Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Elisabeth Braddock is a no-longer-dead babe!

Before I begin, my lovely wife has posted a very funny (to me) look at dealing with insurance companies over at my other blog. Check it out if you've ever been on hold with an insurance person!

Well, Psylocke is back from the dead. All my faithful readers (hi, you four!) know that I have not been buying Uncanny X-Men, even though it has pretty art by Alan Davis, but the last two issues, #455-456, have Elisabeth Braddock comin' on back from the great beyond. I guess Joe Quesada's declaration that "dead is dead" means, well, jack shit. That's okay, because it's comics, after all, and nobody stays dead forever (when is Gwen Stacy coming back, by the way?).

Elisabeth Braddock's resurrection, at the hands of really, two of the three creators who ever respected her (Claremont and Davis; Alan Moore, I would argue, is the third), makes me want to take a look at her, since I love her. Yes, I love her. I love three X-Men: Psylocke, Dazzler, and Rogue. Yes, Alison Blaire. Deal with it. Betsy has been, I would argue, treated the worst of all of them. I'm not exactly positive why this is. Some review of her history is necessary (I'm going total nerd mode here, so those who can't handle it might want to avert their eyes):

I have no idea when Betsy first showed up, but the earliest I know of her is in the Captain Britain trade paperback written by Alan Moore and drawn by Alan Davis. Now, it's conceivable that Claremont created her, but who knows. Anyway, Betsy is Captain Britain's sister, and she's a telepath. She's working for the British equivalent of SHIELD, and she asks for Brian's help (Brian is Captain Britain) when her co-workers start getting killed by Slaymaster. Captain Britain kicks the crap out of Slaymaster, and all's right with the world. The next time we see Betsy is when Jim Jaspers and the Fury shows up. The Fury is one of the great one-note evil things in comics -- it's built to kill superheroes, which kind of limits its effectiveness in the Marvel U. (Claremont tried to bring it back recently, but what's the point when it can't actually kill anything?). Jim Jaspers is an insane mutant with the ability to completely remake reality. Jaspers takes over England and drives the heroes underground, but his soldiers find them and kill some and drag others, including Betsy, away to a concentration camp. She's out of the picture for the rest of the trade, which has two of the most intense super-battles ever put on paper -- Jim Jaspers versus the Fury, and Captain UK versus the Fury. Simply staggering.

In the next trade, written by Jamie Delano and then Alan Davis, Betsy sits on the sideline for a while, until Brian gives up being Captain Britain. The British government decides that England needs a Captain Britain, and they recruit Betsy, playing on her sympathies for the children born while Jaspers was warping reality. They get Captain UK (Linda McQuillan, who is from another dimension) to train her, and then Betsy flies out to defend British interests everywhere! She runs into Slaymaster, who beats the crap out of her and rips her eyes out, in another one of those intense moments that are etched in comics history. At the end of the trade, she's off canoodling with one of the agents of the British government in Switzerland. She doesn't really need her eyes, since she's telepathic, and can visualize stuff rather well.

She arrived in American comic books in New Mutants Annual #2 (1986), in which she was kidnapped by Mojo and Spiral and given bionic eyes with tiny cameras in them, the better for Mojo to spy on our world. This began her long association with Spiral (I'll get to her later) and also had a keen little plot idea (her eyes) that never really went anywhere. It also had a weird, somewhat creepy romantic angle between Betsy and Doug Ramsey, otherwise known as Cypher, who developed a bit of a crush on her. It also never went anywhere, but it was still creepy -- Doug was a young teenager, and Betsy was at least in her twenties, and not shy in the ways of l'amour. Doug's first sight of Betsy was in the buff, so it's perfectly understandable that he'd have a thing for her, but it was still weird. Doug went off to fall for Kitty Pryde, a much more suitable match for him, and then got himself killed.

(A bit of an aside: Doug Ramsey had one of the coolest mutant powers ever -- the ability to decipher any language. It was how the New Mutants were able to communicate with Warlock. He was picked on for his "stupid" powers, and Claremont never really figured out what to do with him, so Marvel killed him. The only other power as cool as Cypher's was Kylun's, who had the ability to exactly duplicate any sound he heard. Brilliant stuff from the mind of Alan Davis.)

