For some time now, X-Men writers have been in the habit of giving the character Psylocke (Betsy Braddock) power boosts. It’s happened so often, that it’s almost become its own bi-annual event.
So, if I told you that it happened again in recent weeks, it might not surprise you. In Excalibur #1, Betsy took possession of her twin brother’s amulet and added the abilities of Captain Britain to her own as well as taking on the mantle (of course). With this sudden change, has Psylocke become one of the strongest beings in the Marvel Universe?
In today’s super-confusing X-Men climate, it’s important to know the difference between Psylocke and Betsy Braddock. Because until a few weeks ago it referred to the same person for 30 some odd years. As of Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor #4, Betsy Braddock regained her Caucasian body. At the same time, Kwannon, the original owner of the Asian body Betsy had inhabited, was revived. How? A bunch of magical stuff involving a psychic vampire that happened to absorb Betsy’s spirit.
Betsy eventually defeated the vampire from the inside and emerged once again in her true form. Betsy’s abandoned Asian body should have been left a lifeless husk, but it turned out, fate had other plans. Before we get to what happened next, let’s review the original fortune of Kwannon. After having her consciousness implanted into Betsy’s body and vice versa by Spiral (a long confusing story including magic, Mojo, and cyber-eyes), Kwannon contracted the Legacy Virus and died. It didn’t happen that fast but work with me.
With Kwannon dead, Psylocke (Betsy) went on using her acquired Asian body for almost three decades. However, when Betsy was forcefully pulled out of her body by the psychic vampire and then reconstituted her original Caucasian form, Kwannon’s mind regained control over the vacated body. This could mean one or two things occurred; 1. Kwannon’s soul returned from the afterlife, and repo’d her body or 2. at least a portion of her essence had remained suppressed inside of Betsy.
With both women alive and in their correct bodies, they’re understandably not on the best of terms. Especially because it appears that the latter of the two mentioned possibilities seems to be what happened. While Kwannon had been residing on Krakoa, and taken the codename Psylocke for herself, Betsy had been vacationing in England with her brother Brian’s family.
Betsy did eventually travel to Krakoa, but returned to Great Britain at the behest of Apocalypse and also informed Brian that their younger brother Jamie had been resurrected. There, she joined Brian as Captain Britain when he journeyed to Otherworld. Upon arriving the two were confronted and attacked by Morgan LeFay. Brian was captured and fell under the sorceress’ control, but not before relinquishing his amulet to his sister.
For the moment and from the looks of the solicits for the next several issues, Betsy Braddock is the new Captain Britain. Though this isn’t her first bout with the mantle, it is the first time in more than 30 years. Since then, she’s gone through several power-buffs. The first was more talent-based. When Spiral mixed and swapped Kwannon and Betsy, they each gained access to the other’s acquired skills.
Kwannon, who had avoided using her telepathic powers, took on several of Betsy’s techniques. Betsy, in turn, absorbed Kwannon’s ninjutsu skills which instantly made her one of the best hand-to-hand combatants on Earth.
After nearly dying at the hands of Sabretooth, Betsy came into contact with the Crimson Dawn which saved her life and also temporarily granted her the ability to transport through shadows.
It also gave her enough added juice to psychically imprison the Shadow King at the end of the Psi-Wars. That incident also sent a shockwave throughout the astral plane. It resulted in Jean and Betsy swapping powers which meant she suddenly had telekinetic powers as well as telepathy (though her telepathy was suppressed). Later, she was murdered by the villain Vargas but was secretly resurrected by her reality-warping little brother. Upon reviving her, Jamie also enhanced her powers.
After briefly being placed back in her original British body (via magic and Madelyn Pryor) and then having the process reversed, Betsy’s power potential was halved. That is until she was once again amped during the Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny X-Force.
In that story, Betsy was transformed into a horseman by her then-lover, Archangel. A version of Jean Grey from an alternate Age of Apocalypse timeline was able to revert her to normal, but in the process unlocked previously untapped omega-level powers.
Without any further help, holding the “omega” title made Betsy one of the strongest beings on the planet. Since then, writer Jonathan Hickman has redefined the term. Though Betsy no longer fits the revamped definition, her powers haven’t changed. That brings us to what she can do now. To understand that, we have to look at what Captain Britain is capable of.
To start, unlike his sister, Brian Braddock is not a mutant. Similar to the Juggernaut, his powers are derived from a magical totem- the Amulet of Right. With it activated Brian gains super strength, durability, endurance, reflexes, speed, and senses. In essence, he’s a stronger Captain America, but with mystical roots instead of scientific. He can also fly and possessed augmented perception which allowed him to see past the material world, into the mystical.
All of those awesome powers now belong to Betsy atop of what she already had. Of course, barring some sort of limitation that may block her from accessing both of her power sets simultaneously (that’d make too much sense). However, that doesn’t seem to be the case as she’s clearly seen dressed in the Captain Britain costume while wielding a psionic broad sword.
The Captain Britain powers alone give her physical strength on par with just about any of the higher tier Avengers, but theoretically, she can be even stronger if she wants. Her telekinetic abilities can be easily utilized to sure-up and augment her strength. Having the ability to affect the physical world, astral plane, and the mystical realm all at once arguably puts Betsy in the same league as Doctor Strange and Brother Voodoo.
Whether she deserves the constant tribute or not, Betsy is now definitely one of the X-Men’s biggest guns. Before this development, it may have seemed odd to have Apocalypse on her team as an underling, but she may now be powerful enough to keep the eternal mutant in check. Not sure if that’s something I look forward to, but we have to accept it, at least during this new run of Excalibur.