When Kotobukiya introduced the world to their Marvel Bishoujo line, I immediately thought that Psylocke was an obvious choice for that series. She’s Asian, she’s hot, she doesn’t wear many clothes, she’s a perfect match. Kotobukiya took their time announcing her, but announce her they did and while I was thrilled, my happiness was tempered by the fact that Rogue and the Black Widow fell short of what they could have been. Regardless, Psylocke is my favorite Marvel Comics character, so there was never any question of whether I would acquire her.
Like many of the major X-Men characters, Elizabeth Braddock has had a long and convoluted history. She joined the X-Men a couple of years before I started reading comic books and originally was a physically-frail British woman with powerful telepathic abilities. During the X-Men’s stay in Australia, when the team is on the run from the evil, cybernetic Reavers, she leads the remaining X-Men through the Siege Perilous, a teleportation device that, while saving them from their assailants, divides them and, in some cases, alters them substantially.
Psylocke is perhaps the most substantially changed of all the X-Men. She reappears in Asia with no memory and falls into the clutches of Matsu’o Tsurayaba, who conspires with the six-armed mutant Spiral to swap Psylocke into the body of Kwannon, a female Japanese ninja and Matsu’o’s lover. The process is a success and Psylocke emerges as an assassin in the service of the Mandarin but is quickly rescued by Wolverine and Jubilee. She returns to the X-Men as a sexy, scantily-clad Asian woman with significant physical combat abilities.
Her past is brought up again in the adjectiveless X-Men series. As it turns out, Psylocke’s old British body is still alive and well and is now being used by Kwannon, and as it further turns out Psylocke and Kwannon’s brains have been scrambled together, making it so that while they have distinct bodies, they share memories and skills. I thought there was a lot of potential for Kwannon, being that she was an interesting character and you can’t ever go wrong with having two sexy purple-haired women on one team, but unfortunately her return to the X-Men was quite brief as the writer then introduced the Legacy Virus into the storyline. Kwannon – now going by the name Revanche – falls victim to the disease and returns to Matsu’o Tsurayaba, who kills her at her request.
Psylocke remains part of the X-Men for a long time, gaining a ridiculous red tattoo over her left eye in the process, until longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont was given a new series titled X-Treme X-Men. He takes Psylocke and promptly kills her in the second issue of the series. She stays dead for a number of years of real time, until being resurrected in Uncanny X-Men #455. She joins the X-Men and then the Exiles team. She is then mysteriously captured by Madelyne Pryor, who has also exhumed her British corpse, and in a further indignity is strapped into bondage and forcibly has her soul sucked out and implanted back into her old body, her Japanese body being left as a drooling husk.
Of course, nothing in comics is permanent, and just a few issues later she manages to insert herself back into her Japanese body while her British body is destroyed. I have no doubt that future X-Men writers will not hesitate to resurrect her British body once more should it prove expedient, however.
While I like Psylocke as a character, I don’t doubt that much of her popularity comes from her sex appeal. Her Asian image coincides with Jim Lee’s arrival as the regular Uncanny X-Men artist and his iconic rendition is still her basic character design. Some people decry that lack of change – she’s gone through several costume variations but has always reverted back to her blue high-necked leotard – but I hope she never changes, personally. Some comic characters look perfect the way they are – I couldn’t imagine Superman without the blue tights and red briefs, nor would Spider-Man look right without the full bodysuit and big white eyes and web design (although I suppose one could contend that the black suit that Peter Parker sometimes wore constitutes a major change). In my mind, Jim Lee’s design is what I think of when I think of Psylocke.
