By Ben Morse
X-MEN: SCHISM has kicked off a startling metamorphosis in the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe that will split the Children of the Atom and lead to Regenesis in the fall along with two new ongoing series, each featuring its own distinctive team: UNCANNY X-MEN and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN.
With change in the air, here on Marvel.com we’ll be regularly gathering the creators and editors responsible for guiding the X-Men’s destiny to dissect each of their charges to examine what makes them tick and perhaps lend some insight into where they will find themselves once the Schism ends and the Regenesis gets underway.
This week, we look at Psylocke, a woman with a complex past and variety of relationships as well as membership in both the X-Men and secret X-Force team. Where’s her head at and where does her loyalty lie?
How would you describe the core of who Psylocke is and what is most important to her?
Rick Remender (writer of UNCANNY X-FORCE): Betsy is, I think, somebody who [has] had a pretty spectacular life. [Her parents] were high level scientists. Her brother Jamie is a serial killing reality bender and her brother Brian is the shining hero Captain Britain. I think looking at her past, and then looking at who she is now, you see [a] character arc that goes from a child of affluence to somebody who’s had to make decisions to stick with her adopted family, the X-Men, at all costs. I think if you look at her character now and what she’s been through you can see the price all over her: She’s been killed, she’s had to change bodies, she’s now sacrificed all her former philosophies on killing and taking life to be a pragmatist and that sort of defines her I think from a nice English girl, who was supposed to become Lady Britain at one point, to becoming a shadowy ninja who’s working on an assassin squad.
Nick Lowe (X-Men Senior Editor): Betsy was a spy/fashion model for a long time, which is awesome. She has always seemed to me to be a carpe diem sort. Sure, she—like a lot of the X-Men—is driven by duty and responsibility, but she enjoys herself in the process.
Jody LeHeup (editor of UNCANNY X-FORCE): Betsy is a romantic. Deep down she is a passionate and caring person who values integrity and perseverance. I’d say that living up to the expectations of the ones she loves is very important to her, not letting them down.
What is Psylocke’s view of how the mutant race should conduct itself moving forward? How does this contrast or conflict with others?
Jody LeHeup: Betsy has an opinion but tends to leave those questions to the leaders she’s put her faith in. I think personally she’s very concerned with the endangerment of mutantkind, so much so that she’s driven to join an extreme response team like X-Force, but I think she’s wary of living too much by the sword.
Nick Lowe: I don’t think that Betsy gets too much into this sort of thing. She has an opinion, of course, but her duty to her species is what really matters to her. She lets others tackle the bigger philosophical questions and busts heads and enjoys life.
Rick Remender: Well I think the debate in her mind is if there’s any room for Xavier’s dream anymore. If there’s any possibility for cohabitation; the fact that there [are] so few mutants left really changes the parameters of all these sorts of things. I think that Betsy has become a bit of a pragmatist and though it goes against a lot of her philosophical upbringing, she’s made her mind up to protect what’s left of the mutant species at any cost. In her mind, Utopia is probably the best option they have in order to keep themselves protected and to stay together in a clan and huddle basically given that genetically speaking they’ll eventually be wiped out.
What toll have the radical changes in Psylocke’s body and mind over the years taken on her psyche?
Nick Lowe: I think they’ve demonstrated to her just how fragile life is and showed her how valuable it is.
Rick Remender: It’s become shattered I would imagine, so when I write her I try to think of somebody whose core has been broken into pieces and put back to together, and like a vase that’s been shattered and glued back together, it doesn’t entirely hold water. I think that’s the root cause of a lot [of] her turmoil and maybe some of the self-doubt we’ve seen with her lately in that she’s not quite sure if she’s herself or if she’s someone else. She’s got so many different pieces of other people that she’s picked up along the way, having housed The Shadow King in her mind and the body swapping and the x, y, and z’s of her story. I like the idea that there’s a core Betsy in there who’s always struggling to keep it together and find a way to salvage what’s left of what she considerers to be her core self.
