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REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE PSYLOCKE
By Thomas Wheeler

The prominence of some characters in the Marvel Universe can be a little difficult to define. Sure, you have major players like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, and so forth. And there's no shortage of characters that for one reason or another, just never quite rose above the level of one or two appearances where they got the heck beaten out of them by somebody on the other side and that was the end of them.

But then you have the rest of the players on the field. Take PSYLOCKE, for example. She's been involved with the X-Men, which is arguably as sure a road to fame and fortune in the Marvel Universe as you could ask for. And she's certainly got a complex and convoluted backstory. But when you think of the X-Men, hers isn't exactly the first name that leaps to mind.

She's had a number of action figures over the years. One of the most impressive, from some years back, was a 9", cloth-costumed "Famous Covers" figure that took astoundingly good advantage of her costume, as well as of her distinctive hair color.

Now, she's part of the MARVEL UNIVERSE line of 4"-scale action figures. Let's consider as much of the history of Psylocke as can be reasonably presented here, and then have a look at her Marvel Universe action figure.

Psylocke -- real name Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock -- was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Herb Trimpe. She first appeared in the Marvel UK comic book Captain Britain #8 (Dec. 1976). She was initially a supporting character in the adventures of her twin brother, Captain Britain, briefly substituting for him in the role.

Later, she became the mutant superheroine Psylocke. Originally presented as a precognitive in the pages of Captain Britain and then as a telepath, the character was eventually written as unexplainedly acquiring the telekinesis of Jean Grey. Psylocke later possesses both telepathy and telekinesis.

In the Captain Britain series, Chris Claremont introduced her as a supporting character, the sister of Brian Braddock, the eponymous Captain Britain, and established her career as a charter pilot. He also established that she had psychic abilities, the full extent of which were unknown, though no explanation is given for these powers. In Marvel UK's Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #243 (Oct. 1977), Betsy Braddock is presented as a professional model.

In Marvel UK's Daredevils #3 (March 1983), Alan Moore establishes that the character has begun to work for the governmental organization S.T.R.I.K.E., who are making use of her psychic abilities. Her boyfriend Tom Lennox is also a S.T.R.I.K.E operative, who is later murdered. The story also presents the character as having dyed her hair purple -- she was originally blonde. This hair color has subsequently become the dominant presentation of the character. The next major change for the character came in the 1986 relaunched Captain Britain series, where Betsy Braddock stood in for her brother as Captain Britain, and was rendered blind by the supervillain Slaymaster.

In New Mutants Annual #2 (1986), Claremont integrated Braddock into the X-Men franchise. The story sees her abducted to the Mojoverse, where she is subjected to brainwashing, fitted with bionic eyes, and referred to as "the Psylocke" for the first time.

After being rescued by the New Mutants, she takes up residence at their mutant-training academy, run by Magneto at the time in absence of Professor Charles Xavier. After aiding the team unofficially, Braddock proved herself by single-handedly facing the murderous supervillain Sabretooth, and also by using her telepathy to glean vital information from his mind during the events of the "Mutant Massacre." Afterward, Braddock is formally invited to join the X-Men and officially adopts the codename "Psylocke."

Initially written as a pure telepath with few fighting skills, Psylocke later adopts body armor. This changes in Uncanny X-Men #250–251 (1989), where the X-Men flee from the cybernetic terrorists, the Reavers, through the Siege Perilous, an extradimensional teleportation device.

In the next story arc, Braddock has fallen prey to the Japanese terrorists of the Hand, who brainwash and physically alter her. Braddock now believes herself to be "Lady Mandarin", the Hand's supreme assassin. This physical manipulation involves the modification of Braddock's physical features, modifying them from the previously established depiction of European to Japanese. After she is rescued by the X-Men's Wolverine and overcomes her brainwashing, the character retains the combat skills granted through the Hand's modification techniques, as well as the ability to manifest her total focused telepathy in the form of a "psychic knife."

