Title: The Air the I Breathe Author: Chellerbelle
Source: X-Men Movies Character(s): Rogue & Gambit
Rating: M Genre(s): Drama / Adventure
Chapter(s): 122 Status: Complete
Author’s Synopsis: Rogue copes with near isolationism when her powers return. Gambit accepts truths about himself he has tried to ignore. In this sweeping, multi-lifetime spanning tale, Rogue and Gambit circle each other like two immortal celestial bodies, waxing and waning, but will they ever find a moment in time to come together, or are they destined to live forever, just out of arm’s reach?
Welcome Readers, it’s the end of the week and I’m ready to review this monstrosity of a story; 122 chapters! It’s been a long time since I read something this long and for a moment I was contemplating giving up on the story – I’ll delve into the why later – but I didn’t so now I can honestly say that I’ve read this story and can review it. Ladies and gentlemen, I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.
This is a lengthy story and it has given me quite a bit to talk about but for sake of my sanity and to not bore everyone I’m going to limit what I talk about to my synopsis of the story and four main aspects of the story. I’m going to be delving into the story’s connection to the Marvel-Fox movies (X1 – X3 and “Wolverine Origins”), the overwhelming amount of subplots, the characters, and the romance. There are multitudes of other things I would love to touch on but I think keeping this review focused will be best for everyone; myself and you, the Readers.
This story chronicles the events and lives of Rogue and Gambit a few years after “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Rogue regains her powers (as suggested at the end of the film with Magneto) only now they’ve been turned up exponentially; it’s no longer limited to skin-to-skin contact, now it’s being exposed within an X radius of Rogue and the abilities she drains are permanent. This drastic increase in power and Rogue’s lack of control cause her to live a life of near isolation. During her isolation she befriends Gambit and they strike up a relationship that lasts hundreds of years.
There’s a lot that happens in this story and I’ll touch on several of those points when I get to the subplots, but needless to say, Rogue and Gambit live very interesting lives in this story. Each adventure weaves into the next part of the story and becomes more inventive as the technology changes and the expansion of humans from Earth to the outer reaches of space. There is a lot of care that went into making this story and the events flow fluidly and connecting back to the movie foundation.
Speaking of the movies, this story holds to its source pretty well, particularly in the beginning with the cure and the events of the movies. Even Gambit’s backstory is crafted using a mixture of Wolverine Origins, the comics, and original adaptation; the flaws from Origins are explained not as throw away excuses but as future subplot developments. For instance, the reason why Gambit’s eyes are normal in the movie is explained as a byproduct of mutation experimentation he went under by Mr. Sinister. Things like are nice nods to the movies while making a feasible, geek foundation in the comic lore.
The story makes several call backs to the movies. At one point it’s to the kind of love triangle from X2 between Bobby, Rogue, and Pyro when Rogue reunites with Pyro on Asteroid M. The relationship does not move beyond platonic but it’s nice to have the story rebuild the relationship and make it far better than the one in the movies. At another point it’s to Hank McCoy’s role as a mutant liaison for the for government which the story expands out to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., this story subtly mingles the Marvel-Fox world with the MCU. Most of it is in the form of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement, Rogue joining Stark Industries, and Gambit befriending Tony Stark as a stockholder. However, other MCU characters are mentioned or make brief appearances such as Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Vision, Scarlett Witch, and Captain America.
Despite the roots being in the movies, the story does not limit itself to the world of the movies. For instance, it ignores “Days of Future Past” entirely and implements events from the comics such as Asteroid M, Mutant Town, the Mutant Registry, the war/alliance between Skrull, Kree, Brood, Shi’ar, etc. There is so much that happens that have no basis in the movies but show up in the comics and other media versions.
A lot of the events that I mentioned are among the many subplots – and there are many subplots. The subplots are all events that take place during Rogue and Gambit’s lives, they don’t always directly affect Rogue and Gambit but they all create some impact and get wrapped up at various points in the story. For instance, there’s an entire portion of the story (several chapters) where Rogue’s desperation takes over and makes her suicidal; she attempts various (some very creative) suicide attempts only discover she has absorbed some mutant’s powers that counter her attempts. It’s very heartbreaking and powerful, but makes the resolution even more heartening.
There’s the subplot of how involved should Rogue be in global/galactic events since her powers are so strong and she’s accumulated so many mutant abilities. It’s a very long subplot that carries from the middle of the story (Apocalypse part 1) to the very end. There’s the continual debate over if Rogue should be on the front lines of military operations and wiping out the enemies entirely using her absorption powers versus her using the powers in defense. Rogue chooses not to kill others and actively uses her powers only to send aggressive enemies back to their home or away from endangering others.
The subplot with Candra, the Thieves Guild, and the Exilir of Life is lengthy and comes up periodically throughout the story until the end draws near, then the story becomes hyper aware that the subplot needs to be wrapped up. It’s an okay wrap up but in some ways I forgot some of the build up to it because so many other things were going on like Mojoverse, the Cult of Apocalypse, everything with Hope Summers and the M’kaan crystal…
There are a lot of subplots and for most of the story it’s fine because events (world events) happen and Gambit and Rogue would be expected to somehow get involved or be informed of those events. However, much later into the story the number of subplots going on is almost too much and it becomes difficult to keep track – much less interested – in everything going on. Like I honestly don’t remember much about what happened in Mojoverse because it was the least interesting among the subplots. I also didn’t care for the Shi’ar empire’s royal line, who married whom, and Katherine’s capture then rescue.
