Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #256

Issue Date: 
December 1989
Story Title: 
The Key That Breaks The Locke

Chris Claremont (writer), Jim Lee (peniceler), Scott Williams (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

In Hong Kong, Matsuo Tsurayaba approaches the Mandarin with an offer of an alliance between his organization and the Hand, a ruthless clan of assassins. Matsuo's deal is for the Hand to help the Mandarin build an empire unparalleled by any in the past, in exchange for gainful employment in its service. To begin their alliance, Matsuo offers a gift; that of an ultimate assassin. This assassin is the long missing Psylocke, who has emerged from the Siege Perilous amnesiac and found by the Hand. Her body has been transformed into an asian one. However, before Psylocke can become the pawn the Hand requires, Matsuo puts Psylocke through a telepathic brainwashing that forces her, within her mind, to fight and kill her old teammates. Part of her astral battles takes place in the Body Shoppe run by Spiral and Mojo, suggesting their involvement in the physical changes made to her body.

Full Summary: 

On a peak overlooking the harbor of Hong Kong, and the city itself, lays a grand mansion among those of the Tai-pan. A closer look at the mansion grounds reveals not a stately manor, but a courtyard of death, as dozens of guards lay dead. Within the mansion, the source of the death crouches before an Armani suited man who gazes out of the window to the majestic city outside. The suited individual calmly tells the intruder he has slain those faithful to him, and asks the him why his life should not stand forfeit for theirs.
The crouching figure addresses the questioner by his title, Lord Mandarin, and identifies himself as Matsuo Tsurayaba. He tells the Mandarin that he has stripped him of his lesser hands, so that he might offer him the services of the true Hand. The Mandarin turns and faces Matsuo, replying that the Hand is no more. Matsuo raises one fist, stating that whatever the fate of one hand, one may rely on the other. To illustrate this point Matsuo raises his other fist, showing that there is always more than one Hand.
The Mandarin says that he understands, and asks if Matsuo is a Jonin or common Genin. Matsuo replies that he is an emissary. He states that before the century is done, Hong Kong will revert to Chinese sovereignty. However, the middle kingdom is in fragments, and the old men who lead it will soon be swept away by the winds of change. Not in the all of history, Matsuo says, has there been such an opportunity for the right man to carve himself an empire the like of which the world has never known. Moving the conversation to the Mandarin, Matsuo states that no one will follow a man who has been beaten by Yankee "super heroes". Even a Mandarin can lose only so much face. Matsuo offers the Mandarin a gift: a means to strike at his foes with impunity, to know their minds' most intimate secrets, so that he may cut their hearts out. Wanting to hear more, the Mandarin orders his servant, Li Fong, to bring them both tea, so that they may discuss the matter further.
(In Psylocke’s mind)

