Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 30: Uncanny X-Force (Kaitlin Tremblay Guest Post)

Right from the get-go, Uncanny X-Force had everything I loved: a team of hired guns, which included Psylocke and Deadpool, taking care of dirty work incognito. And it was this team, and Remender's ability to create an ensemble cast where no character felt tacked on or left out, that ultimately hooked me. Each member brought their own unique strength and provided something to the story nobody else could -- whether it was Pyslocke’s compassion/telekenesis holding the team together, Logan’s battle-weary wisdom leading them on, Deadpool’s sheer insanity saving them from situations a sane man would run from, Angel’s psychosis testing their limits and Fantomex’s bravado threatening to break them apart. They worked as a team and moved as a team, and even when the story got a little too wacky -- which, oh boy, it did -- watching X-Force play together was always worth the read.

Despite all that, ultimately, Uncanny X-Force reads more as Pyslocke’s, or at least the Psylocke we’ve known so far, swan song -- a sort death with the ultimate hope of a rebirth for Betsy Braddock. We start off with a fairly recognizable, traditional, none-too-complicated Betsy: her unapologetic ass-kicking and her loving relationship with Warren. After The Dark Angel Saga, Betsy undergoes a series of events that are ultimately about redefining her: her mind becomes shattered; emotionally, she becomes wiped clean; she severs her relationship with her brothers and family in Otherworld; she sees a future version of herself as a Minority Report-esque fascist leader, killing people before they can commit murder in a world ruined by Apocalypse; she tries to kill herself to prevent this future; and after all of it, her mind becomes potentially irrevocably shattered in the final battle to prevent Evan from turning into the evil Apocalypse Take Two.

Everything contained within Uncanny X-Force is a steady loss of what is important to her, and her frenzied, chaotic and disastrous attempts to reconcile these events with her life. She gives up her ability to feel in order save Fantomex after killing her brother. After the horrid experiences with Angel, this is the next big step in her downward spiral. So much of Uncanny X-Force is Betsy fighting and jumping between extremes of what she feels is right and what she feels she needs to do. At the end of issue 28, when she sees herself in the future, she justifies her suicide attempt by saying "If I am the woman who brings this all about -- I'll kill her before she can." Her disassociation from herself in this scene points to the splitting that has occurred within her mind: there is the Psylocke she sees she will become, and the Psylocke she currently is, and both are wedged into her body in this moment, a moment that has been building for the entirety of the Uncanny X-Force run.

Betsy is steadily losing everyone and everything. She loses Jamie, and because of that, she also loses Otherworld. She loses Warren, she loses Fantomex. She loses her ability to feel, her ability to think properly in her own mind. By the end of issue 36, she even loses the ability to tell what is real and what is fantasy, as Fantomex points out to her on the final page. But the crucial part of this loss and descent is that it is paving the way for a creation of a new Psylocke. Uncanny X-Force ends with Betsy's assertion that, even if this is all in her head a la a Nolan movie, then at least she's going to take control and make it something meaningful for herself.

Ultimately, then, I would say Uncanny X-Force is the stage where Betsy Braddock’s life and identity plays out like a tragedy in order to take Psylocke’s character in a newer direction.  With the MarvelNOW! Uncanny X-Force run beginning including Spiral, the character who forged Betsy’s mind into Kwannon’s body, all signs appear to point to a refiguring of Betsy’s identity and characterization.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]