Storm Arcana

Intuitive Visionary Coach & Founder of Arcana Academy

White Queen Wednesday: Psylocke, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

Salutations, gentle reader. In the first hard-hitting issue of the all-new all-different Uncanny X-Force, Psylocke has seemingly borrowed Emma Frost’s brutal take no prisoners tactics and appears deadset on reclaiming her crown as mutantdom’s reigning sexy telepath. But I have bad news for Psylocke, Emma is not ready to relinquish that crown just yet. There are several striking similarities between the two lady telepaths. But while I dearly love Psylocke, Emma is still better. Let me count the ways.

I will start with the superficial similarities between the two women. First and foremost, they both fit the mold of the sexy barely dressed team telepath, Psylocke in her classic ninja thong bathing suit and Emma in whatever scandalous scantily clad all white ensemble she chooses to rock at any given time. However, while Psylocke’s fans frequently bemoan the alterations to her character that resulted in the sweet and at times even timid British girl adopting such a sultry ninja look, Emma is and always has been right at home flouncing around in such trampy outfits. Advantage: Emma.

It cannot be ignored that both women romantically pursued Cyclops while he was already involved with Jean Grey. While Psylocke’s unsuccessful attempts to seduce Cyclops ultimately amounted to nothing of consequence, Emma’s psychic flirtations with Scott eventually blossomed into a full fledged relationship which is now the cornerstone of the entire X-Men universe. I imagine Psylocke can’t help but feel a little jealous over that fact.

But Psylocke has found love in the arms of another teammate who, like Cyclops, was also a member of the original five X-Men. In the pages of Uncanny X-Force, Archangel is undergoing a form of telepathic therapy where Psylocke is attempting to assist him with the issues surrounding his transformation at the hands of Apocalypse. This is also similar to the time Emma spent mentally counseling Cyclops before their telepathic therapy sessions turned into a full blown affair. Even Psylocke’s first date with Archangel reminds me of Emma, considering they spent it at the Hellfire Club.

Both women have undergone startling physical transformations. Emma began as a mousy flat-chested brunette and transformed herself into a buxom blonde bombshell. Psylocke started out as a blonde British girl in the shadow of her twin brother Brian and over the course of the years was altered to become a purple haired Asian ninja. The key difference in this respect is that Emma herself chose to alter her appearance, spending obscene amounts of her own money on costly cosmetic surgery. Whereas Psylocke was tortured and manipulated, brainwashed and abused by otherworldly forces beyond her control from Mojo to Spiral to the Siege Perilous.

You could argue that Psylocke has one advantage over Emma, a certain aristocratic sense of class that controversy-courting Emma frankly lacks, and you would be right. Although I think even Psylocke would agree that class alone is simply boring, which is why she abandoned her proper British nobility for an exciting life of adventure in the first place.

I do want to reiterate that I love Psylocke as well as Emma, and I will be the first to admit that Uncanny X-Force is a far more enjoyable comic book than Uncanny X-Men right now. Chiefly due to the fact that Uncanny X-Force concentrates on a small cast where you really become familiar with each individual member of the team whereas Uncanny X-Men features a bloated sprawling and ever-growing cast where X-Men mainstays are relegated to the background while characters like Namor and Doctor Nemesis receive the spotlight. Plus Uncanny X-Force has a much better sense of setting. Cavern-X might feel like little more than a mutant version of the Batcave so far, but it is at least more compelling than Utopia which looks like a giant floating space turd. On that note, I bid you adieu until next week, gentle reader.


Storm Sunday: Jim Lee, Part VI


Princess Witch Boy Press: APE 2010

1 Comment

  1. Ingonyama

    More obligatory fannishness from the local Betsy Braddock defender. ^_^

    Psylocke’s flirtation with Cyclops was never meant to go anywhere, I think. He and Jean were at their peak when Betsy tried to come between them…madly in love, about to get married, and the head and heart of the X-Men. Emma had the advantage of being able to strike during a period when the relationship between Scott and Jean was headed in a downward direction anyway…indeed, Emma got her magnificently-lacquered fingernails into Scott when she went to him for relationship counseling.

    I need to assert that, as long as I’ve known her, I never saw Psylocke as “timid,” though she could be sweet with the right people. In the Marvel UK days, she killed a man who tried to rape her wearing her brother’s face, and even tried her hand at being Captain Britain herself. It didn’t go well, but she gave it her best shot.

    Later, as an X-Man, the pink, fluffy costume STORM likes so much was simply an outward veneer, to hide the cool, calculated warrior within. She played the role back then that Emma plays now: the ruthless psychic assailant, who could get into people’s heads and confuse them while (preferably) avoiding physical combat. Even before her “ninjafication” (for lack of a better term), she was the “untrustworthy one” of the team, mysterious and sometimes shady, willing to advocate killing if it saved lives down the line. I remember an issue where Havok had stumbled across the X-Men during a period when they were planning to fake their deaths, and Psylocke’s first suggestion was to kill him because he knew too much. Thank goodness Storm was there to serve as a calmer influence, or we’d be down a Summers brother today!

    Fans of Psylocke who dislike the “ninjafication” (there’s that word again!) dislike it for many reasons, but primarily because it reduces this smart, multifaceted character to a caricature. For years, her sole reason for existing was to be drawn in kicky action poses while spouting the “Focused Totality Of My Telepathic Powers” line.

    Since coming back from the dead (Uncanny #455), Betsy’s undergone something of a renaissance, her powers and persona changing to break with the stereotype of herself that fans have been groaning at since the 90s. Being the Exiles’ main character for a while did wonders for her on a personal level, though the writing in that book was merely okay. However, now that she’s back in the mainstream universe, I’m hoping to see her as something more balanced…not the way she was throughout the 90s, but not the “mountain-smashing TK” girl we saw in the mid-’00s, either.

    One thing I agree with you on, Ken: Emma Frost is better than Psylocke at being Emma Frost (when she’s not being written by Matt Fraction). Betsy needs her own niche in the X-Men, something that fits all the incarnations she’s had…asking the writers to make her both strong and tactical might be a bit much to ask for, but I can dream.

    I hope to be able to pick up Uncanny X-Force soon and see her latest direction for myself. ^_^

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