Empyre: X-Men #2

Issue Date: 
October 2020
Story Title: 
Growing Strong

Gerry Duggan, Ben Percy & Leah Williams (writers), Lucas Werneck (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Stephen Segovia & Sunny Gho (cover artists), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Magik, Monet, Angel and Multiple Man are on Genosha, amidst a battle between mutant zombies and alien invaders known as the Cotati – and to add to the X-Men's problems, the elderly women known as Hordeculture have arrived. Hordeculture are interested in learning about the Cotati and begin taking samples from the aliens. Augusta sprays Angel with a serum that makes him see the old women as much younger, beautiful women, and he hangs on their every word and instruction. Magik attacks Hordeculture, before the X-Men work with the old women against the Cotati and zombie mutants. Eventually, some sort of seed begins to sprout from the Cotati ship, and vines spread out around the battlezone, trapping Monet, Madrox and two of Hordeculture inside it, with Magik unable to cut the large vine open. Black Tom senses trouble on Genosha, and creates an avatar of himself from plant particles on Genosha, where Magik is able to relay the situation to him. The Cotati vine trapping Monet and the others gets angrier as Black Tom attacks it with a Krakoan defense system, although it results in an Madrox, the Hordeculture women and an unconscious Monet being freed. Magik is furious with Hordeculture, who don't seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation, so she  teleports them away, until Angel rescues them, flying through the portal after them. Hordeculture, who had manipulated the gate so that it couldn't be used, undo their meddlings and Magik sends a call to all available psychics on Krakoa – and a moment later, several psychics, including villains like the Shadow King, Exodus, Selene and Lady Mastermind, step through the portal onto Genosha.

Full Summary: 

Genosha, where a group of X-Men – Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel, Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man and Monet St Croix, sometimes called Penance, stand in shock as a group of old women have just appeared before them, after arriving through the Krakoan portal. Angel tells the women that he has no idea how they used the Krakoan gate, but that this is not a safe place to be. 'It's been invaded by aliens, and -' Angel starts to explain, before one of the women, Augusta Bromes, smiles and utters 'My, oh my. It's a Sven with wings' as she looks Warren up and down. 'I won't know if he's as good as Sven until he's helping me stretch my hammies' Edith Scutch, confined to some sort of tank-like vehicle, calls out, while Opal Vetiver declares that he can razz her berries any time, before telling her companions, known as Hordeculture, that they are not at the YMCA anymore. 'I'm Angel' Warren smiles at the old women. 'Of course you are, you beautiful #%&^stick. Now step aside, we have work to do' Augusta tells him as she walks past him.

'Wait, what?' the surprised Angel calls out. 'Hordeculture don't run, hot wings' Augusta smiles, while the fourth member of the group, Lily Leymus, announces that they need samples of everything. Augusta raises some sort of staff, which fires a blast of energy at one of the Cotati aliens nearby, while stating that they will only know for sure under a microscope, but that she would be willing to bet a Burke Williams gift certificate that it's a chimera with roots on multiple planets. The injured Cotati turns to the women, 'Not like this... not by meat...' the Cotati utters, before Opal raises her weapon, which appears to be some sort of whirling energy blade at the end of a staff, and tells the Cotati that they picked the wrong planet to invade – 'Earth has enough problems... we don't need an invasive species on our f-word “to do” lists' she adds as the Cotati screams when Opal shoves the blade into the alien, severing it, and leaving it in a pool of green gunk on the ground. Edith remarks that this alien didn't seem too important, and suggests they get an officer or a general, but Lily reminds her that they just got her, and that they should sample them all.

Angel strides over to the women and tells Magik that they need a stepping disc for their friends. 'They're leaving' Angel announces as he puts a hand on Augusta's arm. 'Ask before you touch a lady...we got ways of dealing with handsy men!' Augusta exclaims as she spins around and sprays some sort of gas from a cannister at Angel's face. Angel stumbles backwards, he coughs and tries to shake the gas off – but he suddenly grins and goes wide-eyed, 'Hi!' he calls out as he looks up at the four women – seeing them as young, beautiful women. 'Using pheromones always feels naughty as fudge' Opal remarks. 'Nobody asked you' Edith tells her, while Augusta asks Angel if he is ready to join Hordeculture. Warren grins and holds his arms out, 'Of course!' he exclaims, before asking how he can be of service.

