The following is an attempt at Psylocke, nerdsplained, in less than 1000 words. Comic gods help me, as Psylocke might have one of the more complicated back stories in all of comics and, you know, we’re talking about comics, which are synonymous with complicated and convoluted. So here’s my best try at untangling Psylocke, organized around 7 key stories.
Psylocke Key Stories: #1 – British Model
In Captain Britain #8 (1976), Chris Claremont introduced Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock as the sister of Captain Britain. She was merely a supporting character at this point with a career path toward professional modeling. So far, so easy. Perhaps Psylocke is not a complicated character after all!
Not so fast. Shortly thereafter, Alan Moore gave her her purple hair, which came to be the least of the alterations in her appearance. Due to her psychic powers, she was recruited into the Psi Division of STRIKE, the UK’s version of SHIELD.
In a reality warp, an evil alternate-universe version of Captain Britain switched places with Brian Braddock, Betsy’s twin brother and the true Captain Britain. This psycho version of Captain Britain tried to rape Betsy and in self-defense she telepathically killed him. That’ll mess with your head.
After just a few short months, Betsy was lured into a showdown with the super villain Slaymaster, who brutally beat her, then gouged out her eyes. End Chapter 1, Psylocke’s Early Years.
Psylocke Key Stories: #2 – Eyeing the Mojoverse
Betsy was then kidnapped by Mojo, because darned if that weirdo isn’t predictable. She was brainwashed and given cybernetic eyes, all so she could become the star of his latest bloodsport reality show in the Mojoverse. It was here that she was first called ‘Psylocke.’
She was rescued by her brother and the New Mutants (New Mutants Annual #2) and taken to the X-Mansion to recover.
Psylocke Key Stories: #3 – Stares Down Sabertooth
In what may be the best most awesome X-Men crossover of all time – The Mutant Massacre – the X-Mansion was used as a triage center for injured survivors of the massacre. Knowing that the X-Men would be in the Morlock tunnels, the Marauder Sabretooth invaded the X-Mansion in order to finish off the survivors. Psylocke used herself as a bait to lead Sabertooth away from the injured, buying time until the X-Men could arrive to help her.
Then Wolverine fought Sabertooth while Psylocke used her telepathy to gather information about the Marauders and their leader, Mr. Sinister, from Sabretooth’s mind. Wolverine was impressed and nominated Psylocke to join the X-Men, which let’s be honest, doomed her to an even more convoluted character arc.
Psylocke Key Stories: #4 – Body Double
Oh, then Psylocke became a ninja.
Hmm, how do I explain this?
OK, here goes: During the years the X-Men were in Australia (the GLORY years, if you ask me!), Psylocke ended up with amnesia and under the influence of the Hand, a ninja clan. The leader of the Hand saw a chance to save his brain-dead lady friend, Kwannon.
Spiral (Mojo’s crony) placed Psylocke and Kwonnon’s minds into each other’s bodies, as well as genetically merged them, which split Psylocke’s telepathic power between them.
Psylocke, now inhabiting Kwonnon’s body, became the Hand’s prime assassin, wearing some really dorky body armor and taking the name Lady Mandarin. Now a ninja, she began to focus her telepathic power into a “psychic knife”, which would remain as a signature trait.
She was eventually rescued by Wolverine and freed from her mind-controlled state to rejoin the X-Men. The X-Men were later surprised by the arrival of Kwannon, who occupied Betsy’s former body and was now calling herself Revanche, while claiming to be the real Psylocke. Both stayed on the X-Men, which was really awkward, until it was discovered that Revanche had the Legacy Virus, and her death restored Psylocke’s full personality and telepathic potential.
But Psylocke’s body stayed asian.
Psylocke Key Stories: #5 – The Psylocke With the Crimson Tattoo
Sabretooth brutally gutted Psylocke.
In a desperate attempt to save her life, the X-Men and Doctor Strange gave her a magical liquid called the Crimson Dawn, which had side effects such as a red dagger tattoo on Psylocke’s eye. It also left Psylocke with a cold personality and upped her ninja quotient by giving her the ability to hide and teleport through shadows.
The Shadow King tricked Psylocke into using a psi-wave to remove all mutant telepathy on Earth, allowing him free rein in his mind-control. As they fought, the Shadow King destroyed Psylocke’s psychic form and nearly killed her. Psylocke submitted to defeat and swore allegiance to the Shadow King, where she tricked him into over-extending himself and she was able to trap him in the psi-plane, which caused her to temporarily use her telepathic ability.
But when Jean tried to help Psylocke deal with the Shadow King, they swapped powers, and Psylocke gained telekinesis to go with her telepathy.
Psylocke Key Stories: #6 – She Dies, Briefly
Psylocke died. She was buried at the Braddock family estate and a memorial to her was erected at the X-Mansion.
One year later, she conveniently awoke where she died, the Crimson Dawn tattoo gone. She later learned that it was her older brother, Jamie, who had resurrected her by stopping her spirit from going into the afterlife, with the intention of using her as a weapon against the Foursaken, a cosmic threat.
Psylocke Key Stories: #7 – Uncanny X-Force
Other stuff happened, and I’m close to missing my word count, so let’s skip it.
She had adventures in the excellent Uncanny X-Force run, and it was in those pages where she began dating Fantomex. Recently, she spent time in Paris stealing stuff and having sexy time with both Fantomex and his female clone-counterpart, Cluster. Because, comics.
Now addicted to killing and having carnal relations with Cable, Psylocke has started focusing her powers into different psychic weapon types such as a crossbow and flail.