Thursday, November 30, 2017

Astonishing X-Men #6 Preview

Astonishing X-Men #6
Writer: Charles Soule
Cover & Art by: Mike del Mundo
Phoenix Variant Cover by: Kris Anka

The Story: Life of X Conclusion!
We are trapped in the SHADOW KING’s web. All strands have led here. We have seen sacrifice, battle, manipulation, lies and the darkest truths. Now, at last, CHARLES XAVIER and his X-Men will save one world and lose another.

In Stores: December 6, 2017

Betsy Braddock, Chapter III – S.T.R.I.K.E.

Before the X: This third chapter covers Betsy’s rise into supermodel stardom and a superhero career that would last to this day. She may have been created by Chris Claremont, but it’s safe to say that the critically acclaimed writer Alan Moore is Betsy’s true father. After 6 years in limbo since her last appearance in 1977, Moore brought Betsy back into the fold and reinvented the character in Daredevils #3 (1983). Alan Moore gave Betsy her iconic purple hair and a secret agent backstory, established her as a telepath and turned her into a hero in her own right. For the first time, Betsy was depicted with strong character traits that would set her apart from her brother. She was fierce and even ruthless, going as far as to suggest that Brian should kill Slaymaster. The first half of Moore’s run covered here went from Daredevils #3 to #8. The flashback in X-Treme X-Men #3 (2001) has helped to flesh out Betsy’s early days as a supermodel and a secret spy. Likewise, the fashion magazines covers shown in Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn #1 (1988) prove that Betsy was a huge celebrity back in the day.

CHAPTER III - S.T.R.I.K.E.

Moving back to England, Betsy Braddock became one of the world’s most high-profile supermodels. She was a “face” and ruled the covers of fashion magazines everywhere, just as she ruled the runways from Paris to Milan to New York. Betsy made a name for herself and was surrounded by her very own fashion crowd and favorite designers. She graced the covers of Vogue, Hello!, Playboy, Woman and Chic, which named her Britain’s most beautiful woman. [X-Treme X-Men v1 #3 / Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn #1 / X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks #1]

Two years later, as Betsy’s powers got stronger, she was contacted by Agent Matthew who worked for the Sci-Tech Division at S.T.R.I.K.E., an intelligence agency, the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. The agency was setting up a Psi-Division and they wanted Betsy to be part of it. Betsy thought the work was interesting, finding out about her mind and its abilities. As a Special Agent, she also received minimum training in hand-to-hand combat and firearms. At the Psi-Division, Betsy worked alongside fellow psychics Alison Double, Avril Davis, Tom Lennox, Vicki Reppion, Kevin Mulhearn, Denis Rush, Andrew Hornby, Leah Mickleson and Stuart Hattrick. [Daredevils v1 #3 / Captain Britain v2 #13 / X-Treme X-Men v1 #3]

Early in her career, Betsy was assigned to infiltrate the “Master House” of the notorious Hellfire Club to catch the eye and interest of the Lord Imperial, Sir Gordon Philips, and the rising Black King of the New York Chapter, industrialist Sebastian Shaw. The Braddocks’ connection to the Club and Betsy’s modeling career made her perfect for the job. She was young, arrogant and had no fear, however Shaw’s servant, Tessa, warned Betsy that the Inner Circle would attempt to corrupt a soul as brilliant and innocent as hers and told her to leave for her own protection. By then, Betsy pursued a romantic relationship with her fellow psi, Tom Lennox. [X-Treme X-Men v1 #3 / Daredevils v1 #5]

After working for S.T.R.I.K.E. for two years, the agency was gradually infiltrated by a criminal espionage network led by the crime lord Vixen. By virtue of their powers, the Psi-Division realized what was happening, and Vixen hired the assassin Slaymaster to eliminate them. Kevin, Denis, Andrew, Leah and Stuart were killed, while Betsy and the others decided to go into hiding. At the same time after a few adventures in Otherworld and Earth-238, Brian was finally returned to Earth-616 with his memories back. With the twins’ psychic rapport restored, Betsy knew Brian was home. [Daredevils v1 #1, #3]

