Uncanny X-Men #256-258
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #256, Uncanny X-Men #257, Uncanny X-Men #258
These issues feature the most literal instance of Chris Claremont's "instant ninja" predilections transforming Psylocke from a British character with purely mental powers (to the point where she'd taken to wearing armor into battle for protection) to an Asian martial artist (albeit one that still has mental powers, although modified to suit her new persona). This is very strange, and these issues would probably have been looked back on as a slightly offensive curiosity similar to that time the Punisher was briefly transformed into a black man, except for the fact that the transformation is permanent and the change resulted in a surge in popularity for the character. It is still strange and probably offensive. But it's worth recognizing that a lot of people who know the X-Men primarily through video games or cartoons or who just came in later would have just recognized Psylocke as a prominent Asian female character at a time when there were few, and only later, if ever, learned her complicated backstory.
These issues are also nominally Acts of Vengeance issues, although as we'll see, this story has literally nothing to do with the rest of the crossover. There is a passing reference to the crossover, and one of the Acts of Vengeance arch-villains, the Mandarin, is the main villain here, but this story is unrelated to Acts of Vengeance in any way, not even superficially in the way, say, Alpha Flight's AoV issues were.
We begin with Matsuo Tsurayaba of the Hand having infiltrated the Mandarin's Hong Kong manor and killing all his guards
There are multiple denigrating comments about Iron Man in these issues. I'm probably being over-sensitive, but i take a bit of umbrage about that and chalk it up to mutant book chauvinism towards the non-mutant titles. Iron Man is mega powerful, in my opinion equal to an average team of X-Men or certainly as many Hand ninjas as you can throw at him. In-story, he's the literal representation of Western industrial power, a foil to the Mandarin's traditional sensibilities (or vice versa). There shouldn't be shame in losing to him.
Another thing worth noting is that in the Mandarin's last non-Acts of Vengeance story, in Iron Man #241-243, the Mandarin had been refashioned as a modern businessman, seemingly with amnesia. Claremont and Lee seem to acknowledge that story by placing the Mandarin in a business suit, in Hong Kong instead of mainland China, and by including the Mandarin's lackey Li Fong who had been introduced in that story. But beyond that there's no sense that this isn't anything other than the Mandarin of old. This isn't Claremont's fault, since the Mandarin had been appearing in his traditional guise in other issues of Acts of Vengeance, but this story, the first to use him in anything more than a cameo, might have been an opportunity to explain that his memory had returned or that he'd been faking it in the Iron Man issues or whatever.
Anyway, Matsuo makes a pitch to the Mandarin that involves Hong Kong's eventual reversion to mainland China's sovereignty, and, again, the fact that he's lost so many times to "the most common 'Yankee' super-hero", and then brings out his main argument: the Hand can offer him the means to know the intimate secrets of his foes.
That means, of course, is Pyslocke, who we saw the Hand capture after she came out of the Siege Perilous in the previous arc. The rest of issue #256 is showing the process by which the Hand is reprogramming her, mentally and physically. That process happens mostly inside Psylocke's head, as her brain runs through a series of fantasies based on her memories. Claremont obliquely references Psylocke's very first appearance, as Betsy Braddock, in Captain Britain #8, by showing her as a youth interested in flying planes (and with blond hair).
You'll notice the guy in the cap behind Pyslocke's brother Brian (Captain Britain). That's Mojo. Spiral figures into these sequences as well.
If it wasn't for future revelations (don't worry, i'll talk about Revanche in a second), i would write off Mojo and Spiral's appearances as part of the dream fantasies. And the Hand don't seem to be aware of Mojo and Spiral's involvement in Betsy's transformation. At least as far as they tell and show the Mandarin, she's been put into a tank where a pair of scuba divers are reconstructing her while a "sensitive" mentally monitors the transformation process. The Hand has set a goal for Psylocke, and the method of the process allows her to "provide the path" to reach that goal; i.e. by allowing her to use her own memories. So it makes sense that Psylocke would include them since they are responsible for an earlier transformation of Psylocke's, when her eyes were replaced by bionic ones.
So we have really three layers to Psylocke's transformation. First, she went through the Siege Perilous, which left her at least temporarily with no surface memories (which really, by itself could have led to a transformation if Claremont wanted to do it that way). Then we have the Hand, who as far as we can see is responsible for transforming her here. But, third, in the background we have Mojo and Spiral. Again, if it were just me looking at these issues in isolation, i would say their presence is as real as Brian Braddock or the X-Men that appear in this issue. But the MCP does list them as characters appearing, and we do know from the Revanche story (if nothing else prior to that; i'm not sure at this point but i don't think so), that Mojo and Spiral were really involved in the process. The story of Revanche is one that we won't get to for a while. But the gist of it is that Psylocke isn't really being transformed into an Asian woman here. It's actually that her mind is getting swapped with that of a woman named Kwannon (aka Revanche). Kwannon, an assassin for the Hand and Matsuo's lover, became brain-damaged, and Matsuo went to Spiral for help. I don't have a source for this, but i recall Fabian Nicieza, who wrote the Revanche revelations, saying on Usenet years ago that the reason he wrote that story is that he had missed these issues and didn't realize that there was already an explanation for Psylocke's transformation into an Asian woman.