I need to take a breather because just mentioning all the various subplots has tired me out. Plus, I need the breather before moving on to the next exhausting topic, the characters.
Alright, I’m back from my breather. Let’s talk about the characters, I’ll start off easy with Rogue and Gambit. Rogue is…nothing like the Rogue from the movies. I know that the movies don’t really allow viewers to get to know Rogue on the personal level of Wolverine but the Rogue in this story feels galaxies away from the Rogue in the movies. By no means is this bad, the Rogue in this story is very engaging even though she seems to carry her own soapbox. I like that she’s really smart (x2 masters’ degrees in Environmental Engineering and Aerospace Engineering) and she’s an engineer. It gives Rogue more to rely on than her mutant powers.
Gambit is similar to movie counterpart although far more badass. He’s an actual thief in this story and he’s quite the lady’s man. This story takes its time in developing Gambit’s character and establishing who is at the beginning and the changes that occur over the course of the story. I will say that the Gambit at the end of the story is not nearly as badass as the Gambit at the beginning, but I guess that’s to be expected once a man has settled down once with kids.
Now as for the other characters, there are too many! There are characters from the MCU Avengers, Thieves Guild, Externals, X-Factor, Starjammers, Deadpool, etc. The list is endless!
The good part about all these characters is that it truly fills out the world and helps to showcase that time passes not in months or years but decades. So, most characters who get introduced are there shorter periods of time until age catches up to them or they retire to the background. On the flip side, there are so many characters getting rotated in and out of the story that it becomes hard to keep each of their stories straight and how they connect with characters from other subplots. It’s especially bad near the end of the story when there are so many characters that I started wondering if these characters were necessary. Here are some examples of characters who I have to wonder why they were included in the story.
First one up, Dust. She’s in the story for one scene where she is confronted by Apocalypse and his horsemen, and then never seen or heard from again. I think she died. Anyways, the scene does nothing for the story except showcase Apocalypse and his horsemen but they show up later, and the terror that the group causes was already hitting home without this scene. It feels like a waste of a character.
Next up is Quentin Quire. He’s in the story for a good chunk of the time that Rogue is the Warden on the moon prison where he is an inmate for years and gives Rogue a hard time. The next time he appears is when humanity is preparing for its first attempt at space exploration. He’s the communication link between the ship and the headquarters as he’s the only telepath that can use the ship’s cerebro system to communicate across the galaxy. During this time, he and Rogue have telepathic sex a couple of times but no real relationship forms and he suddenly drops out of the picture entirely. About the only role he truly played is giving Rogue class 5 telepathy.
Finally, there’s Rachel Summers. The story jumps to her a few times but then she suddenly disappears from the story once she reaches the safety of Sanctuary. She’s used to set up the conflict between Hope Summers and Rogue but due to her sudden appearance then absence I wonder if she was truly necessary. She feels like a throw away character and someone I didn’t need to spend any time following for this story.
With the number of characters in this story I know there are more that I could name who I wondered if they really were needed for this story, but I need to move on to the last topic; the meat of the story, the romance.
Normally, I’d say “slow build” for romances like this where the characters start off as friends and through the progression of time become more than friends, but “slow” seems too light of a word for this romance. This romance is like the human evolution type of slow; small changes and takes centuries to see results. This is not a flaw; I appreciate that the slow build is over 100 years. I just find it a bit funny that this is a literal slow build romance.
What hurts the romance is that it’s the main plot of the story and the climax for it (Rogue and Gambit finally get together) happens with 30 chapters left to go. Normally, following the climax is another chapter or two of falling action to wrap up loose ends and subplots, but this story took 30 chapters of falling action to wrap up every single subplot and to create new ones (Rogue finally touching Gambit). It over stays its welcome.
Near the end, if feels less like a story about Rogue and Gambit coming together and more about all the subplots that need to get resolved. The last 30 chapters focus more on anything else going on and when it returns to Rogue and Gambit it’s to show more scenes of Netflix and chill (literal and euphemism) and dinners with Gambit’s family. The scenes begin to feel like filler while the story pieces together the conclusions for the subplots.
Hell, even the ending has nothing to do with the romance but everything to do with not abusing power and Rogue saving (x) people by taking them to a new universe. It just falls flat so hard that I really started to not care. I no longer cared about the Rogue and Gambit romance because they were already together, what the hell did I care if they could touch or not? I didn’t care about the Mojoverse subplot or what Mystique was doing. I didn’t care about what Hope Summers was up to or the Cult of Apocalypse. I just ceased caring because the climax had come about a bit too soon. At least it did for me.
Readers, this has been an exhausting experience to read this story and then review it. I’m not touching on all the great things in this story or all the things that bothered me because there is just sooooo much in this story. So, instead of going into a rant I will simply say that if you are an X-Man fan (comics and movies) and you have the time to spare to read this story, go for it. It is a lengthy story and I don’t regret reading it. I have been taken on a roller coaster rise and this story entertained me, made me cry, made me angry, and made me smile. It’s thought out and thorough; maybe just a bit too ambitious. But at the end of the day, it’s worth checking out.