Originally created by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden in 1981′s Avengers Annual #10, Rogue was first introduced as villain and adopted daughter of the villain Mystique. Over the course of a few stray appearances in Dazzler and ROM: Spaceknight (of all places), by the time she ended up on the doorstep of the Xavier Mansion in 1983 she was on her way to renouncing her villainous ways and the shadow of Mystique and into the light as a hero. Although Chris Claremont is one of the biggest contributors to the X-Men mythos over the years, Rogue is one of the few characters he actually co-created (instead of inherited from others), but as the team passed out of the Xavier/Cyclops era she became an integral part of the team. After Claremont’s departure in the mid-90s, Rogue went from team player to leading figure. In 2006, Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo (a longtime fan of the character) secured her role as the leader of an X-team for the first with the adjectiveless X-men title (later re-named to X-Men: Legacy).
In terms of power, Rogue is one of the X-men’s most powerful members, with arguably one of the most versatile powersets among heroes in any universe — standard flight, invulnerability and strength, accompanied with the ability to duplicate someone’s power set and memories when she touches them. But with all that power, Rogue’s high points in comics are hard to delineate; she’s two miniseries and one short-lived ongoing of her own, with her story primarily told in various X-Men group titles. iFanboy tasked me to comb the desert like in Spaceballs in search of the definitive set of stories to get to know Rogue, so here we go.
Essential Ms. Marvel: Your eyes do not deceive you — some of Rogue’s earliest stories are collected in a Ms. Marvel collection because for the early part of Rogue’s comic history she was inexorably tied to Ms. Marvel by stealing her powers — and her life — when Rogue was a villain under the wing of Mystique. Although there’s several non-Rogue stories in this compendium, the key ones I’m targeting here are Rogue’s debut in Avengers Annual #10 and the second-part of that story from Marvel Super-Heroes #11. Claremont penned both these stories, showing a young and impetuous Rogue pushing Ms. Marvel off a bridge and absorbing her powers to a degree that the future Avenger is fully absorbed into Rogue’s body. This wouldn’t be reversed until decades later, but Rogue’s kept a portion of Ms. Marvel’s powers for her own ever since.
Essential X-Men, Vol. 4: Some of Rogue’s best stories are told inside the ensemble storylines of the X-Men titles, and in this collection comprises the induction of Rogue into the team, going from untrustworthy former villain and finally proving herself to the team and, more powerfully, to Wolverine. Of particular interest here is the two-part story from Uncanny X-Men #172 and 173 as Wolverine finds Rogue as his only ally when the rest of the team is poisoned in the lead-up to Wolverine’s wedding. Rogue goes so far as taking a deadly blast meant for Wolverine, giving him all he needs to know to trust her for the first time.
Essential X-Men, Vol. 8: Fast-forward to the late 80s, and Rogue has entrenched herself as key part of the team in this “Australian Outback” era, but the jem in this collection takes place not in a land down under but rather in Genosha — the first time that mutant-hating island appeared, in fact. Expertly rendered by the rotating team of Marc Silvestri and Rick Leonardi (with Leonardi being inked by P. Craig Russell (!!)), the story shows Logan and Rogue stripped off their powers and imprisoned, Guantanomo-style, to soak in the loathing the island has for mutants.
X-Men: Legacy: Salvage (Vol. 3): When Marvel switched the adjectiveless X-Men over to become X-Men: Legacy, for awhile it was a unique platform to tell some time spanning stories allowing for frequent flashbacks to better frame a story. In X-Men: Legacy #220 through #224, Mike Carey and Scot Eaton show Professor Xavier delving into Rogue’s powers and her control issues with it, with Xavier acting as a psychiatrist of sorts to allow Rogue to finally process the simmering (and sometimes overflowing) emotions that comes with her ability to take and harbor people’s minds and inadvertently crowd out her own.
X-Men Visionaries: Jim Lee: The story-arc I picked this for is the interesting but overlooked “Rogue in the Savage Land” story which sees Rogue make an unlikely pairing with Magneto in the Savage Land and also finally comes to term with having Ms. Marvel’s psyche imprisoned inside hers for the past decade. Claremont and Lee are at the top of their game here, and really delves into Rogue’s personality and allegiances and finding her own path.
X-Men: Supernovas: Rogue’s come a long way from being a foe of the X-Men to one of the team’s stalwarts, and this 2006 storyarc by Carey and Bachalo shows her taking the reigns of her own team with Sabretooth, a villain the X-Men were trying to put on Rogue’s path to herodom. Bachalo really gets Rogue’s character from the poise, design and little personality quirks, and Carey develops a really great storyline showing Rogue trying to fit into her new role as leader and not, well, a rogue.