I’ve already mentioned in my She-Hulk Diaries review that B&N shipped both books early, but from different warehouses, so I got She-Hulk Diaries before Rogue Touch. I thought this was a good thing as I was sure I’d like She-Hulk better because I didn’t know the character well enough to get upset. It turns out, Rogue Touch is actually the better book, though mostly because it doesn’t insult my intelligence or gender. Not to say Rogue Touch a great book by any means, but at least it didn’t entice me to throw it across the room.
It was basically a serviceable Alt-Universe Fan Fiction written by someone who watched X-Men and skimmed Rogue’s wiki page.
How can I say that? Well, Rogue Touch, mild spoilers by the way, isn’t a book about mutants, heck, it’s barely about one mutant. There is hardly any mention of mutants, and what is mentioned doesn’t track with what you’d expect, i.e. X-Men, Xavier’s, etc. There isn’t a single Marvel Universe related anything in this book. Rogue Touch actually tries to be more of a hard-core sci-fi book with a typical sci-fi theme which isn’t mutant related, at all.
At one point I started to kinda enjoy the book in that ‘turn your brain off, popcorn flick’ kind of way that you do when watching something brainless but entertaining, like Transformers. This was because the non-Marvel, non-mutant, story took over and it was easy to forget that this was a book about Rogue. Then there would be mention of Rogue’s inability to touch James, or James would have another Remy moment (I’ll get to that in a bit), and I’d be reminded. But it’s not as jarring as it sounds, it actually helped me to read it because I just kept thinking to myself that this was another Alt-U fan fic by someone who decided to muck about a bit (only I was obligated to finish it because I paid for it).
It really felt like Woodward was told to do a story about Rogue, then after watching X-Men and skimming her wiki page she decided to take another story she’d written, or wanted to write, and just plugged in Rogue and made it fit. One particular plot point felt like it was lifted straight from X-Men. Then there were casual mentions to things like the Far Banks, which came off to me as ‘name dropping’ seeing as it served no real purpose other than to explain why Rogue had no issues believing in aliens.
Not going to lie, alt-uni fan fics often lift and take pieces of established canon, but normally as a way of saying ‘this was pre-destined’ or in order to flip it on its head. There is always that connection to the source material. Here, not so much, especially as it bore little resemblance to the Marvel Universe.
At least Woodward didn’t completely screw up Rogue. Woodward’s Rogue is a patchwork of the Rogue’s who have come before, comic!Rogue, Evo!Rogue, movie!Rogue. The best way I could describe it is Woodward ‘colored within the lines’ of Rogue’s character, unfortunately it wasn’t all that great of a picture she drew in the first place. I sometimes wished Woodward would have just picked one variation of Rogue and stuck with it, or used the core of Rogue to reimagine her again.
But the core was mostly there, Rogue wasn’t reduced to a crying or useless wimp, instead taking it upon herself at one point to beat off thugs with their own baseball bat. She wasn’t totally emo or whining all the time or always needed to be saved. Rogue was a strong girl who only broke down once it was legitimate to do so, but then picked up and moved right on.
Still, occasional there would be an errant comment that would make my eye twitch, such as Rogue saying she always hated the heat and always wanted to go someplace cold. It completely goes against cannon but at least it’s legitimate for a Southerner to feel that way (hence why I think Woodward only skimmed Rogue’s bio). And sometimes I felt Rogue was relying a little too much on the memories of those she absorbed, like she didn’t know how to do a lot of things, or couldn’t figure them out, without help. Of course, this Rogue does not have the training other Rogue’s received under Mystique or the X-Men… but then what kind of country girl doesn’t know how to put up a tent?
And there was a distinct lack of sass… at least to the level we expect from Rogue.
Oh, and speaking of absorptions a second ago… I know Woodward watched X-Men because when Rogue absorbed Cody she got her white streak ala her absorbing Magneto in X-Men. Woodward messed up Rogue’s powers but nothing too crazy, except, you know, she absorbs a cave. Okay, so it might have been the spirit of a Native American who was attached to the cave but still… a cave.