Anyway, the point for now is that Mojo and Spiral really are appearing in this story. Let's get back to the brainwashing process.
As young Betsy moves from scene to scene in her dreams, she finds the rings of the Mandarin and puts them on. The first after the carousel scene above, the second after play-fighting with her bookworm brother Brian, which transforms briefly into a swords-and-sorcery battle, with the idea that it's Betsy's mutant powers perhaps manifesting for the first time.
We also meet the eldest Braddock sibling, Jamie, who is depicted as the bad boy of the family.
That scene transforms immediately into Psylocke as an adult wearing a low-cut spy outfit and talking to Doug Ramsey, who she once expressed romantic interest in.
As she enters Mojo and Spiral's Body Shoppe, she encounters Storm, who is being put through a series of costume changes.
And then Mojo says that "we can't have a Westerner... running the Hong Kong underworld" as her face is re-formed.
Another somewhat controversial aspect of Psylocke is her costume that debuts in these issues as well. It no doubt contributed to her popularity, but in more recent years it's made her the poster girl for exploitative art. It's worth noting that her costume is pretty explicitly a copy of Elektra's. Matsuo says that the Hand is hoping to succeed where they failed with her.
And then right after that we see (still in her transformation dream) her pulling off her outer clothes, revealing this costume. The one difference between Elektra's and hers is that Elektra had a loincloth around her waist, whereas with Psylocke the butt floss is clearly visible.
And don't blame me for these shots; these are the first panels of her in her new costume.
A page later, Jim Lee gets around to showing her from the front (mostly).
Psylocke continues to go around killing the X-Men and taking the Mandarin's rings from them, although she doesn't have to fight Rogue since she and Carol Danvers have already taken each other out.
After the X-Men, she's supposed to kill her brother, Captain Britain, but instead she's attacked by the Slaymaster.
She re-lives the scenario that blinded her...
...but this time is able to use her enhanced fighting power, combined with her telepathy, to fight back.
Slaymaster transforms into the Mandarin as she's fighting him, and she even resists his use of the Mento-Intensifier ring that he tries to use to dominate her.
The implication is that she hasn't fully succumbed to the programming.
But to start with, beginning next issue, she is working for the Mandarin as "Lady Mandarin" (which, i'm sorry, sounds a lot like Black Goliath to me).
She's acting as an enforcer for the Mandarin, consolidating the alliances that were lost thanks to Mandarin's repeated losses to "the lowliest of America's so-called "super-heroes".
She does well in this first official outing.
But she does have the Mandarin's rings in addition to her own abilities. I did think it was a little odd that the Mandarin would allow that, especially on her first mission, and it will come back to bite him.
Later, back with the Hand and doing some training, Psylocke demonstrates a new aspect of her telepathic powers - the ability to generate a psychic knife.
She's about to say that the attack's reach is only as long as her arm, but gets cut off by Matsuo.
Don't worry, though. She'll repeat the phrase "ultimate focus of my psionic powers" ten more times in these issues alone.
During this scene we have our one actual reference to Acts of Vengeance. It's explained that the Mandarin currently isn't around because he's off "picking gratuitous fights with American super heroes", which Matsuo is sure will result in another humiliating public defeat.
Meanwhile, Wolverine and Jubilee come to Hong Kong. Now, i explained why Psylocke is wearing Elektra's outfit, but i don't know why Jubilee is wearing Robin's.
Wolverine is still not fully healed, and he's still seeing visions of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers. He's brought Jubilee to Hong Kong to visit that city's chapter of Landau, Luckman, & Lake, the organization we saw in Wolverine #4-8 (but that branch, in Madripoor, was destroyed). They meet Rose Wu, someone that Wolverine has a history with (which will eventually be depicted in 1996's Logan: Path of the Warlord).
Similar to the previous Wolverine issue where we saw Wolvie posing with an LL&L agent in a tintype, here we have a picture of Wolvie with Rose, but seemingly in the future, and yet while Rose was younger.
Wolverine has come to LL&L for help searching for the X-Men. He sends Jubilee off with Rose's granddaughter Ruth to go shopping while he rests and talks to Rose.
I have wondered if the transformation of Psylocke into an Asian was in any way related to (Korean American) Jim Lee's participation. Did he want to add more diversity to the cast? If so, this was a strange way of doing it, of course. And the X-Men already did have the Chinese American Jubilee in the cast, although not officially a member of the team (which was in disarray at this point). There is some good mileage made of bringing Jubilee to Hong Kong.
