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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Pop quiz time: this character became a highly skilled ninja assassin, despite the fact that her national origin was anything but Eastern. Her costume is a tight fitting one-piece, and her iconic weapon is a blade no longer than her forearm. She died, but came back to life under poorly-explained circumstances. No, it's not Elektra.

Once a forthright and proper British maiden, Betsy Braddock found herself transformed into a finely tuned warrior. Psylocke now lives according to her own rules. Hated and feared by humanity as a member of the outlaw X-Men, she laid down her life in defense of a planet on the brink of genetic war - fighting to maintain the future of our world!

Psylocke is a character that really exemplifies some of writer Chris Claremont's favorite tropes. You know, the story points he likes to go back and hit again and again. She's got the British connection, the empowerment by way of torture, the body modification, the mentoring of a younger girl... she's like a pet-project posterchild.

The last time we got a Psylocke figure, she had a light-up action feature that pretty much crippled any hope she had of moving like a real ninja. That is definitely not the case this time: she moves at the ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, waist, torso, wrists, forearms, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck; that's 29 points. There's a lot of talk about figures having "too much" articulation, but Psylocke seems to be just about perfect: she didn't need finger joints, so they didn't give her finger joints; they didn't duplicate joints in the upper arms or legs; her waist and her torso move the same way, but they also work together for more realistic poseability. The only thing that might be missing are joints for her toes, but that's minor.

The sculpt is great, too. Psylocke got an all-new body, different from the re-used Black Widow body shown at Toy Fair. The figure is only 5¾" tall, putting her in scale with her fellow X-Men - she's a shorty! The balljointed hips look fairly natural, but the shoulders are really great. The butt is a bit wide, since it's designed to conceal the balljoints entirely when viewed from behind. The prototype's face looked more Asian than the final production samples, but that was true of the comicbook art, as well - no one but Jim Lee ever tried to make her look particularly Japanese.

Paint can be a problem with this figure. Her face is applied well and her hair has a nice purple color, but the edges of her cameltoe-inducing ninja swimsuit are notoriously sloppy, especially around the clavicles and the straps on her thighs. You'll get a dusting of blue across the skin, which isn't good. This isn't even something you'll need to look closely for: you'll be able to see it at a glance, so give her a good going over before you buy.

Psylocke gets no accessories, which is disappointing. There's at least one item which should have been a no-brainer. One of Claremont's tics was constantly re-using stock phrases - Psylocke's was "the focused totality of my psychic powers," describing the pink glowy knife that she projected around her hand. The phrase cropped up two or three times an issue with Claremont. It's like the power was activated by it; sort of like Billy Batson saying "Shazam!" Why, pray tell, don't we get a translucent pink spike that fits on her wrist? These days she's switched to some sort of telekinetic katana, which would have also made a good accessory. Maybe for the variant.

Ah, yes, the variant. Five out of six figures in ML14 have a variant, including Psylocke. Hers is a simple repaint - her costume is black and she has a red tattoo over her eye, from when she gained her Crimson Dawn shadow teleporting powers. Don't ask - the less said, the better. On the plus side, that costume is the one she wore in X-Treme X-Men, so she'll go nicely with the new Rogue, if you have her. Although Rogue is blue instead of black. Shadow Psylocke wasn't in the early shipments of figures, and she still hasn't shown up yet. She's supposed to be packed into later cases, so keep an eye out: you haven't missed her. Yet.

If BAF pieces are a cherry, Psylocke got the pit - her piece is a formless lump of Mojo-flesh that is barely visible on the finished product. In fact, if you had to, you could build him without it. He'd have a huge gaping hole, but it wouldn't be immediately apparent. The figure includes a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #258, with the cover from UXM #467, which features Betsy prominently. So the cover's on-target. The story? Not so much. Just as the reprint with Brown Costume Wolverine focused more on Psylocke, Psylocke's comic focuses more on Wolverine. That seems fair.

Her included backdrop, however, does come from #258 - it's a high-tech lab with Hand ninjas leaping all about and Wolverine strapped into a sensory deprivation tank. Nice choice, and it'll work well for plenty of characters.

The name "Psylocke" is weird - she was only ever "Betsy Braddock" until Claremont brought her into the US comics with New Mutants Annual #2. The name never got any kind of explanation, though; everyone just accepted it. Here's a hint: it's a pun on "psyche." get it? Lock, key? Yeah, no one ever said it was a good pun.

-- 12/14/06

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