Magik and Monet have been watching the events unfold before them, and Magik scowls as she remarks that she thought these ladies were so $%^!#' rad when they showed up and Cuisinarted that alien – but now decides that they obviously suck so hard. Monet frowns and states that she doesn't like dividing their attention. 'Get them out of here so we can return to the mission' she suggests. But Augusta grins and turns to Magik and Monet, telling them that she would worry less about Hordeculture and more about the rate of dispersal in this sea breeze. Magik looks over to Madrox, who is coughing as he covers his mouth. 'Everybody just be cool! We can all be friends' he mumbles. 'Jamie. C'mon!' Magik exclaims, while Jamie claims that he held his breath for as long as he could. 'Dammit!' Magik calls out as she raises her Soulsword and slices it down through part of Edith's tank. 'Young lady, don't $%#& with a woman's ride!' Edith calls out.

Magik raises her voice, explaining that she is speaking loud for the hearing aid crowd, warning the old women to release her friends, or she is going to become the number one cause of death for women with pre-existing conditions over the age of 65. The old women stop, and Augusta scowls as she mutters 'What a $%#&!' while Opal adds 'That B has one H of a sauceboat on her, I'll give her that. Edith calls out to several Madrox dupes, 'Little help over here!' she exclaims. 'Right! 'Of course!' the dupes respond as they rush over to her and pick up her tank, which is no longer operational thanks to Magik's attack. 'Where to?' one of the dupes asks. 'This is fun' another exclaims, while a third declares that he is so lucky. Magik frowns before telling Monet that whatever happens next, she is to tell the Council the truth – that she gave these women every chance to stand down.

'Hey! Eyes up! Zombies inbound!' Monet calls out as loud rumbling can be heard. 'There must be...thousands' Opal utters as she look towards the coming onslaught. 'Millions' Magik corrects her. 'Give me some eyes in the sky, pretty boy. And sing me some Neil Diamond' Augusta instructs Angel, who carries her into the air, while singing 'Hands, touching hands...reaching out, touching me, touching you...'

The battle begins, with zombie mutants and alien Cotati fighting against each other, and Hordeculture, Madrox, Monet and Magik caught in the middle. Monet slams her fist into a large Cotati, while Lily and Opal use their staffs to defend themselves. Magik raises her Soulsword against a zombie mutant, 'None of you better want to make out' she warns the zombies. 'Is that an option -' one zombie mutant starts to ask, before it screams as Magik slices them with her sword.

A Cotati strike leader contacts command and reports that they have met stiffer resistance in the staging area than they anticipated. Monet knocks a zombie mutant aside, before she flies over and slams her fist into the Cotati strike leader. 'That's an understatement' she remarks, before suggesting the Cotati withdraw now, or none of them will leave alive. Monet then flies over to one of the large tree-like Cotati and knocks it back, while suggesting that they should call in Sunfire to blast this place from orbit. 'These poor zombie mutants have been through enough' she adds. Magik grabs the strike leader by his throat and tells him 'You heard my friend. Get your bulbs back in that ship and get the hell off our planet! The X-Men killed a billion broccolis once, so what's a couple more?' she warns him. The strike leader tells Magik to unhand him, before Augusta appears behind him, and uses her staff to cut off a piece of the Cotati's skin – cutting one of his arms off in the process. 'Hold still, sweetie' Augusta calls out, holding up the bark-like skin, 'Another sample for science' she smiles.

At that moment, several dupes run past, carrying Edith. One of them exclaims that they have to get her to safety. 'Let's go, boys!' another calls out as they carry her in her tank. The Cotati strike leader contacts the mother ship, reporting that the staging area is overrun with aggressive meat and must be cleansed – so they have no choice but to detonate the ship. 'Understood' a voice responds over the Cotati communication system. Lily turns to Monet and suggests a truce. Monet glances back at Lily, 'For the moment' she replies, before asking Lily why she can't read her mind. 'Tsk. A lady never tells' Lily responds. Magik spins around to Monet and points at a ship hovering nearby. 'What are you doing chitchatting? Isn't your power to think clearly? They're gonna blow up that ugly-ass ship!' Magik exclaims, to which Monet tells her that she thinks it is time to deploy some overwhelming force. 'Ooh, I like that too' Magik remarks.