Ironically, "yellow on the outside, white on the in" describes Psylocke better than Jubilee.
Jubilee and Ruth are kidnapped after the above scene, and not by that gang.
Wolverine, going out to investigate, finds that with his healing factor pushed to the limit he's not able to smoke anymore.
Then he's attacked by ninjas. He goes into action in his solo book costume.
After the ninjas he faces Lady Mandarin, who has taken Jubilee.
As they fight, parts of Lady Mandarin's costume comes off, revealing Psylocke. That surprises Wolverine enough that he's able to be defeated.
Issue #258 has Psylocke trying to mentally dominate Wolverine at the Hand's behest. And oh wait, here's another reference to Acts of Vengeance.
Ok, not really.
Jubilee makes a brief attempt at escaping and has a decent showing...
...and even manages to temporarily damage the Hand's equipment before getting captured again. But her attempt attracts the attention of the Mandarin, who decides to try to turn her into a traditional Chinese girl.
It doesn't work that well.
Wolverine continues to fight Psylocke in his head...
...but she eventually hits him with her psychic knife, which it turns out is exactly what he wanted, because now the Fury and Danvers figments can attack her too.
Any physical reaction to the figments are later said to really be the unconscious work of Psylocke.
Psylocke comes to her senses and pretends to bring a defeated Wolverine to the Mandarin so they can surprise attack him. But seeing Wolverine supposedly dead causes Jubilee to use her powers beyond what she's ever done before.
It wasn't quite what Psylocke and Wolverine were planning, but they take advantage of it as best they can.
Psylocke is able to resist the power of the Mandarin's Mento-Intensifier ring since she wore the rings herself.
While they're having a battle of wills, Wolverine comes up from behind.
Wolverine quoting from the first Batman film seems a little out of place here. Mandarin is also defeated a little too easily for my tastes, but i guess that should be expected what with all the trash talking about the cheesy American super-heroes he usually fights.
Wolverine negotiates a truce with the Mandarin and they leave. Jubilee still doesn't trust Psylocke, and even Psylocke says she's not sure if she can trust herself at this point. But Wolverine basically says he doesn't have a choice in trusting her, since they have to find the rest of the X-Men together.
There's just a quick check in with Storm, still a child and still on the run, in issue #257. Issues #257 and #258 also show developments of the "All New" X-Men on Muir Island. Something continues to be a bad influence on everyone, which is i assume why Forge is checking out Moira. Legion also captures Polaris and puts her in the cell once used to hold Proteus.
I don't know if there were complaints at the time about the transformation of Psylocke into an objectifiable Asian hottie. I feel like it was something that we just all sort of went along with at first and only later did our collective consciousness really start going, "Hang on... that's a little weird" as these things started getting discussed on the internet. But that could just be me marking my own personal transformation. I still definitely think these are good issues, but later depictions of Psylocke more as a sex object than a powerful fighter (and it really does start with some of the panels here) as well as a more critical assessment of the fake diversity issue have soured me on it a bit.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: As mentioned in the Considerations for Uncanny X-Men #254-255, we let Psylocke remain a captive of the Hand for an indefinite period of time prior to the start of these issues. That's necessary due to dependencies caused by Destiny's death in UX #255, but it also makes sense storywise since by the beginning of this issue the Hand has already begun its process of transforming Psylocke. If you wanted to, you could put breaks between each of these issues. Issue #256 ends with Psylocke's conditioning being completed, while #257 begins with her in full Lady Mandarin garb in the field playing the role of enforcer. And there could be a gap between #257, which ends with Wolverine and Jubilee defeated, and #258, which shows them having been held in captivity for an indefinite period of time. But the fact is that we actually want to go in the opposite direction and compress all X-Men issues from #251 on as much as possible due to dependencies introduced by Wolverine #19-20 and Uncanny X-Men #255, as detailed in previous entries.
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
OK, this has to be said:
-Psylocke gaining her psychic knife: good
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 2, 2015 1:15 PM
Such weak plot and painful storytelling. It feels like a stream of unconnected scenes from a not particularly meaningful narcisistic dream.
Were I still reading the X-Men regularly at this point in time, I would hold doubts of whether Claremont knew what story he wanted to tell. In some ways this is worse than the Inferno issues.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 2, 2015 5:32 PM
Fnord, I always assumed that Spiral and Mojo were real. Remember, the Hand comments that an outside element has entered Betsy's mind.Plus, the sensitive and scuba team die- remember, Mojo's presence often brings death to living things nearby. Plus, Betsy's smile at the end- I assumed the idea was that Mojo and Spiral twisted the spell so that Betsy would be loyal to them and was surprised that they didn't try to use it in their next encounter with the X-Men. This is basically the same problem as with Maddie's dream sequence- Claremont threw in elements that made no sense and that he never bothered to clearly explain- Gateway in Maddie's case, Mojo and Spiral in Betsy's case.
