In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Revanche.
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inkers: Mark Pennington, Bob Wiacek (pgs 22-23)
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Professor X & Jubilee visit Colossus & Illyana, after which Jubilee heads outside to rollerblade. On the way, she bumps into Psylocke, who approaches Cyclops in the hanger and kisses him. Rattled, he rushes past Jean, who grows suspicious when Psylocke emerges after him. Jean proceeds to check on Beast & Gambit in the Danger Room, then Storm & Rogue in the infirmary. Meanwhile, Cyclops packs a bag, telling Xavier he's going to visit his grandparents in Alaska. After he lukewarmly bids goodbye to Jean, she confronts Psylocke in the Danger Room and asks point blank if she & Cyclops are having an affair. Psylocke admits she's attracted to Cyclops, but that nothing has happened. When Jean asks if Psylocke is telepathically manipulating him, a fight breaks out, which is interrupted by the appearance of someone wearing Psylocke's old armor. Believing it to be a hologram conjured by Jean, Psylocke attacks, but the armored figure overpowers her. As the rest of the X-Men, drawn to the commotion, enter the Danger Room, the armored figure removes her mask to reveal Psylocke's original form, declaring she is the real Betsy Braddock, and that Psylocke is, and has always been, an impostor.
Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first full appearance of the character who will come to be known as both Kwannon and Revanche, aka New British Psylocke, the character with a grudge against the X-Men serving an Asian lord who appeared briefly in issues #17 and #18 (I will hereafter be referring to her mostly as Revanche, the name she will shortly adopt, even though it hasn't been established yet as of this issue). The general retcon Nicieza is setting up here is that instead of having had her Caucasian body physically transformed into an Asian one, Psylocke's mind was merely swapped with that of an Asian ninja assassin, such that Psylocke's mind ended up in an Asian body and the ninja's mind ended up in Psylocke's original Caucasian body, and that ninja assassin has now returned, seeking revenge.
That retcon will prove to be problematic for a variety of reasons (chiefly that it's directly contradicted by already-existing text and it will take that being pointed out to Nicieza for him to address the contradiction), but we'll get to that soon enough.
Regardless, Revanche will stick around as a kind of de facto member of the team for a few months following this initial story arc, which for the most part will amount to her being drawn into the background of large team shots when applicable, until she eventually contracts and dies from the Legacy virus, a token "see, not everyone who died from the disease was a faceless, unknown mutant!" victim.
There's a couple of hints sprinkled throughout the issue that, in hindsight, foreshadow the Revanche revelation: first, while talking to Jubilee outside, Wolverine smells Psylocke, but Jubilee finds that hard to believe, given the cold and the dress Psylocke was wearing.
The second occurs later when Jean asks the computer to locate Psylocke, and it tries to tell her about an anomalous presence (ie a second Psylocke) in the mansion. Then later, while Psylocke and Jean are in the Danger Room, it announces an unknown energy signature shortly before Revanche appears, but Psylocke silences the computer.
The Cyclops/Psylocke flirtation subplot comes to a head and, for the most part, conclusion, this issue, as Psylocke makes an overt physical move on Cyclops and the pair kiss, prompting a direct (verbal and then physical) confrontation between Psylocke and Jean Grey.
In the wake of their kiss (and, you know, all the junk with Cable & Stryfe), Cyclops leaves the mansion to visit his long-forgotten grandparents. He will continue to appear in this series, but won't return to the mansion until issue #24.
As Psylocke stabs Jean with her psychic knife, she says that now Jean will know her motives for hitting on Cyclops; nothing ever really comes of this, and Nicieza has admitted that his only long term plans for the Cyclops/Psylocke flirtation was to add a little tension to the Scott/Jean relationship; so that bit of dialogue was probably meant to just cast some suspicion on Psylocke right before Revanche shows up to call her an impostor.
