pre-ordered will also be charged the lower price.

Nvidia said it’s lowering the price in response to user feedback. “We’ve heard from thousands of gamers that if the price was $299, we’d have a home run,” the company said in a blog post. “We want to get SHIELD into the hands of as many gamers as possible.”

Nvidia Shield is a full-sized game controller attached to a 5-inch touchscreen, which flips open and shut like a clamshell. The device has an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor inside, and runs a full version of Android 4.2 for playing games from the Google Play Store. Shield can also play PC games over…

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