Posted by: Michael | April 2, 2015 8:41 PM
In Uncanny X-Men #255, the post-Siege Perilous Psylocke who ends up on the private island of Emil Vachon (revealed to have become the base for Matsuo Tsurayaba's branch of the Hand) is still British Elisabeth Braddock.
Contrary to what is believed by the general fan population at the time, Psylocke did not emerge from the Siege Perilous in an Anglo-Chinese body (in Uncanny X-Men #255 the post-Siege Perilous Psylocke who ends up on the private island of Emil Vachon is still British Elisabeth Braddock), but as Uncanny X-Men #256 suggests she is metamorphosised into this physiognomy by either the Hand themselves or Spiral and Mojo. It is worth noting, however, that the additional inclusion of Slaymaster, Doug Ramsey, etc. in the scenes from her subconscious in this issue suggest Spiral and Mojo are similarly part of her hallucination and the Hand are working alone.
I suspect the reason fans believed Spiral's Body Shoppe had some involvement is the scenes immediately reminded them of Lady Deathstrike transformation in Uncanny X-Men #205.
Whatever the case may be, after Claremont left Fabian Nicieza had to complicate the whole plot by revealing Betsy had instead switched minds with a Japanese woman (forgetting the fact that a nationalist like the Mandarin would never put forward someone Japanese to command his criminal empire).
I'm interested to know people's thoughts on these issues, and whether you think Spiral and Mojo were involved in Psylocke's transformation into an Anglo-Chinese physiognomy or whether you think it was just the Hand involved and if so how were they able to do this?
Further evidence that Claremont didn't intend a complete body-switch when she went from British Betsy to Anglo-Chinese Betsy, occurs through another very important scene in Uncanny X-Men #257.
That is, when Wolverine and Lady Mandarin battle in this issue, and he rips off her mask, he makes the comment "That face!" recognising her as Psylocke just before she uses her psychic knife to knock him out.
Was he shocked that he recognised her scent but saw a different face, or recognised her as Psylocke but was shocked that her features had become Anglo-Chinese? Or was the scene a self-homage to Kitty Pryde & Wolverine #3 where Wolverine is totally surprised to find out that it's Kitty under Ogun's mask?
It seems odd that he wouldn't recognise Betsy until he removed her mask, given her racial physiognomy had changed!? That is, how does he recognise her when her face should be the one way he doesn't?!?
However, if he recognised her during the fight and was shocked her racial physiognomy had changed when removing her mask, one would assume Claremont would have had him commenting that it was her before he removed it!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 2, 2015 9:27 PM
Though these issues are often listed as Matsu'o Tsurayaba's first appearance, there is actually a minor ninja named Matsu'o during the Kitty and Wolverine miniseries. That Matsu'o is notable for being the only ninja in the service of Ōgun to survive the miniseries. Early appearance?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 2, 2015 9:28 PM
@Michael: Prior to telepathically cajoling the remaining X-Men through the Siege Perilous, Colossus theorises that Psylocke's actions aren't her own as far back as Uncanny X-Men #250. Her hallucinations under reprogramming by the Hand lend some credence to this assertion.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 2, 2015 9:59 PM
The quality of X-Men had been slowly declining since the end of Inferno. With this set of issues, it begins its steep decline. I never really liked Psylocke and making her some Asian assassin was so incomprehensible, that I stopped caring.
I also thought it lame that Mandarin was not shown to be a supreme badass.
Posted by: Chris | April 2, 2015 11:17 PM
@Chris: Mandarin's portrayed much better here by Claremont than Byrne's version which is very much an archetypal supervillain in his blue battlesuit. This take is something quite different and, dare I say it, more fascinating.
Apart from a confrontation in the third part, Mandarin's traditional battle armour, which looks like an Oriental stereotype is eschewed for a snazzy business suit, bringing the character up to date. Rather than playing into Western stereotypes about the East, it acknowledges that Chinese power is increasingly modern and economical.
Matsuo contextualises the Mandarin's status quo: "Before the century is done, Lord, Hong Kong will revert to Chinese sovereignty," he explains. "Yet even now, winds of change blow from the Gobi to the South China Sea. The Middle Kingdom is in ferment, the old men in Beijing have broken faith with their people, their world will end with their lives."
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 2, 2015 11:40 PM
Claremont is riffing in Frank Miller, with Wolvie and Jubilee as Dark Knight Batman and Carrie Kelly Robin--which is why Jubilee is dressed that way--as well as with Psylocke as Elektra. And the Hand as the Hand, plus I've wondered if the Reavers, especially Bonebreaker's crew, dont owe something to the cyborgs in Elektra: Assassin.