In 1994, writer Scott Lobdell set up a relationship between Braddock and her teammate Archangel. The character is severely injured by a crazed Sabretooth in the Lobdell-written Uncanny X-Men #328. Her life is saved by the use of a mystic artifact known as the Crimson Dawn, the aftereffects of which granted Psylocke the ability to teleport in and out of shadows.

Lobdell also temporarily took her out of the X-Men roster this issue. Braddock returns to the team in X-Men, vol. 2 #77–78, where she uses her Crimson Dawn–enhanced telepathy to trap the Shadow King in the astral plane. Any use of her telepathy would result in his release, so she forgoes the use of her telepathic ability. Some time later she would develop telekinesis for the first time instead.

In the Claremont-written X-Treme X-Men #2 (2001), the character dies, her death lasting until 2005's Uncanny X-Men #455; Claremont also wrote this issue, later stating he had always intended to revive her. Briefly, the character was depicted in Exiles, a spin-off comic-book series in the X-Men franchise, set in an alternate universe. With the cancellation of New Exiles, Psylocke starred in her first solo book, the X-Men: Sword of The Braddocks one-shot.

Afterwards, the character was brought back to the main Marvel universe in early 2009 within the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock was born in England. Raised in the small town of Maldon, Essex, Betsy was Sir James Braddock's second child; she, her twin brother Brian, and elder brother Jamie had a very privileged life. By the time their parents died, Betsy had become a charter pilot.

After she and Jamie were taken hostage by the Red Skull's agents and freed by Captain America and Captain Britain, Betsy learned the latter was her brother Brian. At this time Betsy began to develop precognitive powers. She dyed her hair purple and took up modeling. At the age of sixteen, her psychic powers fully manifested, which grew to include telepathy.

Agent Matthew recruited Betsy into S.T.R.I.K.E.'s Psi Division. As she had inherited membership to the Hellfire Club from her father, Betsy was sent to infiltrate it, but was warned off by Tessa for her own protection. She also met future boyfriend Warren Worthington for the first time during one of the Hellfire Club parties. When the crime lord Vixen hired Slaymaster to eliminate the Psi-Division, only Betsy, Tom Lennox, and their friend Alison Double were left when Brian defeated him. When reality warped due to James Jaspers' powers, Tom sacrificed himself to give the Braddocks time to escape from a group of superhero hunters. Betsy was in Tom's mind when he died; feeling his death, she was left traumatized.

Following the repair of the reality warp, an evil version of Captain Britain from another universe named Kaptain Briton switched places with Brian. After several months, Vixen lured Betsy into a showdown with Slaymaster, who brutally beat her, then gouged her eyes out. Brian flew to her rescue and killed Slaymaster. Betsy refused an agency's offer of cybernetic eyes, preferring to rely on her psychic abilities; she went to Switzerland to recuperate.

Betsy was kidnapped from the Alps by Mojo, brainwashed, given cybernetic eyes, and, as "Psylocke," became the star of his new show "Wildways." Brian and the New Mutants rescued her, after which Betsy moved to the X-Men's mansion to recover, exactly where Roma, Guardian of the Omniverse, needed her to be.

When the Marauders attacked the Morlocks, the X-Mansion was used as a temporary infirmary for injured survivors of the massacre. Knowing that the X-Men were away in New York, the Marauder Sabretooth invaded the mansion. Psylocke used herself as a bait to lead him away from the injured until the X-Men arrived to help her. While Sabretooth and Wolverine fought, Psylocke used her telepathy to gather information about the Marauders and their leader, Mr. Sinister, from Sabretooth's mind. Wolverine, though initially reluctant to involve outsiders in the X-Men's affairs, was impressed by her bravery and nominated her to join the team.

The X-Men later battled Freedom Force and the Adversary in Dallas, and, in a televised battle, sacrificed themselves to allow Forge to bind the Adversary; Roma secretly restored them to life, and gave Betsy the Siege Perilous, which they could use if they ever wanted to start new lives.

