Master of Assassins,
Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #255
Crimelord, master assassin
The Hand, Yakuza;
formerly the Upstarts,
Death Touch Cult
• Ninja master trained in the martial
arts and use of various traditional
Japanese weapons as well as
• Cybernetic hand possessed
and retractable laminated steel
blades in the fingers
• Full bionic arm worked in
conjunction with an exoskeletal battle suit that increased his overall strength and resistance to physical injury, and also equipped with an energy sword and laser weaponry
Other than the fact he was born in Japan, the early life of Matsu'o Tsurayaba is relatively unknown. At some point in his early years, he found his way into the organization of assassins known the Hand. Matsu'o's main tutor was a man named Kirichiwa, who trained his pupil not only in the ancient art of the ninja, but also imparted his knowledge of the traditions and rules of the Hand. Matsu'o would devote his life to the organization and its time-worn motto "Kill or be killed." Over time, Matsu'o eventually rose through ranks of the Hand until he became jonin. It was during this time that he would meet and fall in love with a fellow assassin by the name of Kwannon. The two fell deeply in love and affectionately called each other "Matta" and "Butterfly," although Kwannon wasn't so fond of her delicate nickname.
Kwannon, however, worked for a man named Nyorin, who was a rival to the Hand. Despite this fact, the star-crossed lovers continued their relationship along with the knowledge that, should their two sides clash, then they would surely cross swords. One day, Kwannon learned that Nyorin's next move would put him in direct conflict with the Hand. Knowing what was to come, Matsu'o suggested the two leap from a high building to their deaths, as they could die in each other's arms instead of at each other's hands. Kwannon pointed out that there would be no honor in that and the two vowed that, to honor one another, they would fight each other to the death.
Sure enough, the night came when the two sides met in battle. Matsu'o remembered his training and the Hand's motto and was honor bound to fight Kwannon. The two fought and, after matching each other blow for blow, Kwannon slipped on a muddy ledge and plummeted off a cliff to the ocean below. Kwannon was severely injured and lay at death's door. As Matsu'o retrieved her body from the water, Nyorin came up to him and offered him a deal. Matsu'o could take Kwannon and let the Hand save her. In return, Nyorin wouldn’t cross them again. It was at this point that Matsu'o realised Nyorin was also in love with Kwannon.
So, Matsu'o took Kwannon back to the Hand. Not only was her body broken but her brain was damaged, due to the oxygen deprivation from when she fell in the water. With his lover in a vegetative state and no way of pulling her out of it, things were looking bleak for Matsu'o. That was until a solution was almost literally dropped in his lap. Another woman washed up on his island's shores and he realized that it was the telepathic Elisabeth Braddock, aka Psylocke, of the X-Men. Psylocke had traveled through the mystical portal called the Siege Perilous and had been reborn on the other side. Her mind had been wiped by the process and she had no clue as to who she really was. Matsu'o decided to contact the Mandarin to see if he could aid in what he had planned next. He broke into the Mandarin's base and killed all of his bodyguards. He then presented himself to the villain and proceeded to make him an offer. He told the Mandarin about Psylocke and her abilities and offered her to him as an assassin in return for his help in healing the woman.
Matsu'o intended to switch the minds of the two women around so that Kwannon's mind would be in the healthy body of Psylocke and Psylocke in Kwannon's damaged one. Matsu'o was informed, though, that although Kwannon’s mind could survive the transfer her body was still too damaged. So he decided to enlist the help of Spiral to undertake the procedure. What he didn’t count on was Spiral manipulating events for her own purposes. She decided to take the plan one step further and not only switch the minds but to merge them together so that each one contained fragments of the other. Not only that but she manipulated their genetic structure so that they had physical characteristics of each other. By the time she was finished, the two women's minds and bodies were almost identical. However, more of Psylocke existed in Kwannon's body and more of Kwannon existed in Psylocke's.
Once the switch was complete, Matsu'o realized that the woman inside Psylocke's body wasn't the woman he had fallen in love with. The oxygen deprivation had had a greater effect on her psyche than he realized and she was now effectively a blank slate. He decided to keep the woman who looked most like his lover, even though it contained the mind of someone else. He had Spiral deliver Psylocke's body with Kwannon's mind in it to Nyorin, who would in turn train the woman to become an assassin and love him the way he loved her the first time around. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #255-256, X-Men (2nd series) #31-32]
Matsu'o trained the amnesic Psylocke in the ways of the assassin. She excelled at her instruction and soon became one of the Mandarin's finest assassins. The time came for her to emerge from her training and take on a real threat. After defeating many of the Hong Kong crime lords in the name of the Mandarin, Matsu'o sent her after the notorious Patch, aka Wolverine, who had just arrived on the island. Psylocke easily defeated Wolverine and he was captured by Matsu'o and the Hand. Psylocke tried using her powers to brainwash Wolverine, but instead she ended up realizing who she truly was once she touched his mind. After a fight with the Mandarin, Psylocke returned to the X-Men and Matsu’o lost his lover once again. [Uncanny X-men (1st series) #256-258]
Matsu'o chose not to pursue Psylocke; instead he committed himself to the business of the Hand. He met with the Fenris twins on Madripoor a while later about a business arrangement. The twins were part of a group called the Upstarts, players in a game in which they would gain points with the mysterious Gamesmaster for every mutant they killed. Part of their plan was to resurrect Omega Red and that’s where Matsu'o came in. Matsu'o and the Hand were able to bring him back to life but they couldn't stabilize his death-dealing powers. Without a device called a C-Synthesizer, Omega Red relied on the life forces of others to survive. The only person who knew the location of the device was Wolverine. Omega Red captured Wolverine and brought him to Matsu'o and the Fenris twins. When the X-Men made a rescue attempt, Matsu'o came face to face with Psylocke again. However, he chose to activate a hypnotic suggestion he had planted in her when she was under his influence months before. Psylocke helped defeat the rest of the X-Men and they were all captured.