I always presumed Mojo and Spiral were real.
Like Nathan, I've been wondering if the Shadow King, partly through Gateway, manipulated Psylocke into sending the X-Men through the Siege, with the idea that they would be more easily corrupted once they emerged. I think it's unlikely, but possible.
Claremont has been depicting Psylocke as a frustrated action junkie throughtout his run, notably in the annual where they encounter Horde.
The scenes of Psylcke encountering the post-Siege X-Men in her mind may indicate what Claremont originally planned, before editorial interference changed his plans. The Colossus and Rogue scenarios play out pretty much like this, and the Dazzler one is close, if not exact. Havok is the big change: did Chris intend him to be a freedom fighter rather than a Magistrate?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 3, 2015 2:01 AM
When it's essentially a bunch of men commenting on these changes, I'd prefer to steer entirely away from phrasings such as "slutty bad girl".
Posted by: Mark Black | April 3, 2015 2:14 AM
@Walter: Ooh, John Garrett as another Reaver (potential;)
Speaking of which, just why did Donald Pierce hate Wolverine so much? I understand the Hellfire mercenaries, but not the White Bishop!
And yes, the Psylocke direction is odd, first the Crystal of Ultimate Vision makes her see herself as Jocasta, then Gateway makes her see herself as a Reaver. Then she becomes Lady Mandarin, a name reminiscent of Lady Deathstrike. When Longshot arrives in the Danger Room, Warlock notes the goop her arrives in to be analogous to the transmode virus, so were the bionic eyes Mojo gave her spreading some cybernetic virus through her system?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 3, 2015 2:49 AM
Yeah, Walter, Claremont HAS confirmed that Alex was originally supposed to be a freedom fighter.
Posted by: Michael | April 3, 2015 7:29 AM
@Michael: Where did Claremont confirm this?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 3, 2015 7:36 AM
@Walter: thanks for pointing out that Claremont is doing a Frank Miller thing here. That explains a few things. Looking at Psylocke's dream sequence as a preview of (intended) upcoming arcs is interesting too, and i may have to come back and expand on the scenes here when i get to those stories.
@Nathan: I don't have a dog in a "Did Claremont or Byrne write a better Mandarin?" fight, but as i mention in the entry, the status quo for the Mandarin from this issue comes from David Michelinie & Bob Layton. Not saying that Claremont didn't do a nice job running with it.
@Mark: I agree there's potentially a thin line between slut-shaming and calling out creators for gratuitous sexualization of female characters, but Michael's comments are clearly criticizing a writer for using a bad trope, and it doesn't seem like he's crossing a line to me. I agree we can all try to choose our words more carefully (me included).
Posted by: fnord12 | April 3, 2015 9:49 AM
If it makes Mark more comfortable, I'll be more careful in my choice of words in the future.
Posted by: Michael | April 3, 2015 10:53 PM
I was really liking Betsy as the armored team psychic than the ninja.
Posted by: david banes | April 4, 2015 12:06 AM
I have to wonder if Claremont wasn't being pressured by editorial on some of these things--"more lady ninjas, they're popular" "more Frank Miller riffs" "no more smoking for Wolverine as it's a bad example to set" "more butt" etc.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 4, 2015 12:13 AM
When I read these issues I thought of Kwannon as Suwan from the Nick Fury series. Wasn't a problem that Suwan was in suspended animation?
Also I think Spiral's body shoppe is a good explanation of how Psylocke was able to become the Asian ninja that she is. Was it necessary X-Men already had Jubilee and much of Wolverine's stories dealt with Madripoor and Mariko. I don't think another Asian character was really needed to the cast. It makes sense that Psylocke went Asian because Jim Lee wanted to draw an Asian ninja instead of a boring European lady with purple hair.
Also I love the interaction between Jubilee and the Mandarin. She is such a mall girl - really funny.
Posted by: Ryan | April 10, 2015 7:37 AM
@Ryan: With regard to Spiral's Body Shoppe, see comment 4 above.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 10, 2015 9:12 AM
These issues are iconic. You, with your ridiculous PC wimpery (it's just never-ending - "butt floss" "I apologize for these shots" "sounds like Black Goliath to me"), are embarrassing. Grow a pair, you pathetic twerp. You must love Marvel today - you have your girl Thor, gay Iceman, Hispanic Spidey - right? That's way better than this sexist tripe!
Posted by: Human Reason | April 24, 2015 3:33 AM
Why yes, I DO like Marvel these days, and a more inclusive cast IS better than sexist tripe. I'm glad we agree on that! :D
Posted by: Berend | April 24, 2015 11:47 AM
So these issues are iconic, are they?
Posted by: ChrisW | April 26, 2015 4:23 AM
There is no more misused right now than "Iconic."