The X-Men moved to the Reavers' Australian Outback base, from where they took on the Brood, Genoshan Magistrates, Mister Sinister and the Goblin Queen, M Squad, Mr. Jip and the Serpent Society, Master Mold and Nimrod, and Zaladane and the Savage Land Mutates. Never a dull moment, really. As they were about to depart the Savage Land, Betsy had a precognitive flash of the Reavers killing the team. To prevent this, she sent them through the Siege Perilous.

Betsy reappeared amnesiac on an island near China, where the Hand, a ninja clan, found her. Matsu'o Tsurayaba, their leader, saw a chance to save his brain-dead lover, Kwannon. Spiral informed Matsu'o that Psylocke's telepathy could restore Kwannon, and Matsu'o accepted. Unknown to Matsu'o, however, Spiral actually placed the two women's minds into each other's bodies. She also merged their genetic structures, leaving both women with physical and mental traits of the other, and with each possessing half of Psylocke's telepathic power. With some physical and mental conditioning, Psylocke—inhabiting Kwannon's body—became the Hand's prime assassin, taking the name Lady Mandarin. She gained highly remarkable fighting skills and learned to focus her telepathic power into a "psychic knife."

Lady Mandarin's first mission pitted her against Wolverine. Betsy's psychic knife attack revealed Wolverine's memories of who she used to be and allowed her to break free from the Hand's conditioning. Psylocke rejected her role as Lady Mandarin and escaped with Wolverine and Jubilee, eventually going with them to the island nation of Genosha, where the New Mutants had been kidnapped along with the X-Men's leader, Storm, by Cameron Hodge. Following Hodge's defeat, the X-Men reunited and returned to New York.

Psylocke then joined the Blue Team led by Cyclops, for whom she displayed an obvious attraction. When Phoenix found out, the two women fought, but were interrupted by the arrival of Kwannon, now calling herself Revanche, in Betsy's former body, claiming to be the real Psylocke. Unable to discern which was truly Betsy, both stayed with the X-Men, maintaining an uneasy coexistence. Learning she had the Legacy Virus, Revanche had Matsu'o kill her, restoring Psylocke's full personality and telepathic potential. She then became romantically involved with Angel.

When Sabretooth seriously wounded Psylocke; Angel, Wolverine, Doctor Strange, and Gomurr the Ancient retrieved a magical liquid from the Crimson Dawn dimension that healed her and gave her the new ability to teleport through shadows. Kuragari, Proctor of the Crimson Dawn, tried to claim Betsy as his bride, but was thwarted with Gomurr and Angel's aid, freeing Betsy of the Dawn's influence; however Psylocke still retained the abilities associated with it.

Subsequently she aided Storm against the Shadow King, who tricked Psylocke into initiating a psychic shockwave that disabled all other telepaths, leaving him unchallenged on the astral plane. Her own astral form was destroyed, but her exposure to the Crimson Dawn gave her a new shadow form with temporarily enhanced powers, which she used to trap the Shadow King's core. To keep him trapped she was forced to constantly focus her telepathy on him, effectively rendering herself powerless.

Jean Grey's attempt to help Betsy deal with the Shadow King somehow swapped their powers, leaving Betsy telekinetic. After ending her relationship with Archangel, Betsy joined Storm's X-Treme X-Men team in the search for Destiny's diaries. In Valencia, Spain, she died in combat with the man known as Vargas while protecting Rogue and Beast, who were badly beaten by the villain. Brian Braddock and Meggan collected Psylocke's body from Spain. She was buried at the Braddock family estate and a memorial to her was erected at the X-Mansion by Beast.

One year after her death, Betsy awoke where she had died, unaware of how she had survived, and was soon reunited with the X-Men.

After a number of adventures, Psylocke returned to the UK, and learned that Shadow Xavier, leader of the Shadow X-Men, had taken over the minds of his jailors in Crossmore Prison, and was demanding to see her. Accompanied by Excalibur, Betsy visited the prison, where Xavier revealed his true identity as the Shadow King, and tried to take revenge, having Excalibur attack Brian so that Betsy could witness his death; however, immune to his control, Betsy telekinetically induced a stroke in Xavier's body, freeing Excalibur. Before she could finish him off, Psylocke was interdimensionally teleported to the Crystal Palace at the Nexus of All Realities.

