Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This Hatred Unending!

Attempting to connect the dots regarding the mutant Mystique's reasons for her hatred of Carol Danvers can feel a little like following a trail of bread crumbs that have long since been scattered by the breeze. The general understanding is that the storyline would have been introduced and addressed by writer Chris Claremont in the pages of Ms. Marvel--but when that book was cancelled in early 1979, the Mystique/Rogue/Danvers idea was left in limbo until the time when Claremont might decide to pick it up again at some point and perhaps work it into another story elsewhere, adapting it accordingly if need be.

That point arrived over two years later, in the now-classic Avengers Annual #10, when Rogue went after Carol to siphon her Ms. Marvel abilities in order to use them to help Mystique break the captured Brotherhood of Evil Mutants out of prison. By now, readers of X-Men were well familiar with Mystique; but in this story, we became aware of some sort of problem brewing between Mystique and Carol--though, due to Carol's memories being wiped by Rogue's attack, the feelings of hatred that Mystique had for Carol were only known to herself and her friend/confidante, Destiny. Given all that was happening in this annual, Claremont either was unable or chose not to provide more than a general sense of Mystique's deadly vehemence toward Carol; but following up on the annual in an X-Men story in 1982, Claremont would have Mystique confirm her obsession with ending Carol's life when the two encountered each other at the Pentagon during a raid by the X-Men where Mystique was subsequently captured.

According to that story, the situation between Carol and Mystique was set to be expanded on in the Marvel Fanfare title, a hand-off which never materialized. And from here, things get a little muddled where Rogue is concerned. Carol, for her part, is taken in a different direction as Binary; but for all intents and purposes, the adversarial connection between Carol and Mystique is left by the wayside. And with Rogue comfortably settled within the X-Men book, Claremont, in two-year increments, begins to slightly revise Rogue's motivations and history. First, there's the following curious segment from a 1984 story where Rogue becomes aware of Michael Rossi (a former associate and lover of Carol Danvers) in danger aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and races to rescue him, her memories in a state of flux and resulting in her identity shifting back and forth between herself and Carol. Once Rogue succeeds in retrieving Rossi (by now worked over pretty well by his captors), Rossi learns of Rogue's connection to Carol and demands to know the circumstances.

Rossi is repelled by Rogue's actions, angrily rebuffing her and stalking off. But as we can see, Claremont is inserting bits and pieces of a prior plot that seems to have little if anything to do with Mystique, or even with the mission to free the Brotherhood.

Two years later, the X-Men find themselves in San Francisco, and Rogue returns to a familiar site--and to memories which continue to haunt her. Her memories will be familiar to the reader, as well--up to a point.

The discrepancy between this retelling and how it's presented in the Avengers annual lies in Rogue's (forgive the expression) state of mind at this point, as well as the implication in this flashback that she's acting alone and of her own accord. Granted, it would make sense for Rogue to be experiencing extreme disorientation and confusion following her attack on Carol, as she professes here--yet she goes on to attack the Avengers with full command of her faculties, completely on her game and with her own personality fully asserting itself, with no indication of any conflict within her. And while she could have hurled Carol over the bridge for the reason she mentions, it doesn't quite mesh with the impression we have from the Avengers story that she was following the instructions of Mystique, who would later target Spider-Woman in part for saving Carol's life.

Finally, in a brief story written by Simon Furman for Marvel Super-Heroes six years later, we see something of Claremont's plot from Ms. Marvel which would have led to Carol having dealings with both the Brotherhood and the Hellfire Club as part of an investigation into Mystique's activities with an arms dealer. That plot would also feature Mystique becoming aware of a prediction by Destiny that Carol would bring harm to Rogue, which naturally then puts Carol in Mystique's crosshairs. Furman, apparently drawing on the panels from the 1986 X-Men story where Rogue returns to San Francisco, attempts to give us an idea of why Rogue goes after Carol and why Rogue considers the fight a personal one, while it seems the reason of ambushing Carol in order to gain her abilities for the prison break has been dispensed with.

It's anyone's guess how Rogue, who presumably doesn't have any powers here beyond her siphoning ability, is able to put up a fight against a powerhouse like Ms. Marvel. Regardless, Mystique arrives and witnesses how her own efforts to take out Carol have brought about the very event that Destiny warned of.

Which unfortunately brings us back to square one, as far as pinning down the reason for Mystique's incensed hatred of Carol Danvers, which the Furman story doesn't quite justify. At this point, it may not be possible to go any further with the issue, with so much water having gone under the bridge for all three of these characters and taking into account the changes that Claremont wanted to make following the wheels he'd set in motion in the pages of Ms. Marvel. Barring a new story on the matter, we'll probably have to consider it finis. There seems little point to Marvel resurrecting a 35-year-old plot, all for the sake of tying up a loose end that even its original writer seemed to lose interest in. Claremont would instead pivot to focus more on Rogue's new life in the X-Men, while maintaining her relationship and overall background with Mystique. It was a compromise that proved easy to live with.

(With a nod to SuperMegaMonkey's Comics Chronology as well as Michael Andersen of, whose own research on this subject helped in navigating these rapids.)

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