Retconning Rogue’s Sex Life: ‘Sentry: Fallen Sun’ Is Not Very Good
As most everyone who reads comics knows at this point, Marvel's "Siege" event ended this week with a book that a number of fans have found to be a little lackluster. If you'd like to see something that makes it look like fried storytelling gold, however, I'd suggest the epilogue to "Siege" found in "The Sentry: Fallen Sun," because brother, that thing is rough.
Even beyond the title (a groanworth pun on something that didn't even really make sense when it was hung on the memorial for Captain America) and the fact that it's a comic that pretends that anyone cares about the Sentry (which they don't, outside of the truly amazing Jeff Parker/Paul Tobin scripted "Age of the Sentry," which was more of a tribute to the Silver Age than something that actually related to the character himself), it's just riddled with some downright lousy storytelling.
It's surprising, because Paul Jenkins is a very talented guy, and while his original "Sentry" mini-series doesn't hold up all that well under any sort of scrutiny, it actually was a neat idea and a great metatextual look at what sets the history of the Marvel Universe apart from its Distinguished Competition. It's one of a string of smart, successful hits that Jenkins' did around the same time, and while it was thoroughly undermined by bringing him into the Marvel Universe proper as Superman Stand-In #8, that's not on Paul Jenkins.
With this one, however, there's no getting around it: It is not very good.There's something ridiculous on pretty much every page, from the puns (Daredevil says he'll miss the Sentry's "wise counsel." Get it? Counsel? Because he's a LAWYER?) to the memorials from the various heroes.
What stuck out for me was the Thing's eulogy, which not only climaxes in a hamfisted "he was a better man than me" sob story, and the fact that it throws Ben Grimm under the bus to make the Sentry look better is only a part of it. Here's what got the "Oh come on" out of me:
The Thing tells a story about the Wrecker literally killing a bus full of five year-olds. Welcome to the Heroic Age, everybody!
It's utterly mind-boggling. It makes absolutely no sense. The only way you could make it crazier is if it was "a buys full of disabled but hopeful kindergarten kids who were on their way to a puppy farm on Mother's Day." It's almost as though Jenkins is doing it on purpose to create an extremely dark comedy, parodying the overblown super-seriousness and ultraviolence that's currently in vogue in comics, but if he is, it's so close to the source material that it's impossible for me to tell.
The scene that's getting the most vocal fan-outrage, though, is the book's portrayal of Rogue:
And the punchline:
While this is perfectly in keeping with the Sentry's gimmick of being involved in a parallel history of the Marvel Universe where he's everyone's best friend (occasionally, it seems, with benefits), this is problematic on a number of levels, chief among them being that it reduces Rogue to a prop in someone else's story. And whether you're a fan of Rogue and her eternal "Ah cain't touch yuh, Remy!" storyline or not, that's a disservice to the character.
There's a sexual aspect to Rogue's powers that's one of the more enduring metaphors for growing up in the X-Men franchise, in that they manifest when she gets her first kiss, putting her boyfriend into a coma. It's the comic book literalization of the fact that sex can be dangerous, and it's the driving force at the core of her character. And while Cyclops and Johnny Storm's conversation is left vague, the implication is clear: The "Did they" does not lead to "hold hands at the movies," it leads to "have sex?" And the answer is yes.
This is a huge deal for Rogue's character. It's the culmination of her entire story. And yet, here it is, not only happening off-panel, but happening with The Sentry, for the sole purpose of giving the X-Men a reason to show up at his funeral. There's no other point to it. She's a prop. And even worse, she's a prop used in service to another prop.
It's ridiculous. But on the bright side, I can't imagine that anyone would ever bother bringing it up--"Wolverine, take the sentinels! Storm, Magneto's vulnerable to a lightning strike! Rogue, do you remember that time you banged the Sentry? What was that about?"--so like everything else in this comic, it's pretty easy to just pretend that it never happened.
And like most things involving the Sentry that don't also involve Harrison Oogar, the Caveman of Wall Street, that's probably for the best.