Betsy joined the X-Men in the semi-classic #213, when she fought Sabretooth for the first time and held her own, allowing stupid Wolverine to step in and "save" her. She was a regular after that, and after the X-Men went through the Siege Perilous at the end of the "Fall of the Mutants" story, she became more of a leader in the group. These issues, from about #225-270, are really the forgotten classics of the X-Men. Claremont had a grand plan that Marvel never really let him do (it involved bringing Jim Jaspers "back," sort of -- Jaspers is actually one of the lawyers in the trial of Magneto from issue #200 -- and having him destroy the Marvel U.), and these issues often suffer from fill-in art and no artist sticking around very long (Silvestri and Lee are the most famous artists on X-Men during this time, but Leonardi was there for a bit, too). However, this is Psylocke's Golden Age with the book. Eventually, the X-Men fall apart, and in #251, we learn that Betsy tricked them all into going through the Siege Perilous again to escape Donald Pierce and his Reavers. It's an interesting evolution of the character during the #230s-250s -- Betsy starts wearing armor and becoming more aloof and even bitchy. This was, to my late teenaged mind, the best X-team: Dazzler, Rogue, Storm, Colossus, Longshot, Havok, Psylocke, and Wolverine. When they went through the Siege Perilous the first time, they all became invisible to electronic scanning devices (something else that's gone by the boards). Rogue goes through the Siege again when they fight the Master Mold Sentinel, Storm supposedly gets killed when they fight Nanny and the Orphan Maker, and Wolverine is always off in Madripoor. By the time issue 251 rolls around, the team is down to Psylocke, Colossus, Dazzler, and Havok (Longshot quit at some point). Betsy offers them the option of going through the Siege Perilous, which is some weird cosmic gateway that judges if you're worthy of moving on, and if you're not, you get resurrected with no memories of your former life, blah blah blah. Anyway, the last four X-Men go through, and Logan (soon joined by Jubilee) is the only one left. It's a great story.

The next time we see Psylocke (after the unbelievably cool issue #255, which takes place on Muir Island and has a cameo with Betsy) is issue #256, which is the first of the "Psylocke-as-Mandarin's-assassin" trilogy that started with great potential but led to the ruination of the character. This was part of Marvel's "Acts of Vengeance" crossover, which sucked in books like Amazing Spider-Man but here actually made some sense and tied in with the rest of Claremont's story. (The idea was that the villains would switch heroes because the heroes wouldn't be expecting them, having always fought their "own" heroes. It really wasn't as stupid as it sounds.) #256-258 feature Jim Lee on art and are really the apogee of Psylocke's popularity and accessibility. The idea is that the Hand found an Asian woman off the coast of Hong Kong who turned out to be Psylocke. (Okay, I lie. She wasn't Asian when they found her, in issue #255. By #256, she was. I'll get to it.) Issue #256 is another one of those excellent issues that makes me weep when I realize that today, Claremont is nothing but a hack. It's packed full of not only the Hand offering Mandarin an assassin, but also Psylocke's psychological and, indeed, physical journey to becoming an Asian woman. (Another aside: why was she Asian? Because ninjas are cool! Especially in 1989. See? Lack of respect for the character, even from Claremont -- we need a ninja, because ninjas are cool. Hey, where's Betsy these days ...?) Spiral is behind it. Spiral has this weird place called the Body Shoppe, where she changes who you are (if you happen to dislike who you are). Like any Faustian bargain, there's a price. She tempted one of the X-Men before, back in #207-208-209 (one of those) when she lured Rachel Summers away from her home and wiped out her memory (Rachel eventually resurfaced, of course, in Excalibur). Here, Claremont uses some of the important points in her past to show Betsy's desire to become something more than just a lesser version of both her brothers (her twin Brian and her older brother Jamie, who went nuts -- another sadly unrealized character), not to mention her desire to break out of the sheltered English school girl shell she had been placed in. Betsy's addiction to action had been explored before (Davis made her Captain Britain, after all), and with this issue, Claremont allows her inner wild child to break free. She psychologically destroys all the X-Men on the way to gaining all of the Mandarin's power rings. In the end, Mandarin thinks she is his slave, but we know that Spiral and Mojo have taken her soul. It's a powerful issue, made prettier by Lee's spectacular art.