I've never read any official confirmation of this idea, but I've long wondered if this issue's cover was intended to make readers think Magneto returns in this issue, as an additional bit of misdirection; between the ever-increasing teases about his survival, to the purple cape flapping at the edges, to the fact that "Magneto" seems like a more obvious answer to "guess who's back?" than "the other Psylocke, who you didn't know until now existed".
A Work in Progress
A narrative caption notes that Xavier's school is still technically a school, even if little teaching actually occurs there anymore.
Xavier is growing increasingly despondent in the wake of recent events.
Xavier notes that, like Colossus & Illyana, Jubilee is also parent-less, a piece of her backstory that doesn't get brought up often, but which will factor in to an upcoming issue of Wolverine.
He also acknowledges that he's felt distant from the X-Men since his return from Shi'ar space.
Illyana's persistent illness leads Xavier to ask after getting her tested for strep (and though this issue takes place after Uncanny #300, whatever suspicions Xavier may have developed there about the truth behind Illyana's illness go unmentioned here); Colossus insists he can nurse her back to health himself.
Beast continues to mope, while Gambit is said to be recovering from injuries, presumably from his encounter with the Acolytes in Uncanny #298.
Similarly, Rogue's eyes are pronounced healed, setting this story before Wolverine #69.
In a nice little detail, as Cyclops packs to leave, his picture of Jean is shown to have the glass of the frame broken, which occurred in issue #12 as Psylocke left to visit her brother.
As shown in Uncanny #288, the mansion's Star Trek-like computer is used again, as Jean uses it to locate Psylocke in the mansion.
Revanche is able to summon not just a psychic knife, but a psychic katanna.
Wolverine continues the proud tradition of the X-Men taking out their frustrations on stumps, as he hacks away at one while bemoaning all the recent losses suffered by the X-Men.
Jubilee's rollerblades look like they're made of liquid metal.
In a panel I've always loved, Kubert manages to show everyone's reactions to Revanche's reveal via their body language/facial expressions.
Jean worries about the state of her relationship with Cyclops in the wake of Psylocke putting the moves on him.
As Cyclops leaves for Alaska, Storm urges him not to make the same mistake she did with Forge, and Cyclops counters that when it comes to building emotional walls, no one is better at it than him.
This issue ostensibly kicks off the "Fabian Nicieza Decides to Fix Psylocke's Asian Transformation But It Turns Out He Only Thinks It Needs Fixing Because He Never Read Uncanny X-Men #255, So Then He Has to Unfix His Fix Ten Issues Later" storyline, but most of that business is saved for the final few pages (and a few hints of the upcoming revelation sprinkled throughout), with the bulk of the issue more in the vein of a Classic Claremont Quiet issue, providing the characters some time to reflect on recent events (here, and in Uncanny). This also provides Nicieza, already prone to it, to indulge in his penchant for Claremontian purple prose.
When people online complain about Claremont's prose (as opposed to his favorite tropes or penchant for dangling plotlines), I often wonder if they're conflating the work of his later imitators with his own, blaming him for the work done by lesser writers trying to imitate his style, and this issue is a prime example of tha imitation, as Nicieza goes for the effect, peppering the issue with narrative captions attempting to get inside characters' heads, but doesn't quite nail the style, with the end result more overwrought and less elegant than Claremont's similar efforts.
This issue also showcases how Andy Kubert, similarly, is still coming into his own, as some of his more noticeable artistic quirks (feet-covering steam, liquid metal clothing) are on full display in the absence of distracting-action. Still, even if this issue stands as a "work in progress" for the still-new creative team, it's nevertheless appreciated as a well-timed "breath-catching" issue, as well as an effective transition from one storyline to the next (even if the new storyline is, initially, pretty ridiculous). Sometimes, even if a cover of a song isn't as enjoyable as the original, it can still be entertaining.
Tomorrow, X-Force comes crashing to Earth in X-Force #22. Friday, Excalibur busts out in Excalibur #65. Next week, Forge returns (again) in Uncanny X-Men #301.