Elsewhere, a young Betsy Braddock sits in a carousel fighter plane and shoots down a Nazi Luftwaffe bombing England. With a child's imagination and gusto she narrates her own actions, telling all that she will protect her brother, Brian. Sitting nearby with an apple in one hand and a book in the other, the real Brian Braddock incredulously asks himself why his sister can't play with dolls and ride horses like any other self respecting girl. Or, he continues, at least leave him out of her fantasies.
For Betsy, the fantasy turns to reality as she no longer sits in a mock spitfire, but in a real one, high above the England she was protecting. Above her, real Messerschmitts fire strafe her plane. Reality crashes back to her and she is back on her carousel ride. A tall blonde, clad in a blue uniform and cap, tells the young Betsy that the ride is over and it is time to close the show. As Betsy and her twin brother walk away they are recalled by the uniformed blonde. The woman tells Betsy that she has found a ring in the cockpit of the "spitfire". Betsy answers that she wasn't wearing a ring, but the blonde and another capped attendant smile devilishly and insist on her taking it. It looks, the man says, like it was made for her.
Betsy runs, trying to catch up with her brother who is lost in his book. The young Betsy thrusts and parries her arm with an imaginary sword, telling her foes to take "that" and "that". Catching up with her brother, Betsy tackles him, exclaiming that while she at least reads adventure stories, all he does is read to study. Betsy grabs her brother's book and runs atop a nearby stonewall. Angered, Brian lunges for his sister. When he reaches her he finds himself, not a young boy, but a fully-grown barbarian with sword in hand. Likewise, his sister is now an armored knight. Their swords clash in battle and reality returns.
Both children are astonished at what just happened, but quickly dismiss it. Each apologizes to the other, Betsy for stealing the book and Brian for being so cross. Looking to the ground and walking away, Betsy comments about how lonely life is in the country, so far away from anyone else. As she walks, Brian cries out to his sister, telling her to look at what he has found. Betsy returns and sees that Brian has found another ring. She puts it on and exclaims that it's wonderful. Brian comments that it's a match for the first and with eight more, she'll have a full set.
A honking horn interrupts the twins. Betsy runs to the source of the honking: her and Brian's brother Jamie in his Ferrari Testarossa. Betsy jumps into Jamie's lap, much to his girlfriend's disgust. Jamie asks Betsy if she would like to take the car for a spin. After an ecstatic yes, Betsy locks her elbows behind the wheel and tells Jamie to hit it. With a nearly sonic vroom the Ferrari leaves Brian in the dust. Topping 180 KPH, Betsy continues yelling faster, faster! In the back seat of the car, now upside down, Jamie's girlfriend begs them to stop.
Once the car has stopped, Betsy steps out. No longer a girl in her preteens, she is now fully grown, voluptuous and clad in a leather bodysuit. From within the car, Doug Ramsey yells that while risk taking is one thing, what they just did was crazy. He then adds that it wasn't like her at all. Visibly hurt, Betsy whispers for him not to say that. She then adds, in full voice, that if he believes that then he doesn't know her. As she walks to the mansion where they have parked, Betsy tells Doug, still in the car, that she doesn't know why she ever bothered with him. As she reaches the mansion, a doorman opens the door, welcoming Betsy so the Body Shoppe. As she passes through the door, the doorman, with a stretched smile and glowing eyes, says that they have been expecting her.
Inside, Betsy is greeted by Storm. After a hug, Storm walks Betsy through the mall, all the while her appearance and clothes change. Once in the beauty salon, the attendants rush Betsy to the chair. They tell her that she's looked like this her whole life and it's time for a change. Out with the old, in with the new! Once she's secured, they begin to pour on face paint and tell her that they cannot have a Westerner running the Hong Kong underworld. The attendants rip the newly poured face paint off, revealing a new Asian face beneath. The new eyes look up and see Mojo faces and smiled looking back. They tell her that whoever she was, it's no longer who she is.
The new Betsy stands complete. She now has a lithe, Asian body with purple hair, clad in a bodysuit. Looking into mirrors that depict not a reflection, but versions of Captain Britain, Betsy asks Storm why Brain was chosen, and not she. She continues, telling Storm that he never wanted that life, and it was all that she had ever dreamed of. She would have given anything for the chance. When Storm asks her if there is anything wrong, Betsy tells her that she can't feel, inside or out. She feels no sensation, as if she isn't solid. She feels alive, but like a ghost... and she believes that there is someone out there in the dark, watching.

Indeed, outside of the water-filled holding tank, the Mandarin and Matsuo watch the captive Betsy. The Mandarin asks Matsuo who the girl is. Matsuo replies that they believe she is the X-Man Psylocke. The Mandarin then asks if the mutants weren't reported slain, to which Matsuo answers that they are as evidently practiced in deception as they. Continuing, Matsuo tell the Mandarin that they found her she was in shock, her mind and memories totally fragmented. Now, he says, they are in the process of isolating useful elements of her psyche and manipulating them toward a desired goal. Using a telepath he calls a Sensitive, they monitor her progress and prevent her telepathy from detective them. Matsuo also adds that Psylocke seems to be invisible to their sensors, another need for the human Sensitive. With the Hand's spiritual resources, Matsuo says, combined with the Mandarin's unparalleled skill and conditioning, they will have an operative who can read minds, control them, and slay with a thought.
The Mandarin tells his Emissary that the Hand has never been noted for its altruism, and asks why they are giving him this gift. Matsuo replies that a guild of assassins needs employment, just as a great lord needs spies to seek out enemies and executioners to deal with them. In Psylocke, he says, you have both.
(In Psylocke's mind)