Matsu'o then used a device to access Wolverine’s memories whilst allowing him to watch them. He eventually discovered the location of the C-Synthesizer but was distracted when the X-Men broke loose. Psylocke broke free of her mental conditioning but was knocked out by Matsu'o. He was prepared to let her die at the hands of Omega Red but was stopped by the X-Men. Matsu'o and his allies fled but he had the knowledge of the whereabouts of the C-Synthesizer. He made his way to the grave of a woman from Wolverine's past and had his men dig up the grave, expecting to find the C-Synthesiser. Instead, he found Wolverine, who leapt out of the coffin and sliced off Matsu'o's right hand. Matsu'o managed to escape with his life but he left the C-Synthesizer behind. [X-Men (2nd series) #2, 4-7]
Matsu'o returned to Japan to convalesce and return to the business of running the Hand. The influence of Clan Yashida was growing and tensions between them and the Hand were starting to increase. Wolverine's appearance in Tokyo didn’t help matters. Upon learning of his nemesis' visit, Matsu'o sent out a cadre of ninjas to kill him and return with his head. He also sent out a woman named Reiko to poison Jubilee, who had come to Japan with Wolverine. Reiko owed a debt of honor to Wolverine, and refused to kill Jubilee after learning she was his friend. She was forcibly returned to Matsu'o when she tried to flee Japan. He decided to spare her life on the condition she complete another job for him.
Meanwhile, Wolverine had beaten the ninjas but, in the process, had gained a lot of attention across Tokyo. He headed to the residence of Mariko Yashida, his former lover and current leader of the clan, to try and sort the situation out.
Matsu'o saw an opportunity to achieve two goals with one action. He sent his Hand ninjas into Mariko's home to kill Wolverine and also to eliminate the Clan Yashida. In doing so, he could acquire the underworld connections of the clan and further the Hand’s grip on the city. As a back-up, however, he also sent in Reiko with a proposition for Mariko. Matsu'o would buy out the Yashida Clan holdings and dissolve them himself and all he wanted in return was one of her fingers. Reiko presented her blade to an unsuspecting Mariko and, when questioned about whether it was poisoned, proceeded to cut off one of her own fingers as a demonstration. Mariko was satisfied and took the knife. Unbeknownst to her, Reiko had been building up a resistance to the poison for years, and so when Mariko pricked herself with the knife she was instantly poisoned by a deadly blowfish toxin. Wolverine ended up killing Mariko himself to save her from a slow and painful death. Upon realizing that Mariko was Wolverine's lover, Reiko took her own life.
Matsu'o retreated to his home and prepared for the inevitable retribution from Wolverine. Matsu'o had fitted himself with a prosthetic hand and had it equipped with razor sharp blades. That wasn't enough to stop Wolverine, who found him and cut the hand off again. However, instead of killing Matsu'o, Wolverine decided a more fitting punishment was in order. Every year on the anniversary of Mariko's death, he would find him and cut a part of him off. With that, he slashed Matsu'o across the face and took his left eye. [Wolverine (2nd series) #55-57, #60]
Whilst all this had been happening, Nyorin had been training up Kwannon (now in Psylocke’s original body) to be his supreme assassin. Now going by Revanche, she was sent to kill Psylocke in order to complete her training. However, things did not go according to plan and the two women eventually ended up joining forces and traveling to Japan to figure out who was really who. They first tracked down Nyorin, who gave them a fake diary filled with lies about their origins. He then directed them to find Matsu'o. However, once they found him, Matsu'o refused to tell them their true origins. The two women returned to the X-Men for the time being but a twist of fate would bring them back again. [X-Men (2nd series) #18, 21-23]
Kwannon soon contracted the Legacy Virus, a disease that targeted mutants and caused their powers to flare up until they eventually died. As her telepathic powers grew, she was able to cut through her clouded mind and finally realized who she was and who Psylocke was. She traveled to Japan one final time to meet with her old lover, Matsu'o. Upon realizing she knew everything, Matsu'o relented and admitted his part in her fate. With her powers flaring up uncontrollably, she realized she was in the final moments of life. She affectionately called him "Matta" and then asked him to redeem himself by killing her before the virus took her. He stabbed her with a blade and, in doing so, she let out one final telepathic burst.
