Empyre: X-Men #4

Issue Date: 
October 2020
Story Title: 

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Jorge Molina & Lucas Werneck (pencilers), Adriano Di Benedetto & Lucas Werneck (inkers) Nolan Woodard & Rachelle Rosenberg (colorists), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Kyle Hotz & Dan Brown (cover artists), Salvador Larroca & Guru-eFX (variant cover artists), Jay Bowen (production), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Earlier, the Scarlet Witch cast a spell on Genosha which resulted in mutants being resurrected as zombies. She escaped the zombies who attacked her, and relayed her mishap to Dr Strange, unsure why her spell didn't work as she researched it so well. Strange is annoyed by Wanda's actions, but journeys with Wanda to collect what they need to reverse the spell. They return to Genosha, where they set in motion the spell to undo Wanda's spell. Nothing happens immediately, and Dr Strange reports that in 30 days her spell will be undone – and that they have to hope that no one comes to Genosha during that time. But now, 29 days later, many others have come to the island, and right now, a giant Cotati creature has begun a rampage, while Magik, transformed by the wand the Scarlet Witch left on Genosha, has claimed herself the Zombie Queen of New Genosha. Angel, Madrox, Nightcrawler, several of Krakoa's psychics, the old women called Hordeculture and a still-unconscious Monet are on hand to deal with the Cotati creature, when the Beast arrives from Krakoa, armed with some equipment he stole from Lily of Hordeculture while she was in his lab developing a serum to use against the Cotati. The Beast is curious as to how Hordeculture have been using Krakoa's gates to travel, and using the device he stole from them, he brings through the  gate Explodey-Boy – at least the present-day resurrected version. He finds his zombie past-self and they have a lengthy chat about death, life, family and girls. In the end, the zombie Explodey-Boy takes a jet-pack and flies into the Cotati creature's mouth, before exploding, killing the creature. The Demon Queen of New Genosha then tells everyone else that they are her slaves, before the Scarlet Witch's spell wears off, and Magik is reverted to normal. Hordeculture escape, and the now-awake Monet suggests they all go home. Later, Explodey-Boy leaves the jet-pack in Genosha, the Hordeculture women are back to their old tricks, cooking up a new scheme in their lab, and the Beast examines the device he stole from Hordeculture, while the Scarlet Witch sits in a library beside a fire and cries, not accepting to live with her actions.

Full Summary: 


Genosha, where Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch lies unconscious next to a magical symbol that she has etched into the ground, a staff created from three magical objects standing upright in the middle of the symbol. 'What's this?' a voice calls out as Wanda begins to wake. 'Hey, are you okay?' the voice calls out. A horrified Wanda tries to crawl backwards, 'Wha- what -' she begins, while someone remarks that she doesn't look okay. 'Do you think something is wrong with her? Maybe she's been in the sun too long?' another voice can be heard asking. 'No' Wanda gasps, as someone remarks that heat spoils the meat, and that would be too bad. 'No!' Wanda utters again, before she screams as a horde of mutant zombies crowd around her. 'This is...this is...this is wrong. It cannot be. It will not be. I will not allow it!' Wanda exclaims as she steps back from the horde, and surrounds herself with energy.

Later: 'You did what?' Dr Strange asks inside his Sanctum Sanctorum, turning as Wanda tells him that she did what he said – she rang a bigger bell. 'I suppose that's one way of looking at it...' Strange remarks as he turns away from Wanda, acknowledging that there might be other ways, too. Wanda hangs her head as she remarks that she doesn't understand what went wrong. 'I'd start with the idea that you thought you could resurrect sixteen million dead people' Strange replies. 'I believe that – if I may be so bold – is where things “went wrong”'. Tears in her eyes, Wanda assures Strange that her research was rigorous, and that her spell was perfect. 'Clearly' Strange responds, as he goes over to a shelf containing all sorts of strange and exotic looking bottles. 'It should have worked' Wanda declares.

'You tried to undo death, as if you – or any of us – have any power in that realm. You should have known better. But that's the thing with you, isn't it, Wanda?' Strange declares, pulling a dragon-shaped bottle from the shelf, he pours some of it into a small glass as he tells Wanda that she still doesn't understand that she cannot erase bad deeds from existence, that she cannot bury sin. 'You can only eclipse them with greater deeds'  he states, adding that, at some point, she is going to have to embrace that idea and act on it – but until then, she is going to keep doing this – creating chaos and leaving others to clean up her mess. 'So, you're going to help?' Wanda asks, while Strange looks at his empty glass. He puts it on the table and mutters that he doesn't have time for this. 'It's sixteen million zombie mutants, Stephen. Make time' Wanda replies.

Strange frowns, before raising the dragon bottle again and asks Wanda if she knows that witch in Brooklyn who has the yoga studio that is actually a front for a Vashurrnu well. 'Yes. I do. She hates you. Intensely' Wanda responds. 'Yes, I noticed' Strange replies, informing Wanda that the witch changed her number, and now he needs her new one. 'What?' Wanda asks, folding her arms. Strange explains that he needs access to the well – not the girl. 'There's no un-ringing that bell' he mumbles. 'Okay, sure' Wanda replies. 'Okay, fine' Strange remarks, pouring himself another drink from the dragon bottle, he asks Wanda to tell him exactly what she did. Wanda informs Strange that she firstly got an eye from Alak-Rah. 'Oh god' Strange utters as he gulps the drink down, and pours himself another when Wanda reveals that she took a Tri-Crown from a Chaos Godhead. 'What were you thinking?' Strange enquires as he knocks back that drink. Wanda then tells him that she focused it through a root from the World Tree. 'You're a damned fool, woman!' Strange exclaims as he pours another drink and gulps that down, too. 'WONG!' Strange then shouts, slamming his empty glass onto the table.