Jody LeHeup: I think she’s weathered it remarkably well all things considered. She’s a very strong person and isn’t going to let little things like having her mind and body switched around like musical chairs slow her down. She’s who she is now and that’s all that matters.
Kieron Gillen (writer of UNCANNY X-MEN): I admit, as someone who's barely touched Psylocke, this is the part of the character which most interests me as a writer. The nature of identity and how it can be chewed up, re-created and generally made fluid fascinates me, and runs through a load of my writing, from my small press stuff no-one will—or should—have read to most of the cast of Phonogram to Kenji in GENERATION HOPE.
What I find most interesting about Psylocke is that she's come to terms with the fact. Normally, when we look at pop-culture, we've got characters panicked about who the real “you” is, trying to find some core “them.” Psylocke can't get stuck in such naval gazing. It'd drive her mad. Psylocke appears to believe the real you is simply who she is right now, and treats the bunch of thoughts and feelings in her head as fundamentally authentic—which is a sane response to her fairly insane situation.
In passing, it's one of the things that also interests me about Magik, but that's a different column.
How far away is the Psylocke of today from the Betsy Braddock who first joined the X-Men in terms of her values?
Kieron Gillen: To be blunt: English Rose Betsy Braddock wouldn't stab a dude in the head with a Walzashi.
Jody LeHeup: Pretty far. As a member of the X-Men she’s had to confront a great deal, both physically and mentally, and those experiences definitely change you. However I don’t know that her core values have changed so much as her understanding of the world, how it works and how best to maintain and implement those values in a complicated world. I think she’s more realistic about how she tries to affect change.
Nick Lowe: By that time she had already been messed with a lot. I mean, have you read those early Captain Britain-era stories? She was pretty full-formed before she joined the X-Men and the whole body-switch and what she’s been through have just reinforced all that.
Rick Remender: I think the character arc is pretty clear. She’s quite different. She’s become much darker and much rougher around the edges. I think that’s what’s interesting about the character: now that she’s gone and taken this arc, it’s to explore the other side of her that’s still in there and how the person who she was feels about the person she’s become. The character arc has been fairly extreme to go from who she was to who she currently is if you look at it like a point-A to point-Z and how many years it took to get there. I’m spending a lot of time writing about this in [UNCANNY X-FORCE] in an upcoming arc where the person Betsy was has to come to terms with the person she is and has to make a decision on if she’s going to continue or not.
Does Psylocke like being a member of X-Force? Why does she remain with that group? Why does she remain with the X-Men, for that matter?
Jody LeHeup: No member of the team likes being a member of X-Force. She remains with the group—and all the members for that matter—because in their mind, it’s a job that must be done and her unique abilities make her especially good at it. She believes that she is taking the burden of the wet work on herself in order to keep other X-Men from having to do it and at the same time ridding the world of those who present a clear and present danger to the survival of her now endangered species. She remains with the X-Men because there is still plenty of work to do that doesn’t involve killing.
Nick Lowe: She doesn’t like what they have to do, but she knows that somebody has to do it. She sees the importance of what they do and it speaks a lot louder than the moral conundrums that come along with it.
Rick Remender: These are questions that she’s always asking herself and I think they’re important. She definitely sees value in it and she sees value in helping to protect the remaining mutants. For me on some level, if you look at Betsy, if you look at her story going back when she joined the X-Men, she stuck with them through some craziness and they’ve become her family. So the question really is are the X-Men her family and is what she’s doing a necessary evil to protect her family, or is her family with Brian and Meggan? We’ll be answering those questions coming up in [UNCANNY X-FORCE].
Kieron Gillen: No, she doesn't like it. If she liked it, that's something she would be worried about. No-one should like being in X-Force. But she remains with X-Force because she believes its work needs to be done—which, coincidentally, the same reason she remains as the X-Men.
Does Psylocke have great loyalty to particular people on the X-Men?
Nick Lowe: Absolutely. Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Havok—they top my list.