Betsy called Brian at Braddock Manor and informed him her life was in danger. They set up a meeting at a McBurgers in Oxford Street. It had been four years since they last saw each other. Betsy was amazed at how much taller and stronger Brian was, whereas Brian was shocked seeing Betsy with purple hair and learning she was a telepath working for S.T.R.I.K.E. Their conversation was cut short, however, as Betsy sensed Slaymaster killing her friends Avril and Vicki at a comic shop nearby. Betsy and Tom Lennox created a distraction to help Captain Britain defeat Slaymaster, though she hoped her brother had killed him instead. Brian then invited Betsy, Lennox and Alison Double to stay with him at Braddock Manor, which wasn’t bombed out after all, a mere illusion created by the Mastermind computer. [Daredevils v1 #3, #4]

Days later, the Omniversal Majestrix Saturnyne, hired an alien crew of mercenaries called The Special Executive to bring in Captain Britain. When the aliens infiltrated Braddock Manor, they planned to remove Betsy and Lennox out of the picture. As Lennox was taken out, Betsy woke up in the middle of the night because she shared a psychic rapport with him. She faced the alien Cobweb, but the complexity of the creature’s mind overwhelmed her. Betsy had no option but to shut her mind off as she laid unconscious on the floor and the aliens kidnapped Brian. [Daredevils v1 #5]

The next day, Betsy and Lennox had an argument. He wanted them to leave the house as Brian’s lifestyle was clinically insane; they were better off being chased by S.T.R.I.K.E. Betsy was furious at him because her brother had been kidnapped by creatures, whose minds weren’t even human. She just wanted to know where he was. As the doorbell rang, Brian returned in company of Saturnyne and the aliens of the Special Executive. Betsy was startled. Soon, Braddock Manor was visited by Linda McQuillan, known as Captain UK, who came with a warning: the British politician Sir James Jaspers had launched a superhero legislation campaign. The events mirrored those of her own Earth, which culminated with the death of all superpowered beings. [Daredevils v1 #8]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Charles Soule Twitter Q&A

Q: Will Psylocke and Angel get romantic? Are they a couple or not?
Charles Soule: They care deeply for each other.

Q: Will the Astonishing team ever crossover with the Gold, Blue, or even Red X-Men team?
Soule: Probably not.

Q: Is Astonishing X-Men still a 12-issue maxi-series?
Soule: Yes.

Q: Any more X-Men plans after your Astonishing run wraps or is that it?
Soule: Yes.

Q: Any chance the key to the Shadow King & Xavier's chess game in Astonishing X-Men is Maggott?
Soule: No.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Betsy Braddock, Chapter II – Beginnings

Before the X: This second chapter will cover Betsy’s beginnings as the sister of Captain Britain. Chris Claremont introduced Betsy in Captain Britain #8 (1976) with his favorite plot device: mind control. One could say Betsy's debut arc was fairly strong and her role was decent. Once Claremont left the book and Gary Friedrich took over, Betsy took a back seat and remained a quite generic and minor supporting character. She was said to be a charter pilot in her debut issue, but later Jim Lawrence depicted Betsy as a fashion model in Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #243 (1977). During this run, she learned Brian was Captain Britain and met Captain America. Chronologically, the flashback in Uncanny X-Force #3 fits the end of this period, showing Betsy's struggles with her new fashion career and full development of telepathy. It’s a nice touch she had a Captain Britain poster in her room because Brian was missing, presumed dead by then. However, the flashback states Betsy was only 16 years old at the time, which would contradict her backstory. Remember, she already had a pilot license and had attended college, so Betsy should've been at least in her early twenties (20-22). The next chapter will cover Betsy's S.T.R.I.K.E. and supermodel days. See you then.