She’s portrayed as a ninja with advanced combat training, but oddly, she loses a lot of fights. Off the top of my head, she’s neutralized by Magneto in X-Men #1, although admittedly, Magneto is an extremely powerful mutant and Psylocke probably had no chance anyway. She’s beaten by Revanche upon the latter’s return to the X-Men mansion, she gets knocked out by Gambit a couple of issues after that, she’s nearly eviscerated by Sabertooth, she gets killed by a mutant named Vargas (who scrawls a message on a wall using her blood), and then she somehow gets subdued by Madelyne Pryor’s sisterhood of mutants. I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about, being that I’ve only read comics off and on over the past twenty years.
Anyway, on to the figure. Psylocke is by Kotobukiya and is the latest figure in their Marvel Bishoujo line. Sculpted in 1/8 scale, she’s barely 18 centimeters tall. She comes fixed to her base right out of the box. Her only accessories are a pair of swords that slide into her hands.
Like the other Marvel Bishoujo figures, Psylocke is based off of artwork by Shunya Yamashita, which I like very much.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the sculpt is quite as impressive as the picture. Psylocke’s proportions seem off – her head is very long and narrow, her neck is also seems overly long and thin, and her hips are too wide. On the plus side, her ideal viewing angle – from the side, where her face is looking at the viewer – conceals these flaws. Actually, there are a few angles where she looks pretty good and a few angles – such as from the front – where she looks very strange.
The paint is decent, although some of the blue paint on her arm and thigh bands isn’t completely sharp. You won’t be able to notice that from more than a foot away, though.
I think that the biggest problem is her size. Like Rogue and the Black Widow, Psylocke is noticeably smaller than most of the 1/8 scale figures that I own. I really wish that Kotobukiya had elected to sculpt the Marvel Bishoujo figurs in a truer 1/8 scale or larger.
So how do I feel about Psylocke? Despite her flaws – and they are obvious – I do like this figure a lot, but that’s mainly because of my fondness for the character. I’ve been a fan of Psylocke for years and I’ve been hoping for a decent Psylocke figure for a long time. Admittedly, this figure isn’t all that I hoped for, but it still looks okay if turned the right way. I’m not certain that the Marvel Bishoujo line is going to have much appeal to figure collectors who aren’t Marvel Comics fans, but those that are may find these figures desirable.
While Psylocke’s general character design was set by Jim Lee back in the early 90s, the details of her design have varied by artist. Some artists give her multiple thigh and arm bands of differing width. Some artists give her leotard a thong back while others give her a bit more modesty. She’s had blue eyes, purple eyes, brown eyes … Kotobukiya’s figure actually gives her green eyes.
I found this cover to be amusing; the ninja on the bottom looks like he’s trying to give her legs a hug, while the one in the back looks like he wants to give Psylocke a spanking.
This is what she looked like right after becoming the Mandarin’s assassin. She didn’t wear this armor for very long, as I recall.
After Psylocke was killed, Marvel threw her fans a bone by giving her a short story in X-Men Unlimited. The story in this comic was written by Adam Warren, who wrote American comic adaptations of the Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis series.
When Jim Lee jumped ship from Marvel to form Image Comics, many of Marvel’s best artists went with him, including Marc Silvestri. Silvestri was Lee’s predecessor as the artist on The Uncanny X-Men, and he created a comic book called Cyberforce, which featured cybernetic characters with many similarities to the X-Men. One such character was Cyblade, a female combatant who, much like Psylocke, can generate energy blades.
Silvestri later left Image to form Top Cow Productions. Their most famous property, Witchblade, was turned into an anime, and one of the Funimation DVDs features Silvestri giving a tour of the Top Cow studio and talking a bit about the series.
There are a number of Psylocke statues that are going to be available soon. Bowen Designs and Sideshow Collectibles have unveiled theirs, while Kotobukiya is actually sculpting another Psylocke figure, whose initial sketch is shown here. I’m not sure I dig Bowen’s or Sideshow’s; the former doesn’t really look Asian, whereas I think the latter could use a face redesign. I’m hoping that Kotobukiya’s second Psylocke figure turns out nice, and from the prototype sculpt pictures that I’ve seen, it looks like it could.