Empyre: X-Men #3

Issue Date: 
October 2020
Story Title: 
Staff Infection

Vita Ayala, Zeb Wells & Ed Brisson (writers), Andrea Broccardo (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Eduardo Petrovich (cover artist), 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: 

On Genosha, mutant zombies find no satisfaction eating the Cotati aliens, but those aliens who have had parts of their bodies eaten by the mutant zombies soon recover, and as zombie-versions of themselves, they start to make their way to the large seed pod on Genosha, which they have easy access to open, and allow the mutant zombies to follow them inside the pod. Several psychics from Krakoa arrive on Genosha to assist Magik against the Cotati. They psychics use bark and vines from the aliens as armor to defend themselves as they launch their attack. Magik uses this moment of respite to take one of the Hordeculture women, Opal, to the Beast back on Krakoa, where Opal is forced to work with the Beast to create a serum to kill the Cotati. Inside the pod, Madrox looks after the unconscious Monet, while Lily and Edith are concerned about the growing number of zombies and Cotati inside the pod. Explodey-Boy finds Madrox, and offers to help him – by blowing himself up, destroying a large number of the aliens and zombies. The Beast and Opal eventually create the serum, but Magik isn't answering Black Tom's call to collect the serum, so Nightcrawler helps out by collecting the serum. One of the Cuckoos on Genosha finds herself overwhelmed, so Magik protects her as they work together to find out where the mutant zombies are coming from. Nightcrawler arrives on Genosha and after escaping a zombie who attempts to eat him, he fires the serum at the pod, which tears part of it open. Magik and the Cuckoo continue their search across Genosha for the source of the zombies – and they soon find the wand that thre Scarlet Witch created and is the source of the zombies' resurrection. Magik picks up the wand, and feels a power flowing through her, that transforms her into a demonic version of herself. Within the pod, Madrox, Lily and Edith, as well as the still-unconscious Monet are fine after Explodey-Boy blew himself up, destroying numerous zombies and Cotati – as well as some of Madrox's dupes – and Madrox isn't happy to discover Explodey-Boy eating them. More zombies arrive though, so Madrox hurls one of his dupes' heads into the horde of zombies and makes a run for it. Outside, Opal has rejoined the fight, while her and Augusta's control over Angel begins to wear off, and Angel is unhappy with how they were manipulating him into loving them – but he has other problems to deal with, as the demonic Magik stakes her claim as the Zombie Queen of New Genosha. Inside the pod, zombies and Cotati find the pod brain, or Cotatinaught, grown from the collective strength of the Cotati aliens – the brain then evolves into a giant creature!

Full Summary: 

Genosha, where several mutant zombies are devouring member of the alien race known as the Cotati – but then start to spit the chewed up aliens out. 'No good. No brains' one of the zombies utters. 'Need braaaains' the zombie exclaims as they turn and walk away. Suddenly, one of partially-devoured Cotati opens their eyes, and with their innards hanging out of their stomach, they stand up, 'Yes... brains...' the Cotati calls out. 'Yes. This way. So many fresh brains' other members of the Cotati announce, as they begin to make their way towards a large pod which has been growing nearby. 'Need to climb. Find an opening' one of the mutant zombies remarks as dozens of the zombies start clawing at the side of the pod. 'Selfish plants, trying to keep all the damn brains for themselves' another zombie remarks. 'We need more flyers! Who can fly?' one of the zombies asks. The group of infected Cotati arrive at the pod, and one of them waves their hand, creating an opening. 'Let us through' the alien remarks. 'We know the way' another calls out, while a third suggests the zombies follow them, as they walk into the pod.

Nearby: 'What madness is this?' Selene asks as she and several other mutants with psychic abilities emerge through a portal from Krakoa. 'Old women and plants fighting? This is beneath us' Exodus remarks as Sinister stands next to them. They are flanked by Dani Moonstar and Karma of the New Mutants, the Stepford Cuckoos, Quentin Quire and the young mutant called Manon. As Multiple Man dupes fight members of the Cotati invasion, Illyana Rasputin sees the psychics and shouts 'Finally! Krakoa needs you! Without you, she cannot fight here. She needs your psychic energies. The more the better' Magik reports, while holding the old woman from Hordeculture called Opal Vetiver by her neck. One of the Stepford Cuckoos asks Magik where she is headed, to which Magik announces that she will be bringing this golden oldie someplace where she will be of some use. 'Just be a good Cuckoo and give Krakoa a hand. Krakoa good. Plant people bad. Kill them dead' Magik declares. Magik raises her sword overhead and energy glows around it, as Opal exclaims 'Hey now. Where are you -' but Magik interrupts her, telling her to put a sock in it.

