This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
Psylocke and Phoenix switched powers in the "six month gap" between
Chris Claremont's return to the two X-Men core titles. When Claremont
debuted, Jean Grey had a Phoenix shadow eye tattoo on the astral plane,
while Betsy had all of Jean's telekinesis but none of her telepathy.
The actual switch was never shown and never explained, which caused a
lot of confusion to new readers of the titles.
While the power switch was interesting, it came at a bad time for
Marvel. The X-Men movie had just debuted, and in it, Jean was very
definitely a telekinetic. Jean was also a telekinetic in the former
X-Men cartoon and was set to be a telekinetic in the X-Men: Evolution
cartoon. Thus, editorial wasn't too pleased about it. When the titles
were handed back to Scott Lobdell in preparation for yet another team
of writers, Jean seemed to be regaining her telepathy (which also was
On a CoolBoard interview with Sean Thack, Claremont revealed his ideas
behind the power switch, and whether it'll be explained:
I thought it would be fun. I thought she was in a rut, that
readers had come to take her personality and powers for granted.
I wanted to give her a challenge to overcome, to cycle her back
to a place in her life where she needed to become a student once
more, to emphasize the "School" aspect of Xavier's institution.
I wanted to establish a strict differentiation between her and
Jean. Instead of them being echoes of one another, they could now
function independently both as individuals and team members. There
was always an explanation and had I managed to find the time last
year, the story would have been presented in the X-Men Annual. But
that window of opportunity passed and given the current status quo
within the X-Canon, the fact that Jean has been restored to her
default status quo as a telepath/telekinetic, I doubt the story
will ever be told. Why explain a continuity twist that no longer
exists? It's done, we move on, end of that story. This is who she
is, this is what she does, now our focus is on what happens next.
As you can see, it's likely a dangler that will be remembered only by
As for Psylocke's telepathy holding the Shadow King in place, that's a
whole other story. It seems most likely that he escaped when Psylocke
died in X-Treme X-Men. In X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001, the Shadow King
returned, and tried to take over Rogue's mind. Since Rogue had once
absorbed Psylocke's powers, and therefore possesses some of Psylocke's
powers and psyche, Gambit figured that Rogue could contain the Shadow
King in a corner of her own mind, just like Psylocke had. The solution
apparently worked, since Rogue survived the battle, but it's likely
that he'll pop up again if Rogue ever purges Psylocke's powers.