In the past month, I've seen entertainment headlines that refer to Saved by the Bell, Full House, Debbie Gibson and the Mighty Ducks as "iconic."
If everything is iconic, nothing is.
Posted by: Bob | April 29, 2015 4:26 AM
As for these issues, put me down in the camp that prefers old Psylocke.
And why is it that a trained telepath fell to the hand's mind control, but non-telepath Wolverine is able to resist it?
Posted by: Bob | April 29, 2015 4:27 AM
@Bob: Because the Hand set up that whole event to lure Wolvie in and plant the post-hypnotic trigger so they could convert him later when he hit rock bottom (when Lady Deathstrike ripped his heart out).
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 29, 2015 5:35 AM
Was there ever any explanation how Betsy's "japanization" also made her gain awesome martial arts skills, when previously it was explicitly mentioned that she wasn't very good at hand-to-hand combat?
Posted by: Tuomas | June 10, 2015 5:36 PM
I guess it's not explicitly stated, but i took it as a given that the whole point of the Hand's operation was to turn Psylocke into an assassin, with whatever mental and physical upgrades were necessary for that. The changes to her features are actually secondary considerations.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 10, 2015 6:51 PM
Yeah, I guess that's the explanation, but I always found it weird that a whole issue was devoted to rearranging her memories, but they never mentioned that it included giving her these awesome ninja skills as well... (Or was it mentioned? It's been many years since I read these comics.) Also, you'd think that even in the Marvel universe you can't just make a non-fighter into a fighter via mental manipulation only? You'd think building the kind of martial arts skills Betsy is shown to have would also require an intense physical regimen: training her reflexes, muscle memory, response time, etc. If gaining these skills can be done via mental manipulation only, it begs the question, why don't telepaths like Xavier or Emma Frost or Psylocke give all the heroes the fighting skills of, say, Wolverine? That'd be awfully useful for them.
Posted by: Tuomas | June 11, 2015 5:49 AM
But this isn't the first time we've seen something like this in the MU- Jean downloaded how to fly a space shuttle from Corbeau in X-Men 100 and Kitty gained ninja skills when she was possessed by Ogun. And then there's the Taskmaster, whose power enables him to duplicate any physical feat he sees performed once. In any case, in issue 273, Betsy says the hand used magic to transform her, not just "normal" telepathy.
Posted by: Michael | June 11, 2015 8:12 AM
It's been ages since I read "Kitty Pryde & Wolverine", but didn't it show Kitty doing some actual physical training with Ogun? So she didn't just immediately become a ninja after Ogun corrupted her? And learning to fly a space shuttle seems like something you could theoretically learn via telepathy, because it mostly involves knowing which knob does what. I don't think Jean was shown to have suddenly gained the reflexes of an expert pilot or anything, she just had the basic knowledge of how to land a shuttle.
But if it really is that easy to gain fighting skills, my question remains: why isn't everybody doing it? With the abundance of telepaths and other mental manipulators around, every hero and villain should become a martial arts expert. Given how often they're involved in deadly physical fights, I can't imagine why anyone would refuse it.
Posted by: Tuomas | June 11, 2015 8:34 AM
In Amazing Heroes #192, Claremont stated that his reason for turning Psylocke Asian was that the Hong Kong gangs wouldn't accept a Caucasian emissary from the Mandarin, and that the transformation was initially just for the Acts of Vengeance issues but made indefinite when the fans liked it. He also confirmed that she never got human eyes back, but they just stopped being mentioned.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 3, 2015 11:31 AM
I remember the first time I saw Psylocke's new costume and I thought, "Wow, that's hot, but she must sleep in that thing, because I can't imagine how long it would take for her to put on all those individual bands on her legs."
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 23, 2015 5:40 PM
Claremont's original plans had Wolverine turned into a sleeper agent of the Hand starting with these issues. Wolverine appeared to have fought off being brainwashed, but it would have turned out that he actually had been. This is why Wolverine vouches for Psylocke when they reunite with the X-Men after the X-Tinction Agenda. Several stories later, circa X-MEN #3, the original intention for that story would have culminated in Wolverine's death at the hands of Lady Deathstrike and his subsequent resurrection by the Hand around a year after that, in UNCANNY X-MEN #294. Jean would have infiltrated the Hand but would have been seduced by evik Logan, which in turn would have severed her psychic rapport with Cyclops. Ultimately, in UNCANNY X-MEN #300, Colossus and Wolverine would battle, and Wolverine would have somehow lost his adamantium (as a result of all the beatings and injuries his body took since UNCANNY X-MEN #251-252 and onward). The other X-Men would have been busy battling Rogue, who had also been a sleeper agent...of the Shadow King. By that point, Rogue would have absorbed and stored tons of powers she would have taken from her teammates and other heroes and become the Shadow Queen, and Professor X would also have died as well. Things would have become bleak for our heroes by that point. The Rogue sleeper agent/Shadow Queen portion of the story did ultimately see print in X-TREME X-MEN ANNUAL 2001, while Mark Millar did his own "Dark Wolverine" story in his Enemy of the State arc.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | May 31, 2016 10:29 AM
Editorial nixed Claremont's plans for Wolverine because all they could think of was the $$$ Wolverine made for them, and having him dead for a year would have made them nothing. Ah, the 90s, when editorial basically wrote the comics instead of letting the talent do their thing and trust their judgment.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | May 31, 2016 10:32 AM
So did the Seige give Betsy naturally-purple hair? As far as I know, this is the last time it's ever mentioned that she used to be a blonde.