Augusta suddenly thanks one of the Cotati for its cells. 'Hope you enjoyed your stay on Earth' she adds, before she shoves her energy staff into it. Magik holds her Soulsword and energy crackles around her as she remarks that Monet is right. 'I knew this place stunk real bad. And not just from all the rotting flesh...I know what it is now – it smells like someone took a big old magical $#!& here' she announces, deciding that there is only one way to clean this up – with her old pals from Limbo. From the energy, several horrid demons materialize, and Magik tells the to eat all the plants and zombies, but to leave the old ladies to her. 'Sounds good, boss' one of the demons snarls.

Meanwhile, inside the Cotati warship, one of the Cotati aliens falls through a hatch into the warship, and starts running down a chamber, before a voice calls out 'Hey, where are you going? Don't leaf!' they joke. 'I haven't finished my salad!' exclaims the zombie mutant called Explodey-Boy as he appears over the hatch, then drops down into the warship, his body snapping in half upon impact with the dirt-like ground of the warship. His legs fall several feet away from his torso, so he begins to crawl to his legs, 'Be there in a sex, okay?' Explodey-Boy remarks. 'I just have to get my pants on' he jokes as he starts to put his body back together again. 'I don't suppose you have any glue?' he asks. 'Or a sewing needle and thread? Or even duct tape?' he asks as he lumbers down the corridor of the Cotati warship.

Explodey-Boy finds the Cotati he was chasing at what appear to be some sort of control panel – basically just a series of mossy ledges with strange buttons and flowers. 'Let me guess. You're initiating some sort of self-destruct sequence' Explodey-Boy remarks, adding that he is looking forward to it, as that is what he is the best at, after all – going boom, boom, boom. Explodey-Boy then tells the Cotati that he is going to a lot of trouble for nothing – as he they can't kill what is already dead! Explodey-Boy then lunges at the Cotati, and in the process, separates his torso from his legs once again. 'The Cotati, like any plant, cannot kill itself' the Cotati tells Explodey-Boy. Some sort of column in the control booth turns from green to red, as the Cotati explains that when faced with cold or fire or blight, the

Cotati retreat and adapt to find a way to grow again – stronger than before. He reveals to Explodey-Boy that from the moment this vessel landed, it began to root. Explodey-Boy's torso forces the Cotati to the ground, and then he opens his mouth, energy pouring out over the Cotati.

While, at the same moment, the battle of zombie mutants, Cotati, old women and X-Men rages, with the X-Men and Hordeculture working alongside each other against the common threat.

Suddenly: 'Good gracious...I'm beginning to think we might be #$%&^!#!' Edith calls out as vines sprout from a pod on the battlefield, and begin to spread out across the ruined land of Genosha. Some of the zombie mutants find themselves skewered on the vines which rise up and outwards, while the Cotati and the X-Men are able to avoid the vines. Augusta examines the plant life closely and tells her companions that it is like a seedpod or botanical womb. Opal keeps some zombie mutants at bay and calls out to Edith and Lily, while Angel swoops down to Magik, who he sees trying to cut open a large vine with her Soulsword. 'Monet! Madrox!' Angel calls out, to which Magik explains that they are trapped in that thing. Opal tells Augusta that they need to get a sample of this thing, but the wide-eyed Augusta touches the strange vine, '#%&^ your sample, Opal!' she calls back. 'Let me through! Let me in!' Magik exclaims as she finds that she can't cut through the vine. Opal looks over at Augusta and tells her that maybe she is right, but that she needs to watch her d-word mouth. Angel looks over to some approaching zombie mutants and tells Magik that they need to find another way. 'What? What other way?' Magik asks, explaining that the barrier is somehow repelling any psionic and telepathic influence, so now Monet and Madrox are cut off from them – like they aare on a whole other island.

