Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Psylocke: Kill Matsu'o

What you need to know:  In a nutshell, British mutant Psylocke and the ninja assassin Kwannon underwent an involuntary transformation years ago that resulted in their swapping bodies.  Eventually, Kwannon -in Psylocke’s original body- died a victim of the Legacy Virus (X-Men 31-32), but in a twisted plan to fight the X-Men, Madelyne Pryor brought the body back to life and captured Psylocke (Uncanny X-Men: Sisterhood)

“Kill Matsu’o” is a story by Chris Yost and artist Harvey Tolibao; a fast paced adventure that contains action, mystery, twists, and character development.  Finally free from the manipulations of Madelyne Pryor, back in her home dimension, among friends, and in her Asian body, Elisabeth Braddock a.k.a. Psylocke still had one uncomfortable task at hand: lay her original British body back to rest.

Psylocke travels to Japan in order to proceed with the burial, but is received by Hand ninjas whose despicable mission takes Elisabeth Braddock down a path of revenge against Matsu’o Tsurayaba, Kwannon’s former lover and the one responsible for the transformation both women went through so long ago.

From there, the story is an unstoppable ride full of fights, displays of power, familiar faces, and unexpected twists; still, there is enough space to go inside the mutant telepath’s soul as she reflects about what her life has been.

Chris Yost did his homework by researching Psylocke’s past, the events that brought her where she is today, and the relationships she has built along the way, which is something I appreciate; not many writers take the time to do this.  The entire story is narrated from Betsy’s point of view, which adds to characterization without wasting page space that is better used in the action sequences.

I had not paid attention to Harvey Tolibao’s work previously, but after this, I was very impressed.  His pencils are detailed and consistent, and for a story that has ninjas left and right, the visuals are very fluid and dynamic.  The inks by Neary and Florea are not the best, but what I liked the most about the art was the coloring by Arreola, Ramos and Reber; their use of the cold and warm colors, as well as the pink for Psylocke’s power effects were amazing.

If I have a complaint about this story, is the unnecessary self pity that Betsy showed a couple of times.  At the end of X-Men #32 (1994) it was clear she had made her peace with who she was “in mind, and yes, in body”; so the story would have worked just as well without the whining and the whole deathwishing thing.  I wasn’t too happy with Wolverine’s inclusion either; it drives me crazy seeing him everywhere; but at least there was a reason for him to be there, and not just because.  And to be nitpicky, there was an error when showing Kwannon’s death in a flashback; can you tell what it is?

This trade paperback also includes a reprint of Uncanny X-Men 256-258 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, where Psylocke goes from being a British telepath to an Asian ninja assassin.  I wish that X-Men 31-32 had also been included so new readers may have a better understanding of the character’s transformation.  Overall, “Psylocke: Kill Matsu’o” is a very entertaining read, with beautiful art, and is a must have for X-Men and Psylocke fans.

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