On the other side of the world, Psylocke felt Kwannon die and so travelled to Japan to confront Nyorin. When she got to Nyorin's estate, she found him dead by the hands of Matsu'o. Matsu'o revealed what had happened to both of them and his hand in it. When Kwannon died, she left a portion of her powers within him so that he could bring peace to Psylocke. He kissed her and returned Psylocke's memories and the telepathic potential that Kwannon possessed. In return, he took Kwannon's memories away from her, finally giving her a clear mind. Afterwards, he snatched Psylocke's katana off her and was ready to kill himself, but she managed to convince him to honor his lover by living instead of dying. [X-Men (2nd series) #31-32]
Although one of the shadier parts of Matsu'o's life was now cleared up, another part would continue to rear its ugly head. Wolverine was true to his threats and over the years he returned on the anniversary of Mariko's death to exact revenge on Matsu'o. On the first anniversary, Matsu'o wasn't too concerned with the prospect of Wolverine coming for him. He ended up losing most of his left arm that night. The following year, Matsu'o took precautions and filled his house with Hand ninjas. That didn't stop Wolverine from fighting his way in and taking his right ear. [Wolverine (2nd series) #175]
Matsu'o still had an organization to run and, when he saw the chance to gain a foothold in Madripoor, he took it. Wolverine, Madripoor's protector, had recently been brutally injured by Sabretooth, so Matsu'o decided to join forces with the organization Hydra to remove the weakened Wolverine once and for all. However, he changed his plans and decided to capture Wolverine, along with Sabretooth and Shadowcat. His new plan was to corrupt the trio instead. This would prove a grave error, though, as they eventually broke free and defeated Matsu'o and put a stop to any hope of him taking over Madripoor. [Wolverine (2nd series) #127-128]
The time came again for Wolverine's annual visit. Matsu’o was now fully aware of the fury Wolverine possessed and, even though he surrounded himself with bodyguards and an arsenal of technology, he still lost his nose that year.
Matsu'o spent a large part of his fortune to protect himself. He replaced his missing arm with a cybernetic one and trained in numerous martial arts. He bought armored suits and state of the art weapons, but Wolverine still returned a year later to take his gall bladder. Matsu'o soon resigned himself to his fate. He was never going to beat Wolverine and he was now living in fear of what body part he would lose next. On the next anniversary, he made his last will and testament and awaited Wolverine's arrival. However this was the year he got a reprieve, as Wolverine had been incapacitated by Sabretooth and failed to show. [Wolverine (2nd series) #175]
Another year went by and the time came once again for Wolverine to visit, so Matsu'o began to prepare for it. This year, though, he would receive help from a very unlikely source. The Greek gods Achelous and Eurytheus sought him out and offered him a deal. He would have the Hand use their resurrection skills on a number of mythological creatures so that they could send them after Hercules. In return, Matsu'o would also have the use of the creatures for his own purposes. Over the years, Matsu'o had lost his influence within the Hand and he saw this as an opportunity to regain it. Matsu'o sent an army of resurrected creatures after the leaders of the Hand. Having nowhere else to turn, the leaders decided to contact Wolverine for help. Matsu'o and Wolverine met once again in battle and, like every year, Matsu'o would be the one to lose. However, this year was different, as Wolverine decapitated Matsu'o, finally giving him the peace he had begun to crave. Unfortunately for him, this peace wasn't to last. The Hand did what they do best and brought Matsu'o back to life, much to his dismay. [Wolverine and Hercules: Myths, Monsters and Mutants #1-4]
By now, Matsu'o was tired of the constant torment. His body was deeply scarred and he now needed a nurse to assist him. He wanted to die but, as he was unable to hold a seppuku knife to end it with honor, he decided to get someone else to do it for him. Psylocke's original body had recently been resurrected for a brief period and so she had taken it to Japan to be reburied. However, during the ceremony, Matsu'o had his Hand ninjas blow up the body, enraging Psylocke enough to want Matsu'o dead. Contrarily, Wolverine didn't want Matsu'o dead and ordered his friend Yukio to watch him just in case. Sure enough, Psylocke came for Matsu'o and clashed with Yukio. After beating her, as well another assassin Matsu'o had tricked into coming for him, Psylocke was about to kill him. At this moment, Wolverine arrived and the two fought for the fate of Matsu'o. Not wanting to kill a friend, Wolverine relented and allowed Psylocke to do what she must.
On top of the cliff where Kwannon first fell, Psylocke met with Matsu'o and he apologized for everything he put her through. She entered his mind and made it so his last moments could be spent with Kwannon. She then plunged her psychic dagger into his mind and his lifeless body fell from the cliff into the ocean below. [Psylocke #1-4]