X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks #1

Issue Date: 
May 2009
Story Title: 
The Face of Fear

Chris Claremont (writer), Scott Clark with David Beaty (art & colors), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Charlie Beckerman & Michael Horwitz (assistant editors), Mark Paniccia (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Psylocke is still tortured by the fact that Slaymaster continues killing analogues of her in alternate realities, a fact which she senses each time he strikes. Worse, when she tries to prepare herself for combat with him, she fails each time. However, she has to act when she has a vision of Slaymaster planning to attack her brother, Captain Britain. Psylocke returns to London on Earth 616 to lure Slaymaster out. When he shoots her, she is already prepared with armor. They fight hand to hand and are joined by Captain Britain, who almost loses his life against Slaymaster. However, Betsy finally manages to take Slaymaster in hand to hand combat and kills him for all the other Betsies whom he murdered. After a goodbye, she returns to the Exiles and her lover, Sabretooth.

Full Summary: 

Betsy Braddock aka Psylocke was once an X-Man, now she is a member of the dimension-spanning Exiles, a team responsible for saving the omniverse on a regular basis. There is one drawback, though. Every so often, utterly without warning, she is slammed by a resonance wave of energy that tells her another version of herself is about to die.

One problem about stopping the person responsible for the killings is she has no idea where Slaymaster will pop up next or go from there. And if she does catch him, she has no way of knowing who will win.

In this case, Slaymaster has run across an alternate Asian Betsy in love with – ironically – an alternate Slaymaster. The couple is not happy at having their private moment interrupted.

Alternate, Betsy informs her lover that the Slaymaster analogue has come to kill her. He’s done it before, countless times. She can see it in his thoughts. Her Slaymaster promises her he will kill him.

First, he kisses her, then attacks his analogue, while alternate Betsy waits, eager for blood. Thee other Slaymaster informs him he talks too much, and easily blocks his attack, turning the force of his attack against him. Then Slaymaster kills his local self with a swordstroke.

Alternate Psylocke shouts in horror. What has he done? Slaymaster is suddenly engulfed in energy. A new experience, but then he has never slain another version of himself before. The sensation is fantastic!

Now, the analogue Psylocke tries to attack but finds that neither her telepathy nor her telekinesis has any effect. Slaying his other self has made Slaymaster immeasurably stronger!

Psylocke begins to run, but Slaymaster’s thrown blade hits her in the back. He walks towards the helpless woman, musing that they are a courageous line. He’ll concede that. All of them, fighting for their precious lives right to the end.

Who is he? Why is he doing this? She cries. She doesn’t even know him! There are many dimensions, he explains, each with an alternate version of her. He seeks one among their kind in particular. The only adversary who ever escaped him.

She begs him not to do this, offers herself even. She is not worthy, he replies and strikes.

In the Crystal Palace, the other Psylocke’s connection to her other self breaks off. A part of her died with her. She is left alone with her memories.

On her home world, in her dimension, their version of Slaymaster was an adversary of her brother Captain Britain. But Brian had given up being a super hero. Betsy had stepped forward to take his place. She wasn’t good enough to defeat Slaymaster. He felt insulted to be challenged by a woman. To teach her a lesson and thereby hurt Brian, he destroyed her eyes.

Betsy doesn’t sleep much that night nor has she slept well at all recently. She dreams too much about the dead, or worse, about their killer.

The next day, she talks with her teammate, Sage, who has recently merged with the Crystal Palace. Betsy tells her to start running the simulation. Would it do any good to suggest they wait? Sage suggests. For someone else to be slaughtered? Betsy asks. This has gone on long enough. Time to bring it to an end!

Sage accedes and runs a simulation. She observes that Betsy reacts to the solid hologram as though facing the real Slaymaster.

She begins holding her own. Usually, Betsy prefers to fight Slaymaster with her muscles, her human fighting skills. This time, she cuts loose with telekinesis. But it’s almost like the hologram was waiting for her to try this. Before she even knows what’s happening, the strike is deflected right back at her.

She’s off-balance for a few seconds. In that time, he cuts her across the stomach. Things go downhill from there, pretty much at rocket speed. In a panic, she lifts off, figuring to buy herself some space to recover balance. But Slaymaster reacts like he read her mind and yanks her back down to the ground. Before she can get her bearings, he impales her with his sword.

Did she truly think herself his equal? She should have kept running. Until he has the chance to slaughter her again, farewell!