And does that mean all the Reavers who went through the Seige came out with their cybernetics?
Posted by: ChrisW | August 7, 2016 4:02 PM
It's complicated- when we see Betsy in X-Men 255, it's been a week since she came out of the Siege and her hair is still purple- that doesn't mean anything since many dyes last at least a week. Rogue also came out of the Siege with the stripe in her hair. Arguably there's a difference between clothes and hair dye. As for the cybernetics, we eventually find out that Betsy's body retained the bionic eyes when she came out, so presumably the Reavers retained their cybernetics as well.
Posted by: Michael | August 7, 2016 4:36 PM
Betsy was found washed up on shore. Between the week since she was found and the salt water, that's gotta be industrial-strength hair dye.
Maybe it would just be simpler to say Mojo and Spiral made her hair color permanent when they gave her the bionic eyes. Or Roma did it when she brought the X-Men back to life. Because there's absolutely no way Betsy would ever consider changing her hair color ever again. Once you've gone purple, you can never go back.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 7, 2016 7:32 PM
And as for the Reavers, so that means the X-Men and Roma let a bunch of mass murderers go free with no punishment beyond losing the memory of being mass murderers, but they get to keep their mass-murdering machine body parts [except for the ones who ran into Wolverine.] What could go wrong?
Posted by: ChrisW | August 7, 2016 7:36 PM
I liked this story a lot back in the day. I still do, I am a sucker for these 'characters inner psyche' -stories where their mind and memories are peeled off. Lots of levels in this. That said, even as a teenage kid I never liked ninja-Psylocke. Despite her complicated backstory, she became much more one-dimensional and generic character after this, compared to much subtler but more complex and unique Betsy Braddock. And then Nicieza brought the Revanche mess which was in complete violation of this story.
Posted by: Zartan | May 11, 2017 5:10 AM
I like ninja Psylocke but for some reason I like her old self even more, and not just because I recently got to know her original self from my readthrough. I guess she ended up becoming the perfect version of her character during the Australian adventure, a powerful telepath who still has to wear armor in battle and eventually takes control of the team while the leaders are away, doing what's necessary to get out of that mess in one piece. The armor and her stronger, edgier characterization made her become the steel woman she saw herself as in the Horde annual. And then this story makes the characterization go off the rails by transforming her into an almost totally different character. Betsy is still there, but buried under tons of ninja-ness and more generic edginess mixed with a more sexualized appearance. Her outfit goes in the opposite direction, (she doesn't need an armor anymore) while her powers become more openly aggressive. (psychic knife!)
Also, why did nobody at Marvel even think of naming her "the Mandarin's Hand" in #257? It would have summed up the combination of the Mandarin and the Hand's powers that was needed to control her and it's a "Mouth of Sauron" kind of nickname that would fit a powerful emissary. It's probably better than Lady Mandarin anyway, which sounds too generic, uncreative and yet insists too much on the fact that it's a woman.
Long post? Sorry, I love writing on the progression of characters. I always feel I learn something out of it.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | June 7, 2017 3:17 PM
Uhm, I see nothing in this story thag suggests Psylocke is now asian. Wolverine OBVIOUSLY recognizes her as Betsy, not an asian chick.
When was it confirmed that she's magically asian?
Posted by: will | December 27, 2017 9:57 AM
The fact she's called Lady Mandarin not enough of a clue? ;p
Posted by: AF | December 27, 2017 10:58 AM
Uhm, being brainwashed into 'asian arts' and being a ninja warrior and female suffices for the moniker. I haven't read the issues that follow but with these three I never got the supposed race change. I only found out reading this page.
Posted by: will | December 27, 2017 5:09 PM
In this story, Betsy's skin colour changes, her eyes become stereotypically Eastern Asian (the change in her eyes is explicitly shown in one of the scans above), Mojo in her dream says, "we can't have a Westerner running the Hong Kong underworld", and Colossus asks her, "can you be so... changed?". It seems pretty obvious what has happened to her, or at least it was to me when I first read this story at the age of 12.