In the next two issues of the trilogy, Psylocke fights Wolverine and Jubilee and struggles to regain her wits and soul from the Mandarin. More excellent stuff, as Psylocke taps into Logan's psychoses, which breaks the Hand's programming but ties Betsy to Logan's craziness. At the end of issue #258, Betsy, Logan, and Jubilee are off to find the rest of the X-Men, but Jubilee doesn't trust Betsy, and Betsy doesn't trust herself. It's one of those wonderfully ambiguous endings, rife with plot danglings and future problems, that Claremont did so well for so long.

Psylocke, unfortunately, suffered when Claremont stopped writing her. Sure, other writers attempted some things with her, but mostly, it was forgettable stuff. The fact that she was Asian was finally addressed in the ridiculously obtuse and dense story with Kwannon/Revanche, with whom the Hand apparently switched ... you know, I'm not even going into it. She died (of the Legacy virus) and Betsy moved on. They had her trying to seduce Cyclops for a while (and why is he such a chick magnet?), but that never went anywhere. She got in another fight with Sabretooth and almost got disemboweled. This led to the weird "Crimson Dawn" story, where she was cured with some magical elixir that also, in true comic book fashion, came with a price. Again, I have no idea what it was all about, but it was stupid and featured pretty Joe Madudiera art. She hooked up with Angel for a while, but that never went anywhere (and Angel, apparently, cheated on her, if I remember that Peter Milligan one-shot about Warren). Marvel, deciding that with Charles Xavier and Jean Grey running around they didn't need another telepath, neutered her when she trapped the Shadow King in her mind and could only keep him there by never again using her telepathy (oy!). Claremont brought her back when he returned to the X-Universe in 2001, but this time, she was a telekinetic and she was inexplicably in love with that Indian dude (not because he was Indian, but because they hardly knew each other). I hate it when they switch telepaths to telekinetics -- they've done it with Jean Grey too. It's just dumb. Anyway, at some point (during the Kwannon mess), Betsy got her sight back (who knows what body her mind is in these days), so the Mojo-cameras were left by the wayside. Finally, in X-treme X-Men #2 (Aug. 2001), Claremont kills her. Off-panel, no less.

Yes, I've gone on too long. Sorry. This just annoys me. It's not like Betsy was Paste-Pot Pete or something. She was a viable member of the X-Men for 15 years, and her death scene is a tiny little reflection in Hank McCoy's eye. Now, maybe Claremont wanted to show how great Vargas was, but please. Jean Grey gets killed more times than she changes underwear, and every single time, we're supposed to believe it's the most dramatic thing ever. Psylocke can't even go down in a blaze of glory. It's just a measure of the lack of respect writers have for the characters. You understand, I'm not bashing the fact that Psylocke was killed -- she's fictional, for God's sake, and I'm all for killing characters, even my favorites. It's when it's handled so poorly and again, with such lack of respect. After Claremont left the books in 1991, no one did Betsy well. It's this lack of knowledge about the characters that pisses me off, and is really a symptom of the change in comics, one that I'm not really sure I like -- the de-emphasis on the soap opera aspects of the books, especially in the Marvel U. I talked about this briefly when I looked at Amazing Spider-Man #238-251, and it really does bug me. Betsy (and to a lesser extent Alison Blaire, just because I love them both) had great potential (I know, potential is a French word meaning "hasn't done shit yet") because they had lives outside of the X-Men, and any writer worth his salt should be able to read up on these people. Betsy was an action junkie with a superhero twin brother (and a crazy, really powerful big brother), ties to the British government, trauma in her past, freakin' bionic eyes given to her by the absolute ruler of another freakin' dimension!, yet no one ever used to her best potential. Dazzler was a freakin' rock star, for God's sake, whose father wanted her to be a lawyer and was disappointed when she didn't. But back to Betsy. She was dead, and that was fine, but even Colossus, as lame as his death was, got to die saving mutants everywhere. It really bothered me that another of my favorite characters was condemned to comic book limbo because no one knew how to write her.

