I’m sure it has to be happening somewhere. Somewhere, in some dark corner of the world, a handful of men and women are gathering. They sit in a dark circle, and one by one they confess the truth. One of these is a beautiful woman with unusual purple hair; in spite of her Japanese features, she speaks with a British accent.
“My name is Betsy Braddock,” she admits to her fellow addicts, “And I’m a killer.”
Betsy has always lived life on the edge of sanity, with a love of action that was sometimes just the wrong side of insanity. Take, for example, the events of ‘Uncanny X-Men #213’, in which she goads Sabretooth into chasing her in order to save the wounded in the X-Mansion’s hospital. It all sounds so very noble – until you really focus in on the reckless grin on Psylocke’s face.
Think about her powers. Psylocke is a powerful telepath and telekinetic – in fact, according to interviews with the writers, she’s been boosted to Omega Level in the last few years. When she first came on the scene, Psylocke’s powers were great enough to penetrate Juggernaut’s mystical helmet, the kind of achievement even Jean Grey and Professor Xavier had repeatedly proved unable to claim. And yet, what got to the early Psylocke was the fact she couldn’t stand and brawl; and so she donned armour, and, ultimately, courtesy of the Siege Perilous and the Body Shop, she wound up switching bodies.
For all Psylocke lost some of her powers during the body-switch, she more than gained in combat proficiency. Slipping into a ninja costume that looked more like a bathing-suit, Psylocke was left possessing the body and skills of an athletic master assassin. She showed every sign of revelling in both of these, flaunting her body (especially before Cyclops), and always using her combat skills to go in close-combat. Her speciality has proven to be impossibly high kicks that snap an enemy’s head back.
Time and again Psylocke’s love of battle has gone wrong for her; her original body was blinded by Slaymaster, she was almost slaughtered by Sabretooth, and only her brother Jamie’s reality-warping powers saved her when she died in brutal battle with Vargas. But she first seems to tip over the edge in her mini-series, when Matsuo Tsurayabi has her old body destroyed by his Hand ninjas. Psylocke swore revenge, and although the killing of Matsuo turned out to be a mercy, the fact is that Psylocke swore bloody vengeance upon him.
Psylocke’s time in Wolverine’s X-Force changed her, as she was not only a party to killing, but was ultimately responsible for killing the man she loved, Archangel; at one point she even became his Death!
Sure, the guy was reborn, but as a blank slate. Devastated, Psylocke retreated into an unwise relationship with Fantomex, and – the one plus side in her whole experience – donned some new, non-scanty, threads.
Most recently, though, we’ve learned just how much events have taken a toll on the action junkie. In the pages of ‘X-Force’, we’re learning that Psylocke has become addicted to killing. She counts the days between murders like an alcoholic desperately saying, “Ten days clean… Eleven…” But here’s the catch: riding with Cable’s X-Force, she’s in the wrong place, and is falling ever-further.
Interestingly, she’s managed to keep her struggle completely secret from her fellow X-Men; and in a desperate attempt to cling on to her humanity, she’s become Cable’s lover. I guess it’s better than her last lover, a Danger Room projection who she eventually killed!
For many years, it was a truism that X-Men don’t kill; Wolverine was even willing to kill Rachel in order to prove his point (let me know if that makes any sense to you). But in Psylocke, the X-Men don’t just have someone who’s willing to kill; they have a woman who loves to kill, who lives for it, and who seems to be descending into an ever-deeper pit…