On another island indeed, Krakoa, where Black Tom Cassidy is crawling among the dirt and nature, when he gets a communication from Sage, who informs him that the gate to Genosha is down. 'Banjaxed? Completely arseways?' Black Tom asks as he rises up. Sage responds by stating that she doesn't know what any of that means – but yes. Black Tom goes over to one of the Krakoan portals and remarks that earlier, it was like the hinges were squeking and the lock got rusted out, but this door has been kicked to splinters. 'We don't like the stink of this, do we? No, we don't Black Tom remarks to himself while touching the portal. He then announces that he has other ways of seeing what needs to be seen. 'The pollen. And the dirt. And the fungus. And the mold. And the general fecundity of Krakoa. It only retains its essence a few hours. But it's a hitchhiker in the meantime' Black Tom thinks to himself, as suddenly, as Angel hovers over Krakoa, dirt, dust and other matter around him takes form – a manifestation of Tom, only a foot or so tall, appears on Angel's shoulder.

'All right, Little Tom, let's see what nonsense is making this gate go all – bollocks' Tom remarks as he looks down and sees the sprawling mass of Cotati plant vines below. Magik continues to try and slice through the plant, while Opal stands over a fallen Cotati and announces that she has a nice, juicy sample. 'Good!' Augusta exclaims as she fires some gas at the plant. Angel looks at Little Tom on his shoulder, who tells at him and tells him to take him down to the ground, as he needs to talk to Magik. 'Black Tom? Is that you?' Angel asks. 'Aye, ye bloody himbo! Now take me down to the war captain!' Black Tom exclaims. Angel drops down between Magik and some zombie mutants and alerts Magik to the fact that a tiny avatar of Black Tom has manifested on his shoulder and is asking to speak with her. 'How?' Magik frowns. Black Tom climbs over from Angel's shoulder to Magik's hand as he explains 'Angel's a dirty boy, that's how!' Opal hears this and calls out 'I'll clean him up!' Warren smiles, but Magik instructs him to stay away from those old biddies, or they will horny-ensorcel him with that gas again. 'Huh? But they're not old...' Warren replies as he takes flight. 'That's right, sugar' Augusta calls out, waving at him.

Sitting on Magik's shoulder, Black Tom addresses her as War Captain and asks her what the situation is. 'My official report is that it's %$#&!^%' Magik responds. 'Seconded' Augusta announces, aiming her weapon towards an approaching zombie mutant. Magik explains to Black Tom that they have three different hostile parties at play here, plus the Cotati warship just initiated some kind of self-destruct sequence, turning it into some kind of giant egg. 'Seed-pod!' Augusta and Opal yell at Magik. With their attention distracted, they don't see a zombie leap towards them – thankfully for them though, Magik sees the zombie and hurls her Soulsword at it, which slams the zombie up against the seed-pod. 'Anyway, now Jamie, Monet and two of the Hordeculture hags are trapped inside a giant seed-pod' Magik tells Black Tom as she walks over and pulls her Soulsword from the zombie and the seed-pod.

'What else do you two plant $#!&^$ know about what's happening?' Magik asks, turning to Opal and Augusta, adding that this seedpod barrier is resistant to psionic influence, meaning their powers don't work on it. 'Do your powers work on plants?' Opal asks. 'No' Magik tells her. 'Then there's your answer why. This here's an invasive plant species, girlie' Augusta explains. Opal suggests that it is like kudzu: 'It goes buck-wild when it tastes new land and all it wants to do is f-word and kill while putting down roots to claim a place' she declares. 'Plants playing #%&^, marry, kill. Got it. How do we get rid of it? Weed killer or whatever?' Magik asks. Augusta tells her that would only kill everything else around it – them included. Opal tells Magik that if they had some time, or access to a lab, they could maybe come up with a targeted plant killer. 'Maybe synthesize the hostility of black walnut trees...' she suggests. 'Explain' Magik tells her.  Augusta reveals that black walnut trees have a toxic root system to keep other plants from growing on their turf. 'You get all that?' Magik asks, turning to Little Tom on her shoulder. 