Posted by: Tuomas | December 28, 2017 4:16 AM
As far as I know, the X-men editors would have needed to ask permission of the Irom man editors to use the Mandarin here. You'd think they wouldnt then insult IM throughout the issue. But the rules probably didnt apply to the x-men.
Pretty sure IM could defeat all the x-men with one hand.
Posted by: kveto | December 28, 2017 10:24 AM
It was Acts of Vengeance. Claremont probably didn't even want to take part in the crossover (and basically didn't) so spent the issue insulting Iron Man.
Posted by: AF | December 28, 2017 10:42 AM
So, it just shows what a hypocrite Claremont is, after Byrne did basically the same thing with the Doombot years back.
Posted by: kveto | December 28, 2017 10:48 AM
Waaaaaay back in late 1989, I had only been reading various Marvel titles regularly for less than a year, so there was a hell of a lot of stuff referenced or alluded to in these three issues that went totally over my head. At the time, even though I didn't understand a lot of it and found it incredibly bizarre, I nevertheless enjoyed it because it was an exciting story with cool Jim Lee pencils.
All these years later, though, I realize how odd it is for the Hand, who are Japanese, to be establishing an alliance with the Mandarin, who is Chinese. Along those lines, why transform Psylocke into "Lady Mandarin" but make her Japanese? Shouldn't a "Lady Mandarin" by Chinese?
Also, it's really up in the air about how much of the stuff that occurs in #256 are illusions in Psylocke's head created by the Hand, and how much occurs in the Mojoverse. The confusion / retcon involving Revanche muddies the waters considerably.
That stuff with Wolverine's hallucinations of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers managing to defeat Psylocke and the Hand still baffles me.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 28, 2017 6:26 PM
"That stuff with Wolverine's hallucinations of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers managing to defeat Psylocke and the Hand still baffles me."
"Any physical reaction to the figments are later said to really be the unconscious work of Psylocke."
Posted by: clyde | December 28, 2017 7:20 PM
@clyde - Um, yeah, sure, of course that makes sense :)
This storyline, and a lot of the other X-Men issues from around this time, reaffirm my belief that Chris Claremont, while a very good writer, nevertheless benefits when he has a strong editor who works closely with him to make sure that he keeps track of his various subplots and that his narratives are clear & comprehensible. Bob Harras was definitely *not* that editor, and it is not surprising that during this time period Claremont's plotting really meandered, and elements of his stories could be quite oblique, such as Mojo and Spiral actually playing a role in Psylocke's transformation, as opposed to just being part of her hallucinations during the Hand's brainwashing.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 28, 2017 10:36 PM
@Ben- the idea was this- when Betsy went into Logan's head, she became a part of his psychosis- so when the hallucinations shot someone, she knocked them out with her telepathy.
Posted by: Michael | December 28, 2017 11:11 PM
I don't understand why Wolverine wasn't able to identify Psylocke by her scent alone at such close range. He shouldn't need to see her face to ID her, should he? Did her Asianization somehow change her scent? Was it a dietary side-effect from eating lots of Shanghai takeout? Did Wolverine's cigar combined with his blunted healing factor mask her scent from him temporarily? There must be some reason I guess, but I'm not getting it.
Posted by: Holt | January 7, 2018 10:20 PM
From the wiki entry on Psylocke -
Since she was put into Kwannon's body, there would be no way for Wolverine to recognize her scent. He never met Kwannon.
Posted by: clyde | January 7, 2018 10:38 PM
Thanks clyde. I suppose Wolverine must have seen a picture of Kwannon so that he would recognize her face in the scan shown above, and must have also been aware of the body swap, so that he would associate Kwannon's face with Psylocke. I've been reading New Exiles, in which this whole business is revisited, and a lot of this actually plays out for a 2nd time in an alternate reality, but supposedly with the Psylocke of 616 (much later in her continuity though, and after some sort of memory and/or power swap and/or loss, I think?)-- I'm trying to make sense of it all but it all seems pretty convoluted and locked into reams and reams of X-Men continuity with which I'm not very familiar. Off-topic and JMO, but I liked Exiles better before Claremont started writing it, and was sorry to see Exiles lose Judd Winick to DC.
Posted by: Holt | January 8, 2018 12:10 AM
"Was there ever any explanation how Betsy's "japanization" also made her gain awesome martial arts skills, when previously it was explicitly mentioned that she wasn't very good at hand-to-hand combat?"
Claremont in New Exiles #9, p.1: "Psylocke has assumed the identity of her counterpart from this world, Lady Mandarin, killed by reality hopping villain, Slaymaster. Her master, Ogun, is determined to remake Betsy in her slain self's image, training her as a warrior."
Ogun from New Exiles #9, p.16: "... we utilize science and magic, combined... to alter the passage of time itself... allowing us to accomplish a lifetime's work in a matter of a few short hours..."
Posted by: Holt | January 8, 2018 12:42 AM
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