Appearing at the headquarters of the Exiles, heroes gathered from several realities to protect the Omniverse; both the Exiles' choice of Psylocke as latest recruit, and the timing of same, were apparently the result of Roma's manipulations, again moving one of her pawns to where it would soon be needed as part of a greater plan. Betsy eventually returned to her native Earth to let Brian know she was alive.

Although she would have more Exiles adventures, Psylocke was kidnapped by Madelyne Pryor's Sisterhood while traveling between parallel worlds. They also stole Betsy's original body, in which Kwannon had died, at a graveyard. A ritual of sorts with both bodies was performed, resulting in Betsy's original body being brought back to life. The Sisterhood, now including a brainwashed Psylocke, attacked the X-Men.

Dazzler was forced to use her powers on Psylocke, damaging half of Betsy's face. Dazzler's attack shocked Betsy back to consciousness, enabling her to overcome the Red Queen's control and return to her Japanese body. After these events Psylocke's powers changed once again; she now possesses both telepathic and telekinetic abilities, but with her psionic potential divided between them -- neither ability is as strong as it once was. She has since remained active with one or another team of X-Men.

As to her powers and abilities, in her earliest appearances in Uncanny X-Men, Psylocke possessed the power of telepathy. She could read and project thoughts over long distances; control minds; subdue and tap into other's powers; affect people's memories; project mental illusions; and generate psi-bolts that could stun, injure, or kill others. She could also project her astral self, and the astral bodies of other people, into the astral plane. She could scan entire towns with her mind, and leaf through the psyches of the inhabitants of a city to learn of their condition or intentions.

When using her telepathic powers, a butterfly-shaped energy aura would appear around her face. It was never truly made clear in the comic books by the writers whether this was something that could be perceived by others or if this was simply an 'effect' to show when Psylocke was using her powers to the reading audience (although it was implied that it could be).

After her transformation, Psylocke's psi-form changed to reflect her new Japanese appearance. In addition, Psylocke could also use her telepathy to project a focused beam of directed psionic energy called a "psycho-blast" that could incapacitate or kill a living being instantly. This attack was powerful enough to pierce the Juggernaut's psi-proof helmet. The psycho-blast was able to affect inorganic material as well as living targets (when directing a psycho-blast at Sabretooth the energy destroyed the metal Cerebro helmet she was wearing).

After her physical transformation into a Japanese ninja assassin she gained highly developed fighting skills in addition to her telepathy, which at this stage was not as powerful as it had originally been before her transformation, as half of her psionic potential still resided with Revanche in her original body. After Revanche's death, Psylocke's telepathy was restored to its previous strength. The most common usage of her powers was the manifestation of a "psychic knife," which operated in the same manner as her "psycho-blast" ability, but at close range. Described as the focused totality of her psychic powers, she often used it to disrupt the minds and nervous systems of her foes by driving the glowing "blade" of psionic energy into their heads.

As time progressed, Psylocke grew more proficient at using her powers, e.g. she could use her telekinesis to reshape a pistol into smaller metal projectiles. Instead of her psychic knife, Psylocke began to manifest a telekinetic katana composed of raw psionic energy. At its lowest intensity her katana functions much like her psychic knife once did, short-circuiting the victim's nervous system on impact. At its highest level, the katana can slice through almost any physical matter.

Aside from the blade, Psylocke can use her telekinesis to enhance her speed, strength, and fighting skills to superhuman levels. She can also levitate herself and others, or manipulate matter in standard telekinetic fashion. She can also create telekinetic shields of various sizes and strength, and her telekinesis has been said to be strong enough to shatter mountains

Additionally, Psylocke has been classified as a master martial artist, though the specific fighting arts she has mastered have never been revealed.

So, how's the figure? Really extremely impressive. Psylocke has had a number if incarnations and likenesses over the course of her history, obviously. Wisely, Hasbro chose to produce the most familiar and prominent one.

