Empyre: X-Men #1

Issue Date: 
September 2020
Story Title: 

Jonathan Hickman & Tini Howard (writers), Matteo Buffagni (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mike McKone & Chris O'Halloran (cover artists), Anna Rud (cover artist), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

One year ago, the Scarlet Witch visited Dr Strange, seeking advice about using her powers to reverse the spell she cast that depowered the majority of the world's mutants. Dr Strange told the Scarlet Witch that what she wanted to do was not possible, and suggested she try something else to ease her guilt. So, over several months, the Scarlet Witch scoured the Earth, searching for several magical artifacts, until, one month ago, she returned to Genosha and cast a resurrection spell – which worked, but not in the way the Scarlet Witch had hoped. Today, an invasion of alien Cotati are making landfall on Genosha to use it as a staging area to attack Wakanda – but what they didn't account for was an island nation full of mutant zombies, who fight back against the invading aliens. In Paris, Monet and Angel, representing X-Corp, are about to meet with a pharmaceutical company to discuss the Krakoan drugs. Magik joins them, claiming that she is keeping an eye on things for Professor Xavier. Monet thinks Magik is spying on them, but Magik explains otherwise, and the meeting is cancelled, with the trio returning to Krakoa, where Black Tom is complaining about a sickness with the Krakoan gate in Genosha. Angel confronts Xavier about him having Magik monitor X-Corp for redundancy, but Xavier explains that he was merely wanting to know if Angel – one of the few good mutants he has on hand – could be used better elsewhere. Angel is sent with Magik, Monet and Multiple Man to Genosha to investigate the goings-on with the gateway – and they soon discover the raging battle between the Cotati and the mutant zombies. Multiple Man is able to free the gateway from the Cotati plants that had ensnared the portal, when suddenly, the elderly women known as Hordeculture emerge through the portal.

Full Summary: 

One year ago:
'I believe what you are asking is... simply not possible' Dr Stephen Strange utters as he glances out a window of his Sanctum Sanctorum. He looks back into his laboratory, and adds 'I know what you're thinking: “With my powers I willed something to be and so surely the power to reverse that must exist – it must, I need it to.” You might say, “Stephen, what about atemporality and the fallacy of cause and effect? Can't we – as the righteous protagonists of reality that we are – not simply erase the act from ever occurring”?'

Dr Strange closes his eyes and tells his guest that it is a fair question, certainly one to ponder, but he thinks it is unlikely, because their powers over reality make them a touchstone of the reality in which they exist. 'And the existence of those powers – and you yourself – act in eternal opposition of the erasure of them. Simply put: we have seen what comes from playing with you as you play god, No?' Dr Strange remarks.

'You erased millions of mutants from existence. And now you're asking me how to unring that bell. Well, I cannot...nand I believe you cannot either, for to deny the existence of what you have done – to erase yourself from your own history – is not possible' Dr Strange declares. Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch remains silent as Dr Strange then offers her some advice – she needs to finally embrace her sin, to let it consume her, and then ring a bigger bell. Wanda just frowns at this advice.

Nine months ago:
Genosha, where the Scarlet Witch walks across the ruined land. There is no sign of life among the rubble of broken buildings, and tears fall from Wanda's eyes.

Seven months ago:
Wanda studies by candelight, a book open in front of her, several other old books stacked up on her desk.

Six months ago:
Wanda appears to have retrieved an object from some strange spider-like creature, who now lies across a mound of human skulls.

Five months ago:
Kneeling before some strange beings, Wanda holds up a crescent-like object.

Four months ago:
An old tree towers over the Scarlet Witch as she commands a piece of the tree to drop down to her.

Three months ago:
Wanda's eyes go white as she casts a spell that combines the three objects she has collected over the last few months, turning them into some sort of staff.

One month ago:
The Scarlet Witch is back on Genosha, carrying the staff, she states that no one can undo the things they have done, and that she can ask forgiveness, and given enough time, she might even forgive herself – but the sin of what she has done can't be painted over, it can't be scrubbed off or cut away – it is a wound too raw to ever heal. The Scarlet Witch raises the staff above her head and announces that she seeks not forgiveness, but redemption, a greater good – a more moral right, an act that eclipses any other – a resurrection. With that, she plunges the staff into the ruined ground of Genosha and shouts 'Mutants of Genosha... LIVE!' A wave of pink energy surges forth from the staff, and knocks Wanda to the ground.