'All right, you heard the demon lady...psychics...mount up!' Quentin Quire smiles as he creates two psychic guns and launches an attack on the Cotati. Selene and Exodus begin manipulating the Cotati nearby, stealing their bark, they both transform the bark into armor for themselves and the others. Dani Moonstar is wearing the bark-armor as she fires an arrow nearby and Lady Mastermind has the bark-armor on, too, as she runspast. Even Sinister wears it, although his cloak remains uncovered, while Quentin doesn't wear the bark-armor as she shouts 'Let's go Paul Bunyan on their asses!'

Krakoa, where Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast is in a lab when Magik teleports in with Opal. 'Beast...meet Opal. Opal, Beast' Magik makes the introductions. Beast recognizes Opal as one of the women of Hordeculture, remarking that Cyclops told him about her. Magik throws Opal to the ground and tells the Beast that Opal says she needs some black oak and a lab in order to create a serum to kill the alien plant people. 'Alien...?' the Beast asks. 'It's a thing. I don't have time to talk about it' Magik snaps. Magik steps back towards the portal that she has created and instructs the Beast to let her know when Opal has finished. 'If she fails, kill her' Magik adds. The Beast smiles and turns to Opal, 'Do not pay her any mind. I will not kill you. That's not what we do' he assures her. Opal remarks that the girl needs to learn some manners, and the Beast admits that doesn't disagree, before asking Opal 'Now tell me... what was that about alien plant people?'

Back on Krakoa, inside the pod: 'What's wrong with your girlfriend there? She afraid of a little danger?' Lily Leymus asks as she and Edith Scutch look over to where Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man is helping the unconscious Monet St Croix. 'I don't know, she just passed out' Madrox responds, quietly adding that she is not his girlfriend. Lily looks down below, where dupes are being slaughtered by the Cotati and tells Madrox that he better snap Monet out of it, as they are being overwhelmed here. Lily fires a weapon at one of the Cotati, and turns to Madrox, warning him that it is only a matter of time before these things cut down all his twinsies, and then they are royally pooched.

Suddenly: 'Hey up there!' a voice calls out. Madrox and Lily look down to see the mutant zombie called Explodey-Boy, along with several Cotati, who turn when they see him. 'You guys need a hand?' Explodey-Boy asks. 'He's the one!' one of the Cotati calls out. 'That walking heap of composting flesh is the one who killed Science Minister Qqoi!' another exclaims, while a third suggests they should grind up his bones and fertilize the gardens of their ancestors with them. Explodey-Boy calls out 'Make you humans a deal!' Madrox corrects him, informing him that he is a mutant. 'Whatever. These plant buggers make real bad eating' Explodey-Boy informs Madrox. He offers to get them off his case, so long ashe gets to keep all the bits of prime cuts that they leave over the ground. 'I got no beef with mutants. Used to be one myself. Still am. Sorta' Explodey-Boy remarks, before asking if they have a deal. 'Yeah...I guess?' Madrox answers. 'Why?' Lily asks. 'Trust me' Explodey-Boy responds, before he activates his mutant power, creating a massive explosion within the pod.

Back in the lab on Krakoa, music is playing while science experiments are carried out. Test tubes bubble with strange potions, and the Beast looks through a microscope. 'Well?' Opal asks him. 'In the words of the great Archimedes of Syracuse, having just discovered his most famous principle, concering how to deduce the volume of objects with irregular shapes... eureka' the Beast grins.

A bit later, Black Tom Cassidy is sitting near some weapons which have been created using the formula that the Beast and Opal put together. 'Magik? Magik! Dammi, girl, do you know how hard it is to conjure an avatar so far away? And now you've destroyed him? Don'tcha be ignoring Black Tom!' he calls out, annoyed, informing her that they have got bio-weapons in need of teleportation. But Magik is busy on Krakoa, cutting her way through the Cotati. 'Still no answer?' someone asks Black Tom. 'Ach. The daft creature's gone dark' Black Tom replies. Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightcrawler smiles as he picks up one of the weapons: 'Well, in that case... allow me to assist!' he exclaims.

On Krakoa, the Stepford Cuckoos are also wearing the bark-armor, and one of the girls tells her sisters not to wander too far, that they can't get separated. 'I know – they aren't making it simple' one of the others replies as she tries to shake off a couple of mutant zombies who are clinging to her. 'The harder the shell, the softer the meat!' a zombie calls out as he and several other surround one of the Cuckoos. 'They've cut me off!' the Cuckoo calls out as the zombies begin to swarm her, tugging at the bark-armor. 'There're too many!' the Cuckoo telepathically exclaims, while one of the mutant zombies supposes that psychic brains are like Kobe beef. 'Or shoe leather' another grins.