Rick Remender: Obviously she loves Warren and that’s a very close relationship the two of them have established over the years and I see her as somebody who’s very close with Wolverine, almost like a family member and then with Scott and the rest of them as well. I think Betsy is one of the few characters who really does land in the middle of it all when it comes to feelings. When it comes down to her heart, it goes to Warren and Logan, but maybe her mind goes to Scott protecting those poor bastards on that island.
Jody LeHeup: I think so. There [are] certain people she’s closer to than others although she tries to remain as objective as possible when it comes to decisions that affect the team.
Kieron Gillen: Yes. Her relationship with X-Force is based on those personal ties. The question with X-Force is always “Who can we trust to do this?” and Betsy, Logan and Warren have that tight bond. But for me, that's almost not the question. Her involvement with X-Force isn't based on loyalty. It's based on beliefs. In some way, it makes her position on X-Force all the more striking and brave for her—it's not like she's Wolverine or Fantomax or even Deadpool. They lean that way naturally more than her. She's chosen to bend enough to do the job.
And it's also interesting to see where she chooses not to bend. And to wonder what other places she wouldn't bend, and which ones would surprise those she is abstractly most loyal to.
How does Psylocke’s relationship with Angel color her place among the X-Men?
Kieron Gillen: Really, anyone who's been reading UNCANNY X-FORCE—which should be everyone, yes?—knows the answer to this one. Read UNCANNY X-FORCE!
Jody LeHeup: You’ll have to keep reading for the answer to that.
Nick Lowe: In the way that any relationship does, I suppose. But it doesn’t define her.
Rick Remender: I’m not sure if it’s entirely out in the open. I haven’t addressed it with the other X-Men so I guess I haven’t put a lot of time thinking about it. I don’t think it’s out in the open, but if it were I don’t think it would matter too much. They’ve been on again and off again for a while so it’s something so simple as because it’s been on again and off again thing for so long and so many of those relationships happen in amongst in this little clan, I don’t think anyone would mind or see it as something that needs to be worried about.
Who among the X-Men does Psylocke trust? Who does she feel should lead the team? Would she ever want to?
Jody LeHeup: I think Betsy trusts Logan implicitly. But that’s all. She’s been through too much to not be guarded about who she puts her faith into. I don’t think Betsy’s interested in leading, at least not in any formal capacity. I think she thinks that Logan has grown into a position of great personal strength and would be far better at the job than even he knows.
Nick Lowe: She trusts them as much as a spy can ever trust anyone. She loves a lot of them and I don’t think she’d have any interest in leading, which makes her a good candidate to do so.
Kieron Gillen: Well, she trusts everyone on X-Force in a real way. Even before they signed that in the blood of kid Apocalypse, they knew they were joined together with a secret that could let any one of them put the whole lot in jail. We mustn't underestimate what level of trust that would require.
Who should lead the X-Men? Whoever does what's required to make the world a safer place, for humans and mutants both. Could she be it? Not now, is my gut feeling. I could see her in a Wolverine/Dani-esque team-leader role, but not the overall head.
That said, I think she's one of the people who could pull it off if she was forced into it.
Though I'd say she'd have to stop wearing her ninja outfit if she did.
Rick Remender: I don’t think she would ever want to lead the team. In my mind, she’s not the character that goes looking to take on responsibility. It always ends up in her lap and it’s always an ethical quandary and it’s something that she ends up having to take on. I think she could lead the team and I think she’d be terrific. Power level wise we’re building her up and grooming her to be just as powerful a telepath as Emma with different skills and different focus and a lot of that will be flushed out in the coming year. I think she could run an X-Men squad no worries. As for who she would have to choose, that’s a question that I would rather leave unanswered so people can see how Schism comes together.
X-MEN: SCHISM #4 hits stores September 21, Regenesis commences this fall, and the X-Perts reconvene soon right here on Marvel.com! And be sure to visit our X-Men: Schism event page!