Shortly: 'What's this?' a strange voice calls out, as several beings come across Wanda lying on the ground, magical incantations scorched into the ground, surrounding the staff. 'Hey, are you okay?' another voice asks. Wanda looks up, wide-eyed, 'What?' she gasps, while one of those looming over her suggests that she doesn't look okay. 'Do you think something is wrong with her? Maybe she's been in the sun too long...' another supposes. 'I hope not' the first replies. 'No' Wanda utters, as one of the beings declares that heat spoils the meat – and that would be too bad. The wide-eyed Scarlet Witch screams.

A strange alien craft descends from space, towards Africa. It closes in on Wakanda, but settles on the island nation of Genosha, off the coast of Africa, which is plans to use as a staging area for a Wakandian strike. The ship belongs to a Cotati invasion fleet. Upon landing, the plant-like aliens set out onto the destroyed land. 'Report' one of the Cotati with what looks like short branches sticking out of his head, a bushy green ring of leaves around his neck and gold armor calls out as he watches his fellow Cotati set about across Genosha. A large Cotati with gold shoulderplates, and grayish moss hanging from his white face announces that the temperature is equatorial standard for an iron core planet, and that it is actually quite favorable for growth, adding that there is also a shocking amount of ash in the soil, making it rich with calcium carbonate and potassium. 'I'm taking root, Sir' he states. 'I don't mean you. I mean the mission, you leafy disaster of a soldier. Ru'tuh-baga?' the first Cotati frowns, unimpressed.

'Ru'tuh-baga!' the larger Cotati responds. 'We and the other three strike teams are strategically positioned to launch an attack on our intended target. The area is rich with the composite ore: sagurii quoii' he states. 'Vibranium' a voice calls out. 'They call it Vibranium' a shorter, bald Cotati with large eyes explains. He states that the Wakandans are no fools, and that they realize the value of it, even if they have surrounded it with some kind of animal religion. The large Cotati asks if they are going to be a problem, to which the Cotati with the gold armor replies 'They are meat, captain. Never mythologize the meat'. 'Yes, sir!' the large Cotati replies, before the Cotati with the armor asks if this staging area is secure. The captain explains that they did run off some indigenous life-forms right after they landed, and that they captured one so as to interrogate it, but it has proven uncooperative. The Cotati with the gold armor addresses the smaller Cotati with wide eyes as science minister Quoi and asks him if he is up for a challenge. Quoi responds by stating that he relishes any opportunity for plant to dominate a hostile environment.

'Bring us this prisoner!' the Cotati with the gold armor calls out. Two large Cotati drag a figure towards the Cotati with the gold armor, the captain and Quoi. 'Here you go, minister' the Cotati with the gold armor remarks, motioning to the figure kneeling before them. 'Excellent. Now, who might you be?' Quoi enquires. The figure is zombie mutant, part of his head missing, he looks up at the Cotati and utters something incoherent. 'Fascinating. It seems to be speaking in some kind of indecipherable dialect' Quoi explains, while another Cotati holds up the zombie mutant's jaw, stating that it fell off. 'Well... let's try that again, shall we' Quoi suggests as he places the zombie mutant's jaw onto his face. 'Better?' Quoi asks. 'You'll have to tell me. I understood myself perfectly' the zombie mutant grins. 'Better' Quoi tells the zombie mutant, before explaining that he wants him to tell them about this island, and if they need to concern themselves with any of his kind.

'Oh yeah. You're pretty boned, plant man. This is literally the worst place aliens could have landed. Everyone who lives here is a mutant' the zombie mutant explains. 'Mutant?' the Cotati captain asks. 'Like regular humans. But with powers' the zombie mutant reveals. 'And what is your powers, mutant?' the Cotati with the gold armor asks. 'My mutant name is Explodey Boy and I blow stuff up. Watch' the zombie mutant responds, before a massive explosion nearby rips through the area. Explodey Boy stands up and turns to the Cotati with the gold armor, who pulls out some sort of sword-like weapon, and slices Explodey Boy's arm off. The zombie mutant looks at his arm, 'Huh. Weird. Kinda tickles' he utters. There is a loud rumbling noise, 'Something's out there!' one of the Cotati shouts, while the one with the gold armor asks Explodey Boy why he isn't dead. 'Actually, I am dead. Undead. Whatever' Explodey Boy replies, revealing that so is everyone else who lives here. 'But that's not your real problem' he states. 'What is?' the Cotati asks, narrowing his eyes.