Again, because her mutant powers don’t really get brought up that much, and Rogue uses them a total of five times in the whole book, it’s easy to just ignore it ever happened or to brush it off as the fancy of a fan fic writer who is really trying to think out the box, only forgot where they put the box. I mean, it’s kinda a neat idea, spirits are energy too… but here it’s not really given the thought it deserves, like Woodward was simply oblivious to just how WTF that is considering all other canon Rogues.
But I’ll let it slide, because, to be honest, I had a bigger issue with James.
I wish I could say James magically turns out to be Gambit, but that would be a lie. I wish I could tell you he’s an interesting character in his own right but again, a lie. True, he’s an alien, sorta (and that’s in the first 50-ish pages so not really a spoiler), but he also looks exactly like Gambit.
“That’s what I decided to call him, El Creepo, even though by now I’d got close enough to see that he looked like a pretty sexy guy. I guessed he was only a few years older than me, with long, dark hair. It looked like he hadn’t shaved in a couple days. It was too dark out to tell for sure, but I had this feeling he had blue eyes – piercing blue. Not only that, he wore this long, black leather coat.”
And the similarities don’t stop there… he even has a family dynamic which is very similar to Remy’s, plus he’s apt to act and say things that Remy would. Now, I’m cool with Rogue’s little hook up with Magneto, so I wouldn’t have minded James as a love interest to Rogue as long as he was his own person… but to take this character which fit Woodward’s sci-fi theme and make him look and act like Gambit is insulting to all three characters. Rogue has a type, yes, she goes for the strong, passionate, reformed bad-boy types like Gambit and Magneto… but do they have anything in common other than reformed bad-boy with an affinity for the color purple-ish?
It’s natural to see some cross over as there are only so many options when fleshing out a character, but when you put it all together, a grape and a raisin are still technically the same thing. Couldn’t Woodward have picked another fruit?
Woodward proves she doesn’t have much of an imagination anyway, especially when it came to dealing with James not being able to touch Rogue’s skin. Any time there was any ‘touching’ it was so unromantically dull. You know the whole ‘using fabric to kiss each other’ trope? Yeah, instead of using something thin or at least somewhat romantic, Woodward has Rogue use a balaclava… really… a balaclava (which is one of those ski masks that bank robbers use because they cover most of the face). Picture that in your mind for a minute.
The Pro-Romy camp will be annoyed that this Gambit look-a-like is the love interest when Woodward could have just wrote a mutant story and used Gambit himself. The Anti-Romy camp will be annoyed that James is so much like Gambit he might as well be Gambit. Either way, no one is winning in the OTP department. I just started to picture James differently and that made it better, though for some reason I was seeing the guy from I Am Number Four… and don’t ask me why, it just seemed to fit.
Woodward’s Rogue has a fondness for leather pants…
As for the rest of the romance, it tries to get a little smutty, but you know that feeling you get when you’re watching a tv-show on a premium cable channel and they have a sex scene just cause they can? That’s pretty much what it feels like in this book. Since Woodword couldn’t go full Rated R she went PG-13 half-heartedly. Or maybe she wanted to keep it PG and was told to add some spice, dunno. Maybe it was because I just couldn’t get into the relationship, there wasn’t any fire in the flame.
In fact, Woodward seemed to care more about the anti-pollution, pro-socialist message than the romance. Seriously, it was just way too obvious that this was a bit of a love note to the 99%.
Anyway, like I said, I detached myself from the story from time to time, reading it as a popcorn flick of a book. The kind you read, don’t really wish that time of your life back, but don’t care to reread either. The ending though felt really rushed and everything was over way too soon in a ‘that’s it?’ kind of way. But at least it left things open enough for you to write in a head cannon to make it work for you.
As far as Rogue Touch fits into the canon of Rogue stories, it really doesn’t deserve to be put much higher than fan fiction, even if it’s officially licensed. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table except maybe the wonder of Rogue being able to absorb spirits. So as long as you can read it as a fan fic, instead of a pro fic, then it shouldn’t upset you too much unless you’re really sensitive about your Rogue or your Romy.
And I will say this about Rogue Touch… it’s better than X3… not that that’s saying much…