Elizabeth Braddock grew up in the shadow of her brother. Brian Braddock was one of the United Kingdom’s greatest superheroes. Operating under the name of Captain Britain, some of his earliest adventures over in the Marvel UK books involved Elizabeth aka Betsy. She first appeared to have developed the powers of precognition, which later developed into telepathy. While filling in for her brother on a mission, young Betsy was blinded by the villain Slaymaster. Shortly after that, Psylocke and the Captain Britain mythos is completely brought into the mainstream Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, this sets Betsy up to be kidnapped by Mojo and genetically modified. This will become an ongoing trope for the young woman.
Betsy is at the X-Mansion for a day before she’s kidnapped by Mojo and given new cybernetic eyes. Later, we learn that these eyes act as cameras to record the X-Men’s adventures to create a new program for Mojo to exploit in the Mojoverse. The New Mutants, Captain Britain and the X-Men recover Betsy from the Mojoverse, causing her to stay at Xavier’s School to recover. Unfortunately, the Mutant Massacre happens and Psylocke is left home along when Sabretooth invades the Mansion. Psylocke wins the fight due to the X-Men returning from the Morlock tunnels. While Wolverine pins Sabretooth down, Psylocke scans Sabretooth’s mind and becomes the first to learn of Mr. Sinister’s true plans for the Marauders and beyond.
Betsy would later be with the X-Men when they “die” in Dallas while battling the Adversary. She’ll meet up with her buddy Roma from the Captain Britain Otherworld days and she gives the mutants a second chance on life. Thus, begins the Outback era. Psylocke started to grow stronger in her telepathy, all the while taking over more of the team as Wolverine and Storm started to become distracted by outside affairs. Between the one-two punch of being implicated in the death of Senator Robert Kelly’s wife and precognitive flashes to the Reavers murdering the X-Men, Psylocke decided it was best to send the mutants through the Siege Perilous rather than risking death. I know that I’ve brought that term up a few times already, so let’s explain the item.
The Siege Perilous is a mystical amulet given to the X-Men after Roma resurrects them and lets them hide out in Australia. Seen both in Captain Britain and the X-Men, the amulet created a one-time use gateway that would allow the users to be transported through it and end up on the other side with a new life. Facing death, Betsy saw it as the only way out. After the team went through the Siege, Psylocke would wind up as amnesiac near China. Taken to a fairly Hong Kong style area, The Hand captured Psylocke and brought her before the Mandarin. The Mandarin turned her over to the leader of the Hand, Mat’suo Tsurayaba. Mat’suo was tasked with turning Psylocke into the Lady Mandarin. That’s when Mat’suo turned to Spiral to warp her body into something more Asian.
Mat’suo’s lover, Kwannon, is brain-dead. Mat’suo figures that he can bring Kwannon back by allowing Spiral to pull a switcharoo on The Mandarin. Psylocke’s mind is placed in the far more ninja-skilled and sleek Kwannon, while Kwannon is stuck in the fairly Caucasian Betsy Braddock. There are some heavy socio-political and racial aspects to this, as Mat’suo seems to want function as a late 20th Century Asian power reclaiming sovereignty from a major Caucasian Western Power. Going back through the scenes and knowing what comes later, Mat’suo’s actions are so very personal that race becomes a factor. Once he saves Kwannon in a healthier body with a free mind, he never shares an attraction for the older Asian form.
He only wants his lover now that she appears British with purple hair. Fetishes are what they are, even if there is a creepy subtext underneath it. Unfortunately, Kwannon would later get the Legacy Virus. Over the years, we would eventually get a return to Mat’suo’s rationale for what he did and what put Kwannon in this particular situation. It just doesn’t change that Mat’suo wanted to make his lover into something a little more white and pleasing. Psylocke would later pay Mat’suo back for his treachery by killing up in her first solo mini-series.
When Betsy is finally molded into the Lady Mandarin and sent to murder Wolverine. It was during the battle with Wolverine that Psylocke unveiled a new psychic katana. She stabbed Wolverine and created a psychic backlash that broke the Mandarin and Mat’suo’s conditioning. She remembered who she was and escaped the Mandarin with Wolverine and Jubilee. Later, the trio would turn up during the X-Tinction Agenda. Psylocke would also participate in the Muir Isle Saga and eventually make her way to the Blue Team in the adjectiveless book. This lead to sexual tension between Cyclops and her, which only ended when Marvel rushed to get Scott and Jean married for the 30th Anniversary of the series.
Most of the 1990s spent a lengthy about of time fixated on the Betsy vs. Kwannon debacle. Eventually, Psylocke would nearly get killed by Sabretooth. This leads to being mystically infected with the Crimson Dawn, hanging out with Angel, fighting the Phalanx and eventually leaving the mansion to trot with Thunderbird III and the X-Treme X-Men. Unfortunately, Psylocke would be killed on one of their first missions. While we’ve discussed Betsy’s brother Brian (Captain Britain), I haven’t mentioned her other brother Jamie. Jamie Braddock is a mentally ill mutant who can warp reality. Taking advantage of events such as the House of M, Jamie brings Betsy back to life and begins restoring the necessary elements for her to live again.
The modern era has seen Psylocke officially become the mutant assassin. Post-resurrection by crazy brother, Betsy has become the second most ruthless X-Man. Only Wolverine passes her, but that line is getting narrower and narrower. Psylocke takes part in the creation of Utopia, the X-Club and the X-Force assassination squad. She finally gets peace when she travels with Wolverine to finally put her original body to rest. That’s when Betsy finds out that Mat’suo has been annually disfigured in combat by Wolverine. Wolverine lets it slip that since Mat’suo also participated in the murder of his beloved Mariko, Wolverine has been visiting Mat’suo annually to slice off a limb. One year, a hand. The next year, a foot. So on and so forth.
Wolverine allows Psylocke to have the honors of murdering Mat’suo and she gently puts him down. Psylocke would spend the rest of her time with X-Force taking out dangerous targets for Cyclops. Eventually, Betsy and her lover Warren Worthington’s life would be pulled back into the plot of Clan Akkaba. The Clan which is the Apocalypse Death Cult has begun their quest for the new Apocalypse. Warren had recently discovered that Apocalypse’s original dealings with his DNA made it where he would never stop being Archangel. Warren begins to fight against his genetic programming, as X-Force hopped realities to find a Celestial Life Seed to cleanse the Death Seed that was slowly turning Warren into the new Apocalypse.
Psylocke was left with no choice but to use her telepathy and the life seed to erase Warren’s mind. The Death Seed had done its damage and there was no way to repair what Apocalypse did, but they could give Warren a second chance at life. It’s weird to see patterns repeat over the ages, but there it is. Psylocke would later grow close to the mutant thief Fantomex, even when he was killed and split into three different personalities and genders. Betsy had a mad affair with both female and male versions of Fantomex until she was called into action to help the X-Men against the Avengers. She would later be fired from the Jean Grey School and now she’s bouncing around between the X-Books. I haven’t seen her in the last year, but you can rest assured that the sun hasn’t rested on The British Psi-Ninja.