'Help!' the frightened Cuckoo pleads, while another zombie grins and suggests they find out what her brain tastes like. 'Make sure when they resurrect me, it's without the memory of what it feels like to be eaten alive' the Cuckoo asks, before the zombies pawing at her are cut in half – length wsys. 'Resurrection is expensive. You'll have to make the most out of this body' Magik tells her. The Cuckoo thanks Magik, who continues to use her sword to cut through the zombies, but she remarks that there are too many, and suggests they get to higher ground. The Cuckoo suggests that they find where the zombies are coming from and cut them off. 'Unless you just want to fight endless waves of rotting corpses' she adds. 'Good point' Magik decides, before grabbing the Cuckoo and pulling her into a portal. 'Excuse you!' the Cuckoo exclaims, while Magik tells her that they can go see if they can't find out where these things are coming from.

Nearby, a demon that Magik summoned from Limbo roars at several Cotati, who try shoving spears into it. 'The smell ofthese meat-beasts is offensive!' one of the Cotati remarks. 'Well, that went better than expected' Nightcrawler smiles as he teleports onto Krakoa – his smile suddenly turning to shock as he sees the chaos before him. 'Heiliger Strohsack!' he exclaims in his native tongue. 'Unhand me!' he warns one of the zombies who grabs him. 'Gotta know if you taste blue...' the zombie remarks as brings his mouth towards Nightcrawler's body. 'That is for me to know and you to ever wonder about!' Nightcrawler jokes as he teleports away before the zombie can get a taste.


Teleporting up above the large pod, Nightcrawler assumes it to be the target and fires the potion at it. The pod makes a hissing sound and holes start to form in it where the serum strikes. Nightcrawler slams the flat of his sword against a Cotati who attacks him. Zombies begin to gather at one of the openings created in the pod. 'That smell...' one of them utters. '... fresh meat' another exclaims.

'This place is thick with them!' Magik calls out as she and the Cuckoo make the first teleport. Magik cuts the head off one of the zombies, while some nearby Cotati look on at her. The Cuckoo points out that the zombies don't seem to be coming from here so much as trying to get in. Another teleport, and as Quentin Quire can be seen firing his psychic guns, the Cuckoo tells Magik that she doesn't think this is the place, either. But Magik can feel something messing with the energy of this plane, and remarks that this way is closer to it. 'I can leave you with the other psychics -' Magik starts to say, before spinning around and shoving the handle of her sword into a zombie that crept up on the Cuckoo. 'Watch your back!' Magik snaps, before deciding that the Cuckoo will come with her. 'Thanks, I... thanks' the Cuckoo replies.

They teleport again, and Magik feels an even closer connection. Another teleport, and Magik announces that this is it – that she can feel it in her teeth. There, stuck in a mound of zombie mutants, a wand made of three magical instruments glows, with energy radiating from it. 'Holy...it's beautiful...' Magik utters as she starts to walk towards it. 'Magik? Are you all right?' the Cuckoo asks. 'Do... you... hear that?' Magik asks, transfixed on the wand. The Cuckoo tells her that she hears nothing, but she knows that something is wrong here. She touches her head, which feels like a migraine, only it's coming from the outside. 'So...beautiful' Magik utters as she piccks up the staff. 'THE POWER!' she shouts, standing on a magical symbol that was carved into the ground, Magik's voice seems strange as she announces that she can feel the power flowing through her. The Cuckoo then telepathically contacts the other mutants and tells them that she hates to be the bearer of bad news – but they have a complication – as Illyana has transformed into her demonic version of her self. 'Oh, this? This I like!' Illyana, now with red skin, wings, horns and a tail smiles, her eyes gllowing.

Back inside the pod, 'That's how he helped? By blowing everything up?' Lily asks as she looks out the remains of mutant zombies and Cotati, strewn about below her. Madrox groans, while Lily tells him that was quite a deal he made – that he is a real bargain hunter. 'Dammitsh, my damn dentshures came loosh!' Edith complains nearby, while Monet is still unconscious. Madrox suddenly goes wide-eyed, 'Oh God...' he gasps as he sees Explodey Boy chomping down on the severed arm belonging to one of his dupes. 'Pleasure doing business with you' Explodey Boy remarks. 'My God...' Madrox utters. 'Having second thoughts?' Lily asks him. Explodey Boy then throws the arm behind him towards other zombies, 'Oh, hey gang' he smiles at them. 'Plenty to go around' he adds, throwing them another arm.