Other Cotati raise swords and shields as the rumbling continues, 'Something's coming!' another calls out as the rumbling intensifies, and Explodey Boy reveals that there were sixteen million mutants on this island who died. 'Here they come!' another of the Cotati exclaims. '... and about two million of us were vegetarians' Explodey Boy claims as the horde of zombie mutants races towards the Cotati.

Meanwhile, half a world away, at Noblesse Pharmaceuticals Corporate Headquarters, in Val de Seine, Paris, France, where, sitting on a park bench, Monet St Croix is holding a salad bowl. The lettuce and tomatoes make a crunch when Monet stabs them with a fork, complaining that they got her order wrong. 'This is why I prefer Krakoa for everything but shopping' Monet reveals. Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel tells M to be nice, as he shoves his fork into the salad bowl, he reminds Monet that food service is thankless work, and that it seems to be a part of the human condition. 'They might never escape that kind of predatory employment' Warren adds. 'Well, I tipped her the change from a fifty, so I'm helping' Monet replies, before warning Worthington to keep his fork out of her lunch. 'Of course, Madam Boardmember' Warren replies as he shoves his fork into his mouth.

Suddenly: 'All right, you two, security says move along!' a voice calls out. A shadow is cast over Warren and Monet, thanks to Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, who is wearing a long trench and round glasses, hands on hips, she tells them that lunchtime is over and to get back to work. 'Take my trash for me?' Monet asks, holding her salad bowl out towards Warren. Monet thanks Warren, calling him “sweetheart” as he places the salad bowl in the trash. Monet asks what is next on the docket, to which Warren reports that it is 1pm, and she has a meeting with Noblesse Pharmaceuticals, then a meeting with Serval Industries, and is then hosting a happy hour at 5. Magik asks Monet if Sunspot told her he had all this X-Corp stuff figured out and then he bailed for space. 'I can see why. This sucks' Magik declares.

Angel holds the door to Noblesse Pharmaceuticals open for Magik and Monet and tells them that what Sunspot did was just paperwork – signed forms and transferred assets. He adds that professional courtesy dictates they give everyone their own formal handshake meeting, their own personalized kickoff. 'Ugh. I propose we abolish meetings. Do business like mutants. Not like humans' Monet suggests. 'Don't you spend any time around the council room? Mutants love meetings' Angel jokes. The trio walk towards a meeting room table, where some officials from Noblesse Pharmaceuticals are gathered, and Monet tells Illyana that it is always a delight to have her, but she is not sure that security was needed. 'I appreciate the personal touch, but... look at these olf men. Warren could take them' Monet declares matter-of-factly. Illyana takes a donut from a table and claims that was just a joke she made before, and that she isn't really here for security. 'I'm keeping an eye on you for the Professor. To make sure you don't screw it up' Magik explains.

'Excuse me? What did you just say to me, you little -' Monet snaps, pointing a finger at Illyana, who interrupts: 'Hey! I didn't say because you didn't ask'. Monet asks Illyana why she is spying on her, to which Magik examines the donut and ecplains that she isn't spying – she is monitoring Monet for redundancy. 'Redundancy' Warren frowns, and as she bites into the donut, Magik tells her companions that Charles Xavier's portfolio has increased exponentially recently, and he asked her to tag along and keep an eye on the two of them. 'Why did you wait until now to tell us that?' Monet asks, to which Magik mutters that she really doesn't want to stay for this meeting. 'You look mad. Wanna go talk to Xavier about it? I've got the Krakoa Express up and running' Magik announces as she opens a portal. 'I'd love to' Monet declares as she follows Magik through the portal. Angel turns to the officials and tells them that he is terribly sorry, but they will have to postpone, as something has come up. 'We'll send an email!' he calls out.

On Krakoa, Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier meet with Black Tom Cassidy, who claims that his gates are not sick, that this is no sickness of the vine. Vines twist up around him as he boasts that he can feel that something is choking the life from the greenest tendrils, throttling them like a breech birth and a navel string. 'Burned and skinned and slimed and more – I canna take it!' Black Tom utters, adding that they are planting gardens that they cannot tend. A portal opens and Magik arrives with Monet and Angel, while Xavier assures Tom that they hear him, and that they will have someone go to the Genosha gate personally to examine it. 'We can't take chances! We canna lose ye again, Professor!' Black Tom remarks. Xavier tells Tom that he understands, and glances over to Angel, before excusing himself from Tom.

Xavier leads Angel down some stairs and asks him how the meetings went. Warren ignores the question and says 'Charles. Monitoring X-Corporation for redundancy in secret? I know you've just acquired a huge portfolio, but X-Corp is...our own. What could be more necessary right now?' he asks. Angel explains that they need X-Corp, that it is the only way they can use all that they have against some of the world's worst people – and all that they have. 'Do you think I wouldn't take this seriously? For once, I can do what's in my blood – the family I came from – and put it toward you all – the family I chose' Warren explains, closing his eyes and frowning. But Xavier claims that Warren misunderstands him, and tells him that he doesn't think he would misuse any of their vast resources, and that money and pharmaceuticals are not his concerns – the resource he must monitor is Warren himself. 'We simply don't have enough good mutants, Angel' Charles smiles.

Charles tells Warren that even embracing the assistance of their former enemies leaves them woefully short of the manpower they need, so he needs to know if this X-Corp venture is worth their time – because if it isn't, then he needs Warren somewhere else, which is why the redundancy was brought up. They come to a stop in a garden, 'You, my boy, would never be redundant to me' Xavier assures Warren, putting a hand on his shoulder. Charles carries on down some more stairs and states that if brilliant minds like Warren's and Monet's can be used elsewhere, he will want to use them there instead. Warren changes the subject and asks what Black Tom is so upset about, as he and Charles walk towards Monet and Magik are smiling, as Magik remarks 'I said I'd teleport out and take a look at it. But Groundskeeper Willie over there is all “Acch! Ye cannae”!' she jokes, mocking Black Tom Cassidy.

Angel announces that he will get a team together to see why the Genosha gate isn't working properly. He starts to declare that he, Monet and Magik will go, with her taking them there, and the three of  them will be squad leaders. 'From there we'll take -' Angel begins, but Magneto appears and informs him that he can only take one more citizen with him. Angel points out that there could be thousands of forces in there, so they could be putting themselves in God knows what kind of harm, but Magneto just states  that he knows Charles made himself clear with regard to their needs. 'He has laid down the law. Do not make me enforce it' Magneto snarls, stating again that Angel can take one more citizen with him.

Shortly, 'Awwwww yeaaaaaah!' Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man excaims as dozens of his dupes stand or sit on the side of a cliff on the scorched Genosha. 'At your service!' he calls out to Monet, who tells him that she appreciates him finding the time in his busy schedule to come along. Magik stands with Angel and informs him that she is about to speak some heresy, but she knows the gates are supposed to be a blessing or something, but she feels like they spend a lot of time teleporting around to fix the gates. 'It's a garden, Magik. You don't just turn it on and let it run. You have to tend to it' Angel tells her. They look down towards the Krakoan gate which is situated at the bottom of the gate, and Angel reports that he will take a lap and look around, that he will get up high, but before he flies off, Monet and several of the Madrox dupes look concerned, 'Wait! Does anyone else hear something?' one of the dupes asks.

The X-Men look over and see dozens of Cotati rushing along the cliffside. 'Plant people? We're on a cliff! Where are they running to?' Angel asks. '...or running from?' Madrox suggests, before Angel suddenly takes flight, grabbing Madrox and pulling him into the air, 'Up we go!' he calls out as a growling horde of zombie mutants appears, narrowly reaching Madrox. '...Plant people' Magik utters. 'I see them...and zombiessss' Monet replies as she switches into her red-skinned Penance form. Magik raises her Soulsword and remarks that she thinks they are on the same page about what to do here. 'What do you say, Monet?' Magik asks. 'You ready for dinner?' Dust rises as the two young women begin cutting their way through both the Cotati and the zombie mutants. 'First course, salad! Next course, meat!' Magik jokes, before emerging from the dust, covered in green gunk from the Cotati, 'Call it devil's advocate coming from me...but that felt like a first wave' Magik tells her companions.