Psylocke broods over the images of Captain Britain in the mirrors. In anger, she breaks them all, shattering the mirrors into shards. Pyslocke then turns her attention to Storm. Using her with her Mento-Intensifer Ring, Psylocke telepathically subdues Storm and demands that she turn over her ring. Obediently, Storm falls to her knees and hands her ring to Psylocke. After placing it on her hand, Psylocke activates the Flame Blast, incinerating her former teammate. Studying the rings on her hand, Psylocke notes that she has ten fingers, needing ten rings. Yelling that she shall not rest until she has them all, Psylocke jumps from the platform that she's on.
Psylocke lands in the studio of the armored Colossus. On a canvas over ten feet high, Colossus draws Betsy as she was months before. Strolling to another of her former team, Psylocke tells Colossus that she wants his ring. Recognizing Psylocke, but still confused, Colossus asks her how she can be so changed. She answers that the nature of life is change, especially when one passes through the Siege Perilous. She notes that while he has found his heart's desire, she is seeking hers. Defiantly, Colossus tells her that the ring is not for her, as it will destroy her. She retorts that he is wrong; that it is her salvation. With her Ice Blast, Psylocke reduces Colossus to a temperature near absolute zero. With his form made brittle by the cold, Colossus falls apart with a flick of Psylocke's finger. His ring falls gently into Psylocke's outstretched hand.
Psylocke finds Dazzler outside a Hollywood dance club. Not giving up without a fight, Dazzler blasts Psylocke with her laser. Satisfied with her easy victory, Dazzler doesn't notice Psylocke behind her or the Electro Blast from Psylocke's ring that kills her. As she picks up Dazzler's ring, Psylocke notes how simple it was for the Mento-Intensifier ring to create the illusion that Dazzler blasted. Now with the Black Light ring, Psylocke notes, her number of rings is six.
In Genosha, Havok runs from Punchout, the Press Gang's strong woman, and a squad of magistrates. Punchout yells for Havok to stop, but he defiantly refuses. He tells her that he will run and fight until his people are free and the slave society of Genosha is dust. Jumping from one roof to another, Havok catches the edge of roof. Looking back he sees his pursuers stopped cold and blinded by a black light beam. When he asks himself who could have done this he is answered by a voice from the roof above. Looking up, he sees Psylocke who takes his hand. She promises that if he gives her the Disintegrator ring, she will not drop him. Not in a position to refuse, he complies. Once the ring is on her finger, Psylocke keeps her promise and fires her new power, killing him by means other than dropping him.
On a shattered concrete ground, Psylocke finds Rogue and Carol Danvers, both dead. From their corpses, Psylocke picks up her next two rings and puts them on. From behind, Psylocke hears a voice calling her betrayal incarnate. From the darkness a shattered Captain Britain helmet is thrown. The voice from the darkness tells Pyslocke that her brother had the ninth ring, but as he needs it no longer, it belongs to him. From the darkness the Impact ring unleashes its power upon Pyslocke knocking her down. Partially recovered, Psylocke looks up and sees the Slaymaster. Before his malevolent laughter, she tells him that she is not just a telepath anymore, but has real power. Quoting a wise man, Slaymaster tells her that it is not the weapon that matters, but the warrior who wields it.

Outside Psylocke's holding tank, the Hand's Sensitive cries in pain. Matsuo studies the data on his console and tells the Mandarin that the Sensitive's physical telemetry is fluctuating as wildly as if he was in an actual fight. When the Mandarin asks Matsuo if Psylocke is resisting his influence, he exclaims that it is impossible. He states that she should be well along the way to killing all of the elements and relationships of her past, until she is under the influence of the Hand. However, he continues, something has gone wrong. A random element has entered the equation, and it's threatening to kill her.
(In Psylocke’s mind)

Slaymaster continues to batter Psylocke. Taunting her, he asks if she truly thought that donning the garb of a warrior would make her one. With his foe nearly helpless, Slaymaster tries to remove her rings. When she resists, Slaymaster, with a single swipe, claws Psylocke's eyes out. Now as lifeless as a rag doll, Psylocke is picked up by Slaymaster who holds her close. Gloating in his victory, Slaymaster tells her that she was doomed from the start. It was so easy to betray her friends since she had so long ago betrayed herself. Without warning, Psylocke springs to life, calling Slaymaster a liar. She slams both wrists into Slaymaster's helmet, cracking it. Continuing her attack, Psylocke side kicks her foe and then follows with another wrist blow that shatters his helmet revealing, not Slaymaster, but the Mandarin beneath.
The Mandarin retaliates, firing his Impact beam, which Psylocke deftly avoids. When he uses the Black Light ring, Psylocke laughs pointing out that his ingenious strategem is totally wasted on a blind telepath. After another kick to his neck, a leg sweep and an elbow to the chin, the Mandarin falls to the ground. Psylocke picks up a large rock and prepares to smash the Mandarin's head in. Regaining his sense, the Mandarin, using his Mento-Intensifier ring, commands Psylocke to drop her rock and acknowledge him as her lord and master. While she does drop her rock, Psylocke refuses any acknowledgement. As the Mandarin's own ringed hands point to his head, she tells him that while his mind controls the ring, through her telepathy, she controls his thoughts. The Mandarin's rings activate, obliterating his skull.
Mojo and Spiral stand in amazement. The spineless lord tells Spiral that Psylocke dances almost as twisty as she does, which Spiral takes as a compliment. When Spiral asks what is next, Mojo answers that they give her inner eyes to match the outer ones they gave her so long ago. That way she can see and act as clearly as they. With finality he adds that one cannot walk the Wildways without Mojo-Eyes to show the way.