Betsy can hear Sage calling out to her, but can’t seem to find a way to respond. Everything inside of her seems to be shutting down. She actually feels dead. Again.

Later, Betsy jogs through a part of the Crystal Palace. Sage appears, asking her what the plan is – run till she drops? Given her powers and strength, that’s likely never to happen. Betsy doesn’t reply. Of course, she knows, Sage states. She’s just being stubborn.

She changes into runner’s gear herself with a thought and jogs alongside Betsy. She can’t run away from this or her, Sage insists. Betsy stood by her when she needed it, now it’s her turn to do the same. What is it she wants? What is it that hurts? That she sought her whole life to be a hero and now she got the chance she fears she’s not good enough? She should really take a look at what’s happening around her! No reply.

Perhaps later then, Sage sighs. Is she afraid of losing and then dying again? That this fight will go on forever? They pass a mountain landscape turned red by the sunset. Has she ever seen anything so magnificent? Sage exclaims. She’s the soul of the Crystal Palace, Betsy retorts. She thought Sag brought it into being. She wishes, Sage, replies. But she’s only just begun to learn. Suddenly Betsy screams. She tells Sage to look at the sky!

She sees her brother, Captain Britain, in the sky, killed by a detonation! For almost the whole of her adult life, the destiny of the Braddock twins has been defined by Merlyn. He transformed Brian into Captain Britain. The last she saw Merlyn, he seemed totally mad. Watching him now, resurrecting Captain Britain, she finds herself wondering if she could have been wrong.

But the scene shifts. It isn’t Merlyn’s scene anymore, but her brother’s, as Slaymaster does to him what his namesake in her dimension did to her years ago, when he blinded her. It’s almost as though Slaymaster knows she can see this. As he takes up a boulder, ready to smash Captain Britain, he announces: revenge is sweet, my dear, don’t you agree? Consider this the shape of the future fast approaching!

The vision ends. Sage reminds her this wasn’t real. But it will be, and soon, Betsy replies, unless she stops him. She changes into everyday clothes. She explains matters to her lover, Sabretooth. To Brian, Slaymaster is dead. He’ll never see him coming.

Does she want back-up? he asks. What she wants isn’t for public consumption, she jokes. She’ll save it for when she comes home. Referring to her brother, she adds that the poor boy died far too many times. This one may just be for real. But what about her? Creed asks. Betsy just flashes him a mysterious smile.

Earth 616, London. It feels like an age since Betsy’s been home. As a member of the Exiles, she’s helped save scores of alternate Earths, seen so many versions of this city she loves. There’s no real need for them here. This is a world with more heroes, it seems, than they know what to do with. And her brother, Captain Britain, is one of the best. People seem to approve of his new look.

Floating above the clouds, she watches him fly past without notifying him. The world seems to have changed quite a lot while she was gone, but that has nothing to do with her. Local heroes can deal with the fate of this world. She’s here to take care of her brother, and then get back to caring for the omniverse. She hopes.

She indulges far too much that day, visiting old haunts, making her favorite designers very happy, splurging on a delicious dinner and, best of all, a brand-new motorcycle to simply die for. She didn’t try to hide from her old fashion-crowd. Her brother hated that part of her life. It was totally beyond his comprehension. Word would quickly get around that Betsy Braddock was back in town.

She puts on her helmet and gets on her bike. Suddenly, someone fires at her and she falls off it.

From above, Slaymaster wonders why she isn’t dead. Answer: she wasn’t wearing a bike helmet but modified military battle head gear. Betsy kicks his rifle out of his hands. She finds she can’t use her TK against him, so she’ll have to use her physical skills.

He kicks back and she recalls that as hard as she worked to prepare for this night, he’s always been better. And he knows it. She dodges his next blow. Mockingly, he tells her he is impressed when his next kick gets her. She is much better than when they last fought, but then so is he. He praises her for her recovery from his attack but hits her again. He cuts her.

That moment, Captain Britain slugs him away. Thanks to London’s police security cameras, he became aware of a crime being committed, though he wasn’t even aware of the identity of the two fighters. He recognizes his sister and is ecstatic.

She shouts a warning. Behind him! Inwardly, she swears. Sometimes her twin can be so stupid! Brian is shot. He turns around and is surprised at the sight of a foe who should be dead. Slaymaster tells him he isn’t the Slaymaster he fought some time ago. He is rather the one that will kill him.

