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Saturday, August 18, 2012 

X-Force: It's not about the consequences, it's about the misery and torture porn

The AV Club wrote about X-Force's 29th issue, which brings a whole lot of depression to a head with the possible death of Psylocke after several horrific storylines involving little more than forcing misery first and foremost upon her:
No one on the team has struggled more than Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock, who has had everything she loved ripped out of her life since joining Wolverine’s squad. She’s had to kill a lover and a brother in the past year, and the death of her rebound guy Fantomex two issues ago finally pushed her over the edge. When X-Force was ambushed by the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (led by Wolverine’s son Daken and featuring an all-star line-up of X-villains), Psylocke hijacked the mind of dying mutant teleporter Gateway and sent the team into the future. In this crimeless world, Betsy Braddock rules with the help of Wolverine, Cable, and the Punisher, disposing of potential criminals before they can break the law. What happens next is concisely summarized on #29’s recap page: “Upon learning all this, Psylocke runs off and commits seppuku to prevent this future from unfolding.”

Last issue’s cliffhanger is a turning point for Psylocke’s character, the moment when the oppressive violence in her life consumes her and gets pointed inward, specifically toward her spinal cord. #29 picks up immediately after she jams the blade in her gut, her imminent death beginning to bend the fabric of this future reality. While Punisher and Cable try to stop Psylocke from killing herself, she argues the ethics of this world built on murder on fascism, resulting in a fascinating, philosophically loaded fight scene. In a piece for her Robot 6 column “The Fifth Color,” Carla Hoffman writes, “Violence is never the end in Uncanny X-Force, nor is it an answer.” This storyline is titled “The Final Execution,” a phrase that Psylocke tells herself as she tries to move the blade toward her spine, and in a way, she does die in this issue. But the solution to her problem doesn’t come because she kills herself; it comes when Betsy learns to forgive herself.

Saved from becoming a sidewalk stain by Nightcrawler, the dying Psylocke has her violent urges subdued by her future self and passes out, waking up in a shining paradise where Warren Worthington greets her. After so many issues of dreariness, the three pages of Warren and Betsy in heaven are a drastic shift, signaling the start of Betsy’s healing process. Betsy has convinced herself that she’s become as evil as the villains she fights, but Warren works to justify the violent acts that X-Force has done in the name of the greater good. Ultimately, his main argument (in both the case of Fantomex killing and cloning the boy Apocalypse and Psylocke destroying Warren’s mind) is that these acts prevented the loss of millions of lives, so why not celebrate the fact that she saved the world instead of wallowing in misery? “Life is hard enough,” Warren tells her. “Why long for sorrow?”
If only there were light at the end of the tunnel here, but it won't excuse how Remender's only hurt Archangel just as much by turning him evil, and if he's saying that Warren Worthington's death (and according to this interview, semi-resurrection with no memory) was worth it, I fully disagree. Maybe the writers who've been in charge of the X-Men, Chris Claremont included, haven't had much of an idea what to do with Psylocke in 2 decades, but the dismal angle they're going for here is no excuse either.

And if she's died and gone to heaven, how is that really a sign of something positive to come? If they're dead, then the answer is no. There can't be a true look at the ramifications of violence if the writer is going to keep repeatedly throwing sorrow at the player and top it off by having her commit suicide. It's little more than torture porn, and a perfect example of how pointless the X-franchise is today.

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You'd think that after all the trouble they've put Psylocke through over the years they'd actually give her a break for once, but I guess that isn't gonna happen with the current gang of hacks running the show at Marvel.

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