In the Mandarin's palace, Psylocke kneels before her new master. From afar, the technicians inform Matsuo that the Sensitive and the Scuba men who were in the tank with Psylocke are all dead. Matsuo admits that while the losses are unfortunate, they are acceptable ones under the circumstances. At the Mandarin's feet, Psylocke presents the rings that she has won in fair combat to their rightful lord and master, who is hers as well.
With his triumph complete, Matsuo tells Mandarin that they have her. And through her... he trails. "Who knows indeed," the Mandarin finishes. So lost in his revelry, the Mandarin does notice the wicked smile stretched across Psylocke's down turned face.

Characters Involved: 


Matsuo Tsurayaba

Hand Sensitive

Hand technicians

Li Fong, Mandarin’s servant
In Psylocke's mind :

Colossus, Dazzler, Havok, Rogue, Storm (all X-Men)

Carol Danvers

Brian Braddock / Captain Britain

Jamie Braddock

Jamie Braddock's girlfriend

Cypher (New Mutants)





Story Notes: 

A Tai-pan is a foreigner who is a chief executive of a business or company operating in China.
A Jonin is a family leader who makes all philosophical and long-range strategic decisions for his clan. A Genin is a ninja operative trained from childhood as warriors and subservient to a Jonin.
In 1984 Britain signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration that set the return date of Hong Kong to Chinese rule for July 1, 1997. Under this Declaration Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy from China for fifty years as a Special Autonomous Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China under the principles of "One Country/Two Systems" and "Hong Kong People Governing Hong Kong". This transition, which did occur in 1997, ended more than 150 years of British colonial rule.
During the short time between joining the X-Men and when they left for Australia, Psylocke grew very close to Doug Ramsey. Both had feelings for the other, but due to their age difference, never acted on it. Shortly after the X-Men went to Australia, Doug Ramsey died from a gunshot. [New Mutants #60]
When the doorman welcomes Betsy to the "Body Shoppe" this hints heavily at what is happening and will be expanded on in the future. Contrary to what is believed by the general audience, Psylocke has not emerged from the Siege Perilous in an Asian body, but has been transformed by Spiral's Body Shoppe at the behest of the Hand. This situation is explained in X-Men (2nd series) #31-32. Besides if you check the last issue once more, you’ll find that Psylocke was still caucasian when she was found by the Hand.
When Psylocke tells Storm that she was once Captain Britain she is referring to a brief time where she adopted the identity of Captain Britain. [Capt. Britain (2nd series) #13]
The Mandarin, as well as the rest of the world, still believes the X-Men dead after the events in Dallas in Uncanny X-Men #227.
Back in her appearances in various Captain Britain titles of Marvel UK, Betsy Braddock was more a precog than a telepath. During her combat with the various X-Men, Psylocke seems to be foreseeing how each will emerge from the Siege Perilous. In Uncanny X-Men #259, Colossus will return as an amnesiac artist named Peter Nicholas in Uncanny X-Men and Dazzler will return to her life in Hollywood. Havok will appear in Genosha in Uncanny X-Men #270. Rogue will reappear in Uncanny X-Men #269 where she and Carol Danvers will fight for possession of their body, with only one surviving.
Betsy's eyes were clawed out by Slaymaster in Captain Britain (2nd series) #13 and replaced with bionic eyes in New Mutants Annual #2 by Mojo. His motive was to record and transmit what Betsy saw and market it as entertainment. After the X-Men were resurrected by Roma and given the gift of technological invisibility [Uncanny X-Men #227], Mojo lost his "feed".
Overall Psylocke gains only nine rings in the issue : The female carousel attendant (Spiral) gave her one, Brian found one and gave her the second. She gets one from Storm and another from Colossus. Next is Dazzler's, then one from Havok and two more from Rogue and Carol. Slaymaster tells Psylocke that he has taken the last one from her brother Captain Britain. This results in only nine rings, however if you look really close you’ll see that when Betsy enters her brother’s car she is wearing two rings, and when she gets out as an adult she is wearing three. Apparently she gained the missing ring during the ride.

Issue Information: 
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