X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks #1

When Marvel solicited this issue, it was a 40-page one-shot that, it seemed, would fold Psylocke back into the X-Men following her turn on Claremont's version of the Exiles. Shortly afterwards, the solicitation was altered to announce that the main feature was actually a shorter length, and would be supplemented by a reprint of an old X-Men back-up strip. Whether this represents changes made after solicitation or an error in the original listings in unclear, but one thing's for certain: this comic, much like the recent Nightcrawler one-shot, doesn't entirely resemble the one that was originally solicited. One suspects that fans and retailers won't put up with that for long.

Beyond that, however, the story is actually quite good. Psylocke is one of Chris Claremont's "pet" characters, so he still has a fairly good grip on how she should be written. The issue is designed to tie up a thread from Exiles, where a version of the Slaymaster -- a villain from Psylocke's early days -- was hopping realities, killing every alternate Betsy Braddock he met, hoping to get "our" one. Because it's Psylocke, and because it's Claremont, she eventually defeats him in a one-on-one physical fight.

The art is done in a painted, elegant style that looks amazing, but is slightly marred by a tendency towards emphasizing Psylocke's more, er, womanly charms, but when you buy a Claremont comic, you have to be prepared to read the words as well -- and despite criticism of his recent style, it's all quite good, tying up Psylocke's unfinished plot arc, and providing a rare opportunity for the character to take center stage.

The issue really treats fans of Psylocke, bringing in multiple elements from past continuity, as well as featuring an appearance by her brother, Captain Britain, in one of his welcome glimpses outside of his own title. The relationship between Brian and Betsy is well-developed and if it's this interesting under Claremont, one can only wonder what Cornell would do with it. Consider this the start of a petition to get Psylocke into "Captain Britain"!

The backup strip is less easy to enthuse about, however. It's written by Adam Warren, and set from an odd point in the past where Psylocke was dead, so it's weird to see it paired up, no explanation, with a lead story where she very much isn't. I consider myself a fairly hardcore X-Men fan, but even I find it a little hard to understand the continuity matters surrounding this short story. There's some nice ninja-action from artist Rick Mays, but otherwise, it definitely feels like padding. The idea of backup strips is a good one, but the execution -- of this one, at least -- has a negative effect on the comic overall.

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