He fires again. Betsy grabs Brian and pushes him out of the way. Brian’s died way more than her. She doesn’t intend to let it happen again. Now she is hit by the shot meant for Brian, who runs towards her, concerned. At least he is out of ammo, she mutters. Brian tells her to rest. He will handle things from here on. She grabs his arm. This is her fight, she insists. She doesn’t have to do this, he opines. Yes, she does, for reasons he knows nothing about.

It’s good to see in her a woman of courage, Slaymaster comments. It will be an honor indeed to take her life. Talk is cheap, she tells him with a smirk. Come and get her, if he can.

She strikes, he dodges. Then he slams her in the back, right where his energy beam hit home. She hurts. Betsy tries to put some distance between them. He comes after her, figuring she is on the ropes. He unsheathes his sword.

Betsy kicks him in the privates. She follows up with several blows and suddenly for Slaymaster his fight isn’t so much fun anymore. He figures it’s time to run but finds he hasn’t got his teleporter anymore. Betsy reminds him it’s a challenge to the death as she destroys it and kicks him again. So how about they see how good he really is?

This iteration of Slaymaster’s been killing versions of Betsy since she joined the Exiles. She felt each and every death. A part of each and every slaughtered soul became a part of her. Now they manifest ghost-like around her for the first and only time, to witness this battle’s end.

All Slaymaster can see is the score. He can’t help smiling, in pride and triumph. She was counting on this. It makes this so much easier. Live by slaughter - die by the same, as she – all of her – impale him on the sword.

The variant Betsies rise and fly away. They are beautiful, Cap observes. And yet – it’s heartbreaking there are so many. Her cross to bear, she replies. But thank Heaven it’s over. He’s never seen her quite like this before. Saving the omniverse must be good for her.

He suggests he take her to a hospital. No need, she tells him. Once she goes back where she belongs Sage will put her back again, better than before. Won’t be for the first time either.

They hug as she promises she will be fine. She won’t stay? Brian asks. No, she has a life and destiny out there. She goes to her bike. Will he see her again? Who knows what the future will bring, she replies. Anything’s possible. With that, she drives off.

Later, she is back in the Crystal Palace, standing on a cliff, lost in thought. The Exiles get back to saving the omniverse, she muses, one dimension at a time. Teammates come, teammates go. They make new friends. They look in on old ones. She builds a collection of memories she’ll treasure always, yet still eagerly hungers for what lies over the next horizon. But for all her innate wanderlust, the biggest surprise is her discovery how nice it is to have someone to come home to, as Sabretooth joins her and they kiss.

She can’t wait to see what happens next.

Characters Involved: 


Sabretooth, Sage, Valeria Richards (all Exiles)

Captain Britain

Alternate Psylocke and Slaymaster


Story Notes: 

616 Slaymaster blinded Betsy in Captain Britain (2nd series) #13.

“Dead again” refers to her having been killed at the hands of Vargas. [X-Treme X-Men #2]

The feud between Psylocke and this alternate Slaymaster started in Exiles (1st series) #90-94, when she fought him and escaped alive, something which he took personal. He goes on to travel to other universes, killing every Betsy Braddock he meets. They meet again in New Exiles #14-17, where Betsy defeats him but refuses to kill him. A mistake as it turns out.

Psylocke helping Sage presumably refers to the fact that Psylocke allowed a desperate Sage to join the team at the end of the X-Men: Die by the Sword limited series.

Mad Merlyn refers to the fact that, in said limited series, Merlyn appeared mad and incredibly villainous, going so far as to want the death of his daughter, Roma.

Captain Britain’s death and rebirth are told in Captain Britain & MI13 #1-3.

Betsy’s seeing the vision is not explained but might be caused by her often forgotten but sometimes handy precognitive gift.

Captain Britain died at least three times: A t the hands of the White Rider [Hulk UK #20-21], at the hands of the Fury [Marvel Superheroes UK #388] and trying to stop a nuclear bomb [Captain Britain & MI13 #1]. Each time, he was resurrected by Merlyn. Betsy, on the other hand, only died a measly two times: in X-Treme X-Men #2 at the hands of Vargas and in Uncanny X-Men #227 with the other X-Men to power Forge’s spell. Unless they all know about her life as a superheroine, Betsy’s old fashion crowd shouldn’t really recognize her, because as a model she was in her original, Caucasian body, not her current one.

Issue Information: 

The 2nd story in this issue is a reprint of the first story from X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #47

This Issue reprints: 
Written By: