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STGCC Rev-Up Review: Psylocke

This week as we build up to the Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention 2010 (STGCC) on Friday, we’ll be reviewing the work of some of the special guests that will be coming down to Singapore as part of Marvel Comics’ debut exhibition in Asia.

Kicking us off will be a review of last year’s Psylocke limited series, written by X-Force scribe Chris Yost and drawn by STGCC guest Harvey Tolibao. The four-parter began in November 2009 and is titled “Kill Matsu’o”, a less-than-subtle hint that the plot is a mini-homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. The Matsu’o in question is a high-ranking member of the Hand, Marvel’s foremost ninja clan, and the person directly responsible for making Psylocke who she is today.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock, better known as Psylocke, is one of the most popular X-Men characters. Her powers are a combination of physical and mental, her appearance a blend of exotic and erotic, and to no one’s surprise, her origins are a heady mix of mutant genetics and mystic dark arts. Long story short, she’s a British mutant with psychic powers whose mind was transferred into the body of a Hand ninja named Kwannon.

At the start of 2009, Psylocke had finally returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe after dying in 2001, resurrecting in 2005 and then being a member of the multiverse-hopping team New Exiles. Before she can re-integrate herself back among the X-Men, however, Psylocke has to take a trip through her past when she undertakes a journey to re-inter the body of Revanche, her original body, in Japan – an act that Freud would have a field day overanalysing.

The limited series presupposes you know a little about Psylocke and the X-Men in general, and I’m glad there’s no overbearing exposition to recount her origins. Instead, we begin by establishing Psylocke’s place in the X-Men – she’s the veteran compared to the New X-Men, is on great terms with Dazzler, yet does not gel well with leaders Emma Frost or Cyclops. Writer Chris Yost allows the reader to be constantly in touch with the heroine’s thoughts, showcasing her fragile mental state – one that is as detached as anyone who has died and been resurrected would be. You get a feeling that this Psylocke is tougher, colder and more distant, but thanks to Yost’s writing skill, you continue to empathise with her plight despite it all.

The story is also well-crafted, with excellent pace and lots of downtime interspersed with action-packed violence, as befits Psylocke’s distinct duality. Yost, no stranger to the X-Men, crafts a story worthy of such a beloved character and never for a moment makes Braddock any less than the complex person she is. Even the inclusion of a certain overused Canucklehead doesn’t feel forced, but natural and a key part of the plot.

As a first-timer to the art of Harvey Tolibao, I am extremely impressed with the sense of drama he brings to each panel. There is a visual pacing in his art which complements and contributes to the overall tempo of the story. It doesn’t hurt that this tale features a predominantly Asian cast of characters, sporting features which are undoubtedly no stranger to the Filipino artist. Most of all, his artwork lends itself to an appreciation that every panel suggests something epic is happening or is about to.

I never like to admit it, but in this particular case, Tolibao’s clearly manga-influenced style allow his art to shine and credit must be given to anyone who can meld two art-forms from both sides of the Pacific into a unique and exciting creation. Tolibao is a perfect fit for this story of Psylocke, whose dual nature would ideally be portrayed by someone who can draw from the best of both worlds.

Pun intended.

The 4-issue limited series is out in trade paperback format, and comes with a bonus Psylocke origins story by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee (reprinting Uncanny X-Men #256-258). Get it signed this weekend! Harvey Tolibao will be present at the STGCC Walk of Fame on Friday at 1-2pm and Sunday at 1.30-2pm.

Peter Lin

His teenage years spent nursing a giant man-crush on Steve Rogers, the first Captain America, Peter naturally found himself drawn to many other heroes who depicted strong, manly qualities, including the honour-bound warrior Worf, first Klingon in Starfleet, and the muscular rock hard abs of The Thing.

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