Psylocke's skin color and face look somewhat Japanese. Admittedly, that likeness, even in the comics, tended to be thrown off a bit by the long purple hair, and the facial features tended to vary depending on who was handling the art chores.

The figure's coloration, let us say, isn't quite typically Caucasian. I would not call the facial features especially Japanese, but they definitely look like Psylocke. The eyes actually have magenta-colored irises -- an interesting choice, but not out of line with the character's overall color scheme. She has purple lipstick, as well.

The eyes, eyebrows, and lips have been very neatly painted. I can fairly say that with figures in this 4" size range, regardless of the concept or company, it doesn't take much to throw off the aim at times, and end up with a slightly mispainted figure. You've got a head that's barely 3/8" in height, with facial features that barely take up 1/4" on that face. That's not going to be easy under any circumstances.

I have to say I am extremely impressed with the precision placement of the painted features on Psylocke's face. I'll also grant that over the course of the entire production run, they probably didn't all come out this neatly, so I also consider myself quite fortunate to have found this particular one. All the more reason why I decided to add her to my collection.

Psylocke has long, flowing, purple hair. This has been achieved with a separately sculpted piece, that is very neatly detailed, that was attached to the head during assembly. The basic color is a light purple -- that honestly looks like the same shade that was used for the rooted hair of the Famous Covers figure years ago -- with some black detailing brushed into it. This works surprisingly well.

Psylocke's best-known costume essentially looks like a one-piece swimsuit with a high neck, colored in a metallic dark blue. Once again referencing the cloth-costumed "Famous Covers" figure, they achieved this by making the costume mostly out of a glossy, leather-like material. Obviously, since the Marvel Universe figure doesn't feature an actual cloth costume, Hasbro caught a bit of a break in the wardrobe department, and simply molded the body, which I suspect is one of their standard female body mold sets, in dark blue with a moderate but distinctly noticeable metallic finish.

Psylocke also has high boots in the same color, and -- for lack of a better term -- gloves, although the gloves do not hand hands and really start at the wrists, but cover most of her arms. The boots and gloves end near the tops of the arms and legs with several narrow bands in the dark blue color. All of these costume details have been rendered very effectively on the costume.

The overall result is a costume that looks somewhat revealing, but really isn't. If you take a second look at it, you realize that most of Psylocke's body is covered, except for her head, hands, and relatively minimal areas near her shoulders and hips. One assumes that the fabric of the costume has some protective properties for the types of fights ninjas can get into. It's really an ingenious design.

Completing the costume is a red, sash-like belt, molded as a separate piece, and placed around the waist during assembly. It's nicely designed and detailed.

Psylocke is very impressively articulated. She is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. She stands well as holds poses well. I'm especially pleased with the leg articulation. It took a while for Hasbro to get away from a rather over-engineered design that was too complex for its own good and honestly didn't work all that well, and implement a simpler "ball and socket" design that was reminiscent of the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe line, which still afforded a wide range of motion. I don't really recall to what degree the earlier design, which still crops up infrequently, might have been used on female figures, but I was pleased to not see it here.

Psylocke comes with two accessories. One is a manifestation of her "psychic knife". Generally speaking, I've felt that attempting to mold representations of energy-based super-powers in plastic doesn't work very well. However, the design of Psylocke's psychic knife, although an energy form, was specific enough so that this accessory works better than most.

The other accessory is her energy-based katana sword. This is really a very nice accessory. Both accessories have been molded in transparent purple.

So, what's my final word? I'm not at all a completist with the Marvel Universe line, but I have to say I am impressed by Hasbro's willingness to do a wide range of characters from across the Marvel Universe, of varying degrees of prominence. Psylocke, while perhaps not an "A-level" character in the minds of many, has certainly participated in enough of the X-Men's adventures over the years to warrant a place in the collection, and Hasbro has done a really outstanding job with this figure. If you're any sort of X-fan, or just happen to like Psylocke in particular, you'll be abundantly pleased with this figure.

The MARVEL UNIVERSE figure of PSYLOCKE definitely has my highest recommendation!