The past several years have been tumultuous ones for the Marvel Universe's mutant population. Their ranks have been depleted while their enemies seem to grow stronger in power. Some mutants have been crushed by these changes, while others have risen to meet the challenges of their new environment. One mutant who's making the most of her current status quo is Rogue, who recently gained control over her mutant ability to absorb powers and memories, and can now touch others without harming them. She was also recently given new purpose when Cyclops tasked her with making sure the younger generation of X-Men are prepared to meet all the challenges that await them.
Rogue's exploits in her new role are currently being chronicled by writer Mike Carey in the pages of "X-Men: Legacy." CBR News spoke with Carey about his plans for Rogue, which include pitting her against a villain who's a dark reflection of herself, reuniting her with a loved one, and fighting to end a powerful threat that arises thanks to the events of the "Necrosha" storyline.
In "X-Men: Legacy Annual" #1 Rogue was tasked with a new mission from Cyclops, and the position really seems to suit her. In the issue, she counseled the young mutant Indra on reconciling the contradictions between his responsibilities as an X-Men and his religious beliefs. "I think to some extent she really takes to her new role because what Cyclops says to her is true. She is the patron saint of 'been there,'" Carey told CBR News. "She knows what it's like to be young and vulnerable and have a power that makes you into a pariah. She's been traumatized and she's been victimized in every respect. She can empathize with what some of the younger X-Men are going through. That's part of what she brings to the job.
"Also, in terms of personality, she's always been one of the most emotionally available and open-hearted X-Men," Carey continued. "She has this warm quality about her, and I think that's a great personality trait to have when you work with children or young people."
In "X-Men: Legacy Annual" #1 Carey kicked off a four part storyline that could be thought of as "X-Men" meets "Silence of the Lambs," since it pits Rogue against the violent and hungry mutant villain known as Emplate. In the "Annual," Emplate attacked the X-Men on their new island home of Utopia. Things got personal though for Rogue at the end when Emplate abducted one of her new charges, the young mutant known as Bling.
"We wanted to bring Emplate back because we needed a creepy villain to pop in on Utopia, and he hadn't been used for a long while. For my money, he was the most interesting villain of the 'Generation X' days. He ended up having this convoluted origin, which tied into the very complicated story of the St. Croix family. We refer to it a little bit in this arc, but we didn't want to stray too far into complicated continuity issues. So we're mainly extrapolating on the fact that Emplate has to feed on mutants to survive. He's effectively a vampire who feeds through these mouths in the palm of his hands, and he's been starving to death since the Decimation [the event that robbed most of the world's mutant population of their abilities] because there haven't been any new mutants to feed on. He's looking for someone he can use as long term food stock, and he settles on Bling."
One of the reasons Carey wanted to pit Rogue against Emplate is because the characters are dark reflections of each other. Rogue gains powers and memories by touching others and a side effect of her powers used to be that she would rip the conscious mind out of whoever she touched, effectively "eating" their personality. This caused Rogue all sorts of emotional pain and grief. Emplate on the other hand, gains powers by physically eating the marrow of other mutants, and he does so unrepentantly.
"There is a scene in 'Legacy' #230 where they touch," Carey revealed. "Emplate is feeding on Rogue, and there's this very scary short circuit in their powers, where each of them, to some extent, is feeding off the other. You could definitely see Emplate as 'There but for the grace of God,' as far as Rogue is concerned.
"The other interesting thing about Emplate is that he's no longer attached to our dimension. He has a home, which is part fortress and part prison," Carey continued. "It's this pocket dimension where he lives after being exiled there by his sisters. So his greatest power is also his greatest weakness. He can't stay on our dimensional plane. He gets pulled back to this other dimension. That means it's really hard to fight him, because at any moment, he could make himself insubstantial, pull himself away from this reality so nothing can hurt him."
In the Annual's main story, Carey reintroduced X-Men readers to Emplate, but in the back-up story, he revived another plot element from X-Men lore; the fact that Rogue's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Gambit, had once been turned into Death, one of the servants of the mutant villain known as Apocalypse. In the back-up story, it appeared that that aspect of Gambit's personality had just been laying dormant, and a telepathic attack brought it out. Gambit was able to bring the Death aspect of his personality back under control by the story's end, but it appears to be only a matter of time before it returns once more.