Angel agrees, and suggests they get down to the gate. He leads the way, with Monet following behind him, asking if this is officially X-Corp business. Angel tells Monet to stop trying to find an angle, and explains that they are here on Charles Xavier's orders to get the gate working and report back. 'I thought you were supposed to be some sort of brilliant business mind' Monet remarks, telling Angel that all he wants to do is follow rules, she tells him that he has no innovation, that there are no risks and no rewards. 'Penance...' Warren begins, before Monet reverts to her human form, and tells Angel that she wanted to revive X-Corp to make a difference in a way that people like she and him are best at. 'I'm not here to be an assistant manager. But if you are...you're welcome to answer to me' Monet informs Warren as they reach the Krakoan gate, which they find covered in green vines. 'I think I found the problem! No one's been pulling the weeds!' Madrox calls out as he starts to pull on some of the vines. 'I brought a weed whacker' Magik jokes, raising her Soulsword.

But Angel holds his hand up to Magik and explains that the aliens are a new species of plant life, one that is apparently hostile to any others on Genosha, so this could take hours. 'I know what you need' Madrox calls out. 'About sixty unskilled hands with nothing better to do' he smiles, before snapping his fingers and creating dozens of dupes, who begin to grab at the vines covering the portal. 'My time to be a hero' Madrox exclaims. There is a loud rumbling, and another wave of Cotati and zombie mutants appears to rush towards the X-Men. Angel urges Madrox to hurry up, while Magik declares 'It's zombie time'. 'They're going to trample the gate!' Angel shouts. 'Trample it? They're Genoshan zombies. Meaning they're mutants. They have an x-gene, even if they're dead. If they get through that gate they'll rush Krakoa!' Monet explains. 'Then we take care of them all before the gate is back up -' Angel starts to say, before Madrox reports that the gate is back up. 'Team Madrox!' one of the dupes calls out, as lights begin to glow on the gate.

Several of the Madrox dupes realize their hands are covered in green gunk, 'What is this?' one of them asks, while another jokes 'Oh, please say one of us is a slime-dupe...' before the horde of zombie mutants moves closer to the gate, charging it at once, the zombie mutants are suddenly knocked back by some sort of green foam that is blasted back at them from the Krakoan gate. The zombies fall back, eyes-wide, while four elderly women wearing armor and carrying weapons containing the green gunk emerge from the gateway. 'I know anger is a sin... but these mutants try my patience, ladies' Lily Leymus tells her companions. 'Except for that blond hunk. I like his wings' Edith Scutch, who travels in some sort of tank-vehicle, declares. 'I'd let him sit on my Christmas tree' Augusta Bromes smiles, to which Opal Vetiver tells Augusta not to be trasy. 'We don't need to be trashy. We're experts' she reminds her companions.

Augusta looks over at the X-Men and tells them 'If your friends didn't tell you, we're Hordeculture. And we're here because we know plants'. Magik, Angel and Monet do not look impressed, as Augusta asks 'And do you know what makes plants grow, blondie? A whooooole lotta bull$#%!'

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Magik, Multiple Man, Penance (all X-Men)
Magneto, Professor
Black Tom Cassidy

Augusta Bromes, Lily Leymus, Edith Scutch, Opal Vetiver (all Hordeculture)

Quoi and other Cotati
Explodey Boy and other zombie mutants
Noblesse Pharmaceuticals officials

in flashback:
Scarlet Witch
Dr. Strange

Unidentified beings
Zombie mutants

Story Notes: 

The Scarlet Witch depowered the majority of mutant kind in House of M #7.

Genosha was bombed by Sentinels, killing millions of mutants, in New X-Men (1st series) #115.

Selene raised an army of dead mutants from Genosha during the “Necrosha” event.

First appearance of Noblesse Pharmaceuticals.

Serval Industries was first mentioned in X-Factor (1st series) #257, and was the business that sponsored the corporate X-Factor team in All-New X-Factor. Serval Industries hasn't been seen since All-New X-Factor #20, although it was briefly mentioned in Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #5, and in Amazing Spider-Man (5th series) #4.

The original X-Corp was established as several offices of mutant outreach situated across the globe.

Monet served as part of the X-Corporation Paris division as seen in New X-Men (1st series) #128-130.

Sunspot was supposed to be involved in the set-up of the current X-Corp, which appears to be the business side of Krakoa, but he departed for Space in New Mutants (4th series) #1.

The elderly women collectively known as Hordeculture first appeared in X-Men (5th series) #3, and in that issue harvested some Krakoan flowers, while also displaying the ability to be able to travel through Krakoan gateways.

Magik refers to Black Tom as Groundskeeper Willie, a character from the Simpsons cartoon. It should be noted though, that Willie is Scottish whereas Black Tom is Irish.

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