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.
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.