"My main reason for putting that plot thread back into play was because, when I reintroduced Gambit en route to 'Messiah Complex,' I allowed him to sort of sweep the Death persona under the table. He says, 'I got by with a little help from my friends.' So we all know Mister Sinister did something; put some kind of blocks in which suppress the Death powers and personality," Carey explained. "We also know that Apocalypse used Celestial technology to transform Gambit into Death, and that technology is not easy to get out of you once it's been implanted. So it's something that needed to be addressed, or else we needed to pretend it never happened, and it was too important to say it never happened."
Carey sees Gambit as an integral part of the supporting cast of "X-Men: Legacy," and the storyline about his Death persona will move forward in the series, just not right away. "'Legacy' #228 is in stores this week, and is part two of the four part Emplate arc. Gambit does appear, but he's part of stuff happening in the background," Carey revealed. "The story mainly focuses on Rogue and Bling. We won't fully check in with Gambit again until around issue #233 or #234."
Bling may be a lesser known X-Men character, but Carey has found her to be quite compelling. "She has this strange life and backstory, which has seldom been touched on," the writer remarked. "So little of it has been seen or discussed openly. That makes her a really interesting character to revisit and sketch in a little more."
The presence of another supporting character, Emplate's sidekick D.O.A., is meant to inject the arc with elements of dark humor. "You can't play D.O.A. straight, so there is a little strain of dark comedy running through the story, just because he's there," Carey explained. "For the most part, though, it's sort of creepy and darkly atmospheric. After the Annual, all the other parts of the story take place in Emplate's dimension. You find out a lot more about his home and the other aspects of where he lives, as well as the other entities he shares that dimension with. It's a nasty place."
The Emplate arc wraps in November, and in December's issue #231, the "Necrosha" storyline hits "X-Men: Legacy." Carey's portion of the storyline, which runs through "X-Force," "New Mutants" and "Legacy," will remind some readers of his work on the adjectiveless "X-Men" series. "It becomes a team book again, for a little while, and what a team! We've got some of the X-Men's heaviest hitters coming together; some really powerful characters," Carey said. "The threat they're facing is appallingly powerful as well, though, so they'll need every single iota of that shared strength and experience to survive it."
The situation in "X-Men: Legacy" arises as an unintended consequence of the main "Necrosha" storyline, which will be chronicled in "X-Force." "What we're dealing with in 'Legacy' is part of the fallout from 'Necrosha.' The main threat is being dealt with in 'X-Force,' but something happens on Muir Island, which has the potential to be catastrophic in its own right. So the X-Men have to divide their forces, while at the same time they defend Utopia against this truly appalling threat."
Rogue's journey to Muir Island will bring her face to face with someone she never expected to see again, her deceased foster mother Irene Adler, AKA Destiny. "Rogue's relationship with her other foster mother, Mystique, is complicated, but I think she feels nothing but love, loyalty, and gratitude towards Destiny. There are a couple of poignant moments when they meet up again," Carey stated. "That positive parental relationship was part of the appeal of bringing her back, but the main reason she's brought back is plot driven. You'll see why she's brought back in 'Necrosha,' and then you'll see the consequences play out in 'Legacy.'"
Destiny won't be the only X-character returning to the fold during the "Legacy" issues of "Necrosha." "There are two other very important returning characters in the story, besides Destiny," Carey revealed. "One character will actually be on the team and is an important returning character who we haven't seen in awhile. The other is the villain, a character the X-Men have fought before, but weren't expecting to have to fight again."
For the Emplate and "Necrosha" storylines, Carey is working with two different artists, each with their own style, Daniel Acuna and Clay Mann. "Acuna is the perfect match for the Emplate story. I've seen his pages from issue #228, and they are both beautiful and terrifying. He really captures and creates a strong sense of this insane place where Emplate lives, and the insane and scary rules by which it operates," Carey remarked. "Clay Mann does gorgeous character work on the 'Necrosha' tie-in story. His Blindfold is heartrendingly beautiful; so vulnerable and convincing. Acuna has a certain heightened stylized approach, whereas Mann has very detailed and realistic style. I think they're each perfect matches for the stories that they're doing."
Both the Emplate and the Necrosha storylines are firmly rooted in current X-Men continuity, a trend that will continue next year, because after "Necrosha" wraps up, "X-Men: Legacy" will be involved in the recently announced "Second Coming" crossover which runs through four X-titles and brings the "Messiah Trilogy" to a close. "We've come back into current X-Men continuity at a very exciting time," Carey said. "The X-Men are going through some major changes. The stakes are very high for everybody, and the world in which the surviving mutants live is changing radically. Rogue becomes part of all these events, and it's kind of cool to be expanding on them in this series."