Published by Aconyte Books, Rogue: Untouched is part of the ongoing ‘Marvel Heroines’ novel series. This particular entry focuses on Rogue – a mutant and member of the X-Men.
If you’re unfamiliar with the X-Men, it’s a Marvel superhero franchise about members of society known as mutants living in plain sight with regular civilians. Mutants are seemingly ordinary people who possess extraordinary abilities.
Rogue: Untouched brings together X-Men fan-favourites Rogue and Gambit. If you’ve ever followed the comics, movies, or the excellent X-Men Evolution TV show of the late ’90s, this is written for you.
‘But does Rogue: Untouched still appeal to non-comic book readers?’ I hear you ask.
The short answer is yes.
Who is Rogue?
Anna Marie – more commonly known as Marie (or Rogue) – is a down-to-earth, sharp-tongued waitress with a dry sense of humour.
Kwitney captures Marie’s iconic ‘Southern belle’ persona wonderfully, from her Mississippi drawl to her appending of ‘sugar’ to certain phrases. It’s authentic writing, adding depth and believability to her character, avoiding the very real risk of slipping into cliché.
As an aside, I’ve actually seen other bloggers compare Marie to Sookie Stackhouse of the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels. An apt comparison – both Sookie and Anna Marie work as waitresses in a bar, possess a similarly dry sense of humour, and are verifiable badass female leads.
Add to the fact that, by coincidence, Anna Paquin plays both Rogue and Sookie on screen in X-Men and True Blood respectively, and it’s clear to see the influence.
Rogue’s power allows her to absorb other mutants’ powers by touch, allowing her to mimic these powers and – in doing so – acquire memories, emotions, and visions. Again, coincidentally, almost vampiric.
Nonetheless, Kwitney is a great writer. She demonstrates a strong knowledge of the source materials and writes Remy and Rogue in an authentic and compelling manner. Rogue: Untouched delivers some outstanding character moments as a result.
The Narrative of Rogue: Untouched
The narrative of Rogue: Untouched is, for the most part, pretty good.
The first half is certainly the stronger section. Remy and Marie’s first meeting is excellently drawn. And it’s genuinely compelling to see her begin to learn of her powers and how to use them.
However, pacing is an issue at times.
The novel starts well, with some decent world-building and compelling exchanges between Rogue and Gambit.
And then Part Two happens. Remy gets a little lost amidst a slew of new characters and the novel grinds to a halt. I take the point that it’s Rogue’s story – not Remy’s – but he does play a large role in the narrative.
From here, it then varies between slow, meandering chapters, punctuated by fight scenes that are scatty and difficult to follow.
Still, in spite of the pacing, the narrative remains fairly strong throughout. It’s a good read and it captures the essence of the X-Men.
X-Men is not short of powerful female characters, an irony hopefully not lost on anyone. So, it’s no surprise that female characters are very well-represented in Rogue: Untouched.
Iconic women such as Storm, Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, and Psylocke aren’t part of this story, but bar Remy LaBeau (Gambit), virtually all of the key characters in this novel are women.
Tessa is a particularly charming and well-written character. She’s also disabled, but her disability does not define her entire character.
Tessa’s written in a sensitive, non-patronising way, and in this respect, it’s good to see positive disability representation. Especially in superhero media. Tessa simply belongs, and that’s great.
And belonging, after all, is a core part of the X-Men identity. It’s a series about people learning to become comfortable in their own skin – sometimes figuratively, often literally – and embracing who they are.
Is Rogue: Untouched worth reading?
Rogue: Untouched is absolutely worth reading.
X-Men fans will love it because it’s true to the lore, the characters are written excellently, and it’s more X-Men content.
Furthermore, there are a host of nods to X-Men comics, including the references to the characters’ classic costumes (Remy’s trench coat and Rogue’s green & yellow suit – just to name a couple!)
It’s worth mentioning that the book is non-canon but to be fair, the so-called X-Men canon is all over the place anyway. Still, Rogue: Untouched is a great novel and worthy of any entry in the X-Men universe.
Without prior knowledge of X-Men, it’s still a very good novel. The characters are well drawn (well, Remy and Anna Marie are), and makes for a decent origin story. If you enjoy character-driven YA novels, Rogue: Untouched should appeal – regardless of your experience with X-Men.
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