Now she's back. I have flipped through the two issues of her return, and I have some hope because it's Claremont and Davis, but Claremont is a shell of his former self and Davis doesn't write the book and probably won't last long on it anyway. I don't know how she's back from the dead, but if I know Marvel, it will be a stupid reason (they don't even trust her -- Peter comes back and they welcome him with open arms, but Betsy's back and they tie her up -- and yes, I know it's two different writers, but that's why we have editors -- remember them?). In my mind, there are two perfect ways to explain Psylocke's reappearance, and both make some sense in the context of the Marvel U. (Someone said they performed an autopsy on Betsy, so that might make it more difficult to explain her reappearance, but let's put aside the fact that they know how she died -- stabbed with a sword, people! -- and that an autopsy wasn't necessary and just focus on other things.) First, Spiral. Spiral is a woefully underused character (Vaughan's introduction of her in Ultimate X-Men has potential, but we'll see). Spiral, as I've pointed out, can reweave reality. Bringing people back from the dead wouldn't be that hard, would it? If Marvel allows Claremont to do that, it would bring Spiral back as a evil little manipulative twister of souls, something the Marvel U. needs (I haven't seen Mephisto in a while, after all -- not since his memorable appearance early on in Priest's Black Panther series). Spiral is also obviously an avatar of Shiva, and Shiva is both the destroyer and the creator. I'm amazed someone hasn't run with this idea more, preferring instead to make Spiral always in the employ of a buffoon like Mojo. (This idea is copyrighted Greg Burgas 2005, by the way. Hah!) The other way Psylocke could come back is through the good graces of her brother, Brian Braddock. I know Bendis introduced a new Captain Britain not long ago, but as far as I know, the last time we saw Brian, he had taken over for Roma as Guardian of the Multiverse. In the old Captain Britain series, Roma was always messing around with reality, and in the Excalibur mini-series (from early 2001), Brian gets her job. Back in the old Captain Britain series, Alan Moore killed Brian, but Merlin and his daughter Roma were able to resurrect him with just a few scraps of his hair and clothing. It seems that Brian, now that he has Roma's job, could do that, especially if the corpse is his sister. This would also tie into Marvel continuity, it wouldn't violate anything that hadn't been established before Joey Q. came on board, and it would allow Betsy's family connections to be re-established. (This is also copyrighted Greg Burgas 2005!) I have very little faith in either of these ideas being adopted.

Anyway, that's my rant about one of my favorite characters. They could have left her dead, for all I care, but if they're going to bring her back, do it right. One of the reasons why I'm so annoyed with the X-Universe these days is because of the ridiculous amount of characters they have, all of whom apparently need to star in their own book somewhere. Remember the good old days when someone could guest star and then you wouldn't hear from them again for months or years? What was wrong with that? Betsy is a perfectly good character who has a great deal of depth that has yet to be explored. If they choose not to, that's fine -- let her move back to England until someone comes along who is interested in her (that's my request, Marvel, for a Psylocke mini-series that I can write). This lack of respect for anything that has come before is why we have a lot of crap in mainstream superhero comics these days.

Ah, my inner nerd is satisfied. Carry on!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, it was always Claremont's intention to bring Psylocke back from the dead. He was never able to in X-Treme because the editors rejected the idea. Stop being such a whiny blogger.

27/2/05 7:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

Does your wife know how much you love Psylocke? :)

Great post, Greg. Great review of her history. Personally, I never had a thing for her for two reasons:
1. The purple hair. I don't know why, but it just put me right off.
2. The expression "the focused totality of her psychic powers". Claremont forced her to say every time she used her psychic knife and it drove me nuts.

I've lost track of the times I've read the Captain Britain TPB, but the scene where she is blinded never loses its power.

(An aside - I agree; Doug Ramsey had a cool power.)

Thanks for the rundown of EB's life in comics; great stuff, and makes me want to read those Claremont X-Men comics again, which is always a good sign. Claremont was good, once upon a time, wasn't he? I stopped reading when he was booted off X-Men, so thanks for update on what's happening to the love of your life...

Good ideas on potential reasons for bringing her back to life, too; who says nerds don't know anything? :)

28/2/05 8:20 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yeah, Moore gave her the purple hair because it was so '80s, and nobody ever bothered to have her dye it another color. In that issue when Claremont turned her Asian, she actually has blond hair. It's not natural, people -- she could change it!

My wife knew of my nerdiness when she married me, and shockingly enough, did NOT run screaming to the hills. She probably regrets it now ...

28/2/05 11:01 AM  
Blogger Krys said...

Greg's wife says: A comic book character is so much less threatening to my fragile ego than an actual person. As long as Greg doesn't cry out "Psylocke!" at inopportune moments, I'm OK with it.

28/2/05 2:50 PM  
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