CHAPTER II - Beginnings

In a snowy day in London, Betsy reached out to Brian in Thames University, where he studied, and informed him that Jamie had a terrible accident. Betsy drove Jamie’s Mercedes and took Brian to the airport. Once her plane – a Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister – was ready, Betsy flew Brian from London to Braddock Manor in Maldon, Essex. The twins were close, but sometimes they acted like strangers. During the flight, Betsy started seeing visions of monsters, causing the plane to crash, the impact knocking her unconscious. Brian transformed into Captain Britain and saved his sister. Dr. Synne appeared before them and revealed it was his powers that created such illusions. [Captain Britain v1 #8]

As help from Braddock Manor closed in, Dr. Synne had no option but to leave. Jamie and Mick, the groundskeeper, took both Betsy and Brian to the Manor. Once the three siblings reunited, Synne once more took over Betsy’s mind and made her see her brothers as monsters. In response, Betsy grabbed a decorative axe and attacked them. Brian had to become Captain Britain again to overpower his sister, knocking her out with a nerve pinch. [Captain Britain v1 #9, #10]

The brothers then brought Betsy to Morder Research Centre for treatment, unaware that the staff led by Dr. Ramsey answered to Dr. Synne. The villain hoped to brainwash Betsy to destroy her siblings. Hours later, as Jamie kept vigil at Betsy’s bedside, she awoke from her induced coma – the reason being that the real culprit behind the attacks, a mysterious computer called Mastermind, had to divert the energy used to induce the coma to strengthen Dr. Synne, who was battling Captain Britain at the same time. [Captain Britain v1 #10, #12]

Days later, the Red Skull caught word of Mastermind – the advanced computer built by Sir James Braddock – and hoped to get his hands on it. For this reason, Betsy and Jamie were taken as hostages in case Brian decided to challenge the Red Skull. Kept tied up at Morder Research Centre, Betsy and Jamie begged Brian not to let the Skull’s guards kill them. Captain Britain and his new ally Captain America tracked them down and succeed in freeing the siblings. That was the day Betsy learned Brian, her own brother, was Captain Britain. Secretly, Betsy couldn’t help but wonder why Brian was chosen instead of her. [Captain Britain v1 #15, #18, #20, #21 / Uncanny X-Men v1 #256]

As Braddock Manor was bombed on orders of Tod Radcliffe, deputy director of S.T.R.I.K.E. and a traitor working for the Red Skull, Betsy moved out to Jamie’s posh flat in Chelsea, London. Betsy and Jamie watched the battle between Captain Britain and Lord Hawk in Piccadilly Circus on the news, and feared for their brother’s life. Later that night, when Merlyn and Roma took Brian to Otherworld to test his courage, Betsy awoke from a nightmare, sensing that Brian was in great danger. It was the first time Betsy experienced anything close to psychic powers, which may have been triggered by Dr. Synne’s earlier mind control. Days later, Betsy and Jamie learned through the papers that Captain Britain tried to attack Queen Elizabeth II during her Jubilee celebration in Portmouth. Brian explained he was under hypnosis by the Manipulator, a deposed African dictator. [Captain Britain v1 #31, #34, #39]

Turning her life around, Betsy quit the charter business and took up modeling. Brian often visited the studio where Betsy modeled to take lunch with her. During one of these visits, Brian discussed the serial killer known as Slaymaster, who murdered collectors and stole valuable items from their collections. Betsy was surprised when her photographer told them the Rockstar Luke Lane, one of the victims, collected pretty girls. She thought he was too cool and too far out to collect anything. Betsy also attended Brian’s graduation at Thames University. It’s possible she finished college by the same time as well. When Brian’s plane from New York to London crashed down, he lived two years as a hermit on the Cornish coast without his memories. He was missing and presumed dead. For Betsy, it was very scary not knowing what had happened to him. By this time, she started having odd flashes of psychic power similar to glimpses into the future. [Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #243 / Captain Britain v2 #1 / Daredevils v1 #3 / Hulk Comic UK v1 #1, #3]

As Betsy’s fashion career took off, she decided to dye her blond hair purple. It helped her stand out in the crowd. She was in her early 20s when she first moved to New York, living her dreams. It was the first time Betsy was living away from home. Her apartment was small, but cozy. She had a cat and decorated her room with posters of Captain Britain and the English alternative rock ban Suede. One day, Betsy’s “migraines” developed into full-fledged telepathy. She couldn’t shut out the thoughts of 16,3 million people overwhelming her mind and didn’t leave her apartment for a month. Betsy was alone, broke and crippled by her gift. [Uncanny X-Force v2 #3]

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Phoenix Resurrection #1 Colored Preview



Pencils by Leinil Francis Yu. Notice Fantomex was replaced by Forge in the final version.