'Aye, Black Tom copies... and Krakoa hears. Sending backup...' Black Tom responds from Krakoa, where he initiates the Krakoan organic defensive system, sending various forms of dirt, plants and other organisms on Genosha rise up and converge around the seed-pod. Magik throws a force field around herself, Augusta and Opal, while Angel hovers in the air above, 'It's working!' he calls out, but Augusta examines the seed-pod through the force field and reports that it really isn't – they have just made the damn thing angrier. Suddenly though, part of the seed-pod bursts open, and a green gunk spills from it, sending the dozen or so Madrox dupes falling to the ground. 'Ah, $#%&' Magik mutters as her Darkchilde horns appear on her head. 'STOP!' the Madrox dupes call out. 'Whatever you're doing, stop!'

Magik's feet have transformed to hooves, and inside the seed-pod several Madrox dupes hold back zombie mutants,  Madrox sits with an unconscious Monet, and Lily and Edith, as the dupes announce that the seed-pod almost killed Monet. Magik is annoyed and realizes that she forgot about the draw – Krakoa feeds on psychic energy. 'This one's not looking so good' Opal smiles. 'You think it's a mutie PMS thing?' Augusta asks, grinning. 'And you -' Magik snarls, turning to the old women, she opens a stepping disc beneath their feet, and the old women begin to fall through it, screaming. 'Magik! No!' Angel calls out as he swoops down after Augusta and Opal, 'My beloveds! Your Angel is coming!' he cries out to the old woman, reaching them as they plunge into darkness, he tells them to hang onto him, as he attempts to fly back up through the stepping disc portal – but as he nears it, 'Ow!' Angel exclaims as he bangs into a barrier. Magik's appearance has changed again, she now appears in her eldritch armor as she looks down at Angel and tells him 'No. Not until they release the Genoshan gate'.

Angel looks up at Magik and tells her that this is not the way to ally themselves. 'Tell that to them!' Magik snaps, reminding Angel that the old women are the ones who hijacked the gate and cut them off from support. 'They've doomed us' Magik declares. Opal looks nervously down into the darkness, 'We'll open the gate, right, Augusta?' she asks. '...yeah' Augusta scowls. A short time later, Magik watches as Augusta and Lily walk towards the Genoshan portal and warns them that if they betray her, their next visit to Limbo becomes permanent. 'Lily was right. We do need to revise the pheromone gas formula to work on women' Augusta declares. 'And demons' Opal mutters, looking back at Magik, who contacts Black Tom and tells him that when the gate is up, she wants him to patch her through to Krakoa, as she has an idea.

A moment later, on Krakoa, several young mutants are gathered in a cafeteria type area, eating together, when they hear Magik's voice over communicator. 'This is your war catpain, Magik, speaking' she announces, before stating that on behalf of the small fight crew currently dealing with big $#%&^!$%^ in Genosha, she would like to ask that any and all available psychic mutants please report to the Genoshan gate immediately. 'I repeat – can all available psychics – immediately report – to Genosha?'

Black Tom's face appears in the Genoshan gate  his eyes and nose making out on the gate edge, while the portal is like a large mouth, 'Aye...good on ye, then...step right up...don't be shy...Black Tom thanks ye for your service!' Black Tom calls out as several psychics step through the gateway from Krakoa to Genosha...Quentin Quire! Lady Mastermind! Exodus! Mastermind! Selene! The Stepford Cuckoos! Mr Sinister!... and the Shadow King!

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Magik,  Multiple Man, Penance (all X-Men)
Black Tom Cassidy
Sage (voice only)
Exodus, Lady Mastermind, Mastermind, Mr Sinister, Quentin Quire, Selene, Shadow King, Stepford Cuckoos

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

Explodey Boy and other zombie mutants
Unnamed mutants

Story Notes: 

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.

The song that Angel sings to Augusta Bromes is “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, originally released in 1969.

Magik's comment about the X-Men killing a billion broccolis is probably a reference to the alien race called the D'bari, who killed when the Dark Phoenix consumed their sun.

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