'Can you show a little respect? Those a MEs you're eating' Madrox frowns. 'I'm not asking you to say grace first, but come on' Madrox adds. Lily tells him that they should go, while two other dupes help Edith, who is confined to a hoverchair, get upright in her chair, as Edith suggests they swing her chair around so she doesn't have to watch this. More and more zombie mutants arrive on scene and all begin to eat the remains of Madrox's dupes. 'That's...that's a lot of zombies!' Madrox calls out, before he tells his companions to throw whatever piece of him they have got. 'I don't care! Toss it all!' he exclaims as dupes begin to throw remains at the zombies. 'Here, at this' Madrox exclaims as he hurls one of his dupe's heads at the zombies, before shouting 'RUN!'

Outside the pod, Augusta Bromes informs Opal, who has returned, that the blue goblin burned a hole in the mega-bulb. 'Let's go get our girls!' she tells her friend as they use their weapons to defend themselves. Warren Worthington III is behind them, and rubs his head, remarking that he feels weird. Opal points out that it looks like their escort is coming down off the pheromones. Augusta tells her that she doesn't care, as Edith and Lily are trapped in that thing. 'I'm gonna be sick' Warren mumbles, when suddenly, the transformed Illyana appears, a horde of zombies following her. 'Women, move aside...I've begun a great, great work' Illyana announces. 'Oh my God. You guys are old' Angel tells Augusta and Opal once their control over him wears off. 'Shhh!' Opal snarls. 'Like, shouldn't-be-outside old' Angel adds. 'Shut up!' Opal snaps, while Augusta looks up at the transformed Illyana and asks her what she has there.

Standing tall on her hooves, Illyana holds the staff overhead as she announces that she has the World Tree Root, which bridges the realms of life and death. And, the Tri-Crown of the Chaos Godhead, which perverts the law of nature. Finally, she has the Eye of Alak-Rah, the Void-Spider, who from blood weaves life. 'What I have is power over death' Illyana boasts. She aims the staff at the motionless body of a Cotati, and energy lights up around it...as the alien suddenly rises to his feet, eyes glowing, as Illyana shouts 'Bow to the Zombie Queen of New Genosha!' 'Is she serious? I've got arthritis. If I bow I'm never getting up again' Opal remarks, while Angel vomits nearby.

At  the same time, Madrox vomits inside the pod. Edith tells him that it isn't her fault he can't handle their drugs. 'And if you tell me how old I look one more time I'm going to put one between your eyes' she warns him, while she pushes the still unconscious Monet up, as Monet slumps over in the seat next to her. Edith tells Madrox that when she says “one” she means a bullet seed from her witch hazel heater. 'Kill you dead as hell' she boasts. 'Will you shut up' Madrox asks, while a wide-eyed Lily gasps 'What is that?' as the group come across what apppear to be mutant zombies and infected Cotati eating some sort of large brain. Grinding, chewing and slurping noises can be heard as the creatures gather around the large brain. The head of a Cotati at Madrox's feet looks up at him and explains that it is a Cotatinaught, grown from the collective strength-sap of their people in its doomsday pod. 'The superstitious among us call it holy' the head adds.

The head continues, informing Madrox that it has never seen one pull its roots. 'I couldn't miss it. Not even in my condition. But...disaster' they explain, revealing that the pod walls were breached first by Cotati ghouls, then by the pestilent mutants. 'The broadleaf lord is infected' the head reveals, adding that they will now see the horrors that grow in this benighted dirt, the terrible fruit of this herbicidal mission. Suddenly, the brain appears to move upwards, a head connected to the brain, rising from the base of the pod, vines snapping about and pushing the zombies and aliens aside. Arms begin to grow, as the head reveals that they may have turned the key that birthed this miscreant, but that the mutants forced his hand. 'And now we die together' he adds, as a giant creature rises up, bursting through the pod, the horrid beast is huge, green-skinned, with the large brain protruding from its head, a large mouth full of jagged teeth, large spikes on its back, it makes a strange GLOR GLOR noise, as the head announces that they will meet their sins as one.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Magik, Monet St Croix/Penance, Multiple Man

Beast, Nightcrawler

Black Tom Cassidy

Exodus, Karma, Lady Mastermind, Manon, Mr Sinister, Dani Moonstar, Quentin Quire, Selene, Stepford Cuckoos


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



Explodey Boy and other zombie mutants



Story Notes: 

Nightcrawler utters “Heiliger Strohsack” when he arrives on Krakoa – which loosely translates to “Holy crap”.

Cyclops, Polaris, Colossus and Magneto appear on the cover to this issue, but not in the issue itself.


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