'Yes, Doctor?' Wong asks as he enters the room. Strange's cloak materializes around him as he apologizes to Wong, acknowledging that this has been on the books for quite some time, and that Wong is only in town for the day, but they are going to have to cancel their reservation at Le Coucou. 'I'm headed out on a suicide mission' Strange announces. 'We'll have to do is some other time' he explains. Wong tells Dr Strange that is not a problem. 'You $#%&. You're going to go without me, aren't you?' Strange asks. 'Have a nice day, Doctor' Wong smiles, before Dr Strange and Wanda disappear through a portal.

Wanda and Dr Strange appear in some ruins, where the giant spider-creature, Alak-Rah, can be seen before them. Strange explains to Wanda that they will firstly need a second void eye to counteract the first. He adds that normally, this would be quite impossible, but he is owed a long, and painful, favor from this kingdom. The spider doesn't move, as Strange takes one of its eyes. He looks at Wanda and tells her to rest assured, he will be adding this to her personal tally, and that negating the Tri-Crown is easier. Strange remarks that chaos covets order, which it seeks to corrupt, and that a Godhead of Order seeks any opportunity to impose itself on chaos. 'They will want to undo your work as much as you do' he adds. Wanda queries Strange about the root of the World Tree, pointing out that the Norsemen are steadfast, and that she doesn't think she will get by them so easily a second time.

Soon, at the World Tree, Wanda and Dr Strange combine their powers to remove a branch from the tree, as Strange tells Wanda that it is best to handle friends in a straightforward manner, which is why he brought a keg of beer to distract them – but they have to hurry. 'Why?' Wanda asks. 'By the Gods!' a voice calls out. 'You deceitful magical bastards! This is... light beer!' someone can be heard exclaiming.

Later still, Strange and Wanda are on Genosha, standing inside a mystical force field for protection, as mutant zombies claw at the force field, trying to break through it. Also inside the field, is the staff Wanda created. Strange explains that he has constructed this ethereal barrier, preventing anything dead from crossing the threshold of the island's edge. 'By ship, boat or plane...no resurrected flesh can leave Genosha' Strange announces, adding that that simply leaves the undoing of Wanda's spell. 'Thank god' Wanda utters. 'No.  Thank me, Scarlet Witch, thank me and my mighty works' Strange declares as he raises the piece of the World Tree containing the eye overhead, then he slams it into the ground, resulting in a flurry of mystical energy that rises up around him, and knocks him to the ground.

'Nothing happened' Wanda points out, while her staff continues to maintain its position. 'As we've so clearly covered in this exercise of ours... one cannot un-ring a bell' Strange remarks. Wanda helps Strange to his feet as Strange explains that he has made it so Wanda's initial spell, enabled by the artifact she made, will dissipate when the staff does. 'How long will it last?' Wanda enquires. 'This isn't science, but if I had to put a number on it... around 30 days. 30 days and then all this will be undone' Strange reports. Wanda asks what will happen if someone comes here during that time, to which Strange suggests Wanda cross her fingers, say a little prayer and hope that doesn't happen.

Today – 29 days later:

'GLOR GLOR GLOR!' the horrid plant-like creature with the huge brain cries out as it emerges from the Cotati pod, stepping its giant body out onto Genosha, it towers over the tall, ruined buildings around it. 'Watch as I vanquish this beast!' Illyana Rasputin, who has been transformed into the demonic Zombie Queen, boasts, holding both her Soulsword and the staff Wanda created. A Cotati, resurrected by her power, stands near her. 'I dunno...it's pretty big' Quentin Quire remarks as he, the Stepford Cuckoos, Sinister, Exodus, Lady Mastermind and her father Mastermind all stare up at the creature. 'I mean, that's really a bit much' a zombie eating someone's severed hand calls out. 'We could run. We really should run' Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man suggests as he stands with Lily Leymus and Edith Scutch, two of the old women from Hordeculture. Monet St Criox is still unconscious, and is strapped into Edith's hover-chair. 'No. We stay...and finish this' Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel calls out as he stands with the other two members of Hordeculture – Augusta Bromes and Opal Vetiver. 'If it weren't hard...I suppose everyone would do it' Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightctrawler comments, as he holds onto the weapon containing the chemical that opened the pod up.

On Krakoa, in his lab, Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast thinks to himself that people who talk to themselves are secretly megalomaniacs. But he disregards that thought, as he is still concentrating on another question – one that isn't involving zombie-plant problems – he wants to know how Hordeculture were able to short circuit Krakoan biotech. He remembers looking over at Opal when she was in his lab, and how he took something from her high-tech backpack that she was wearing. He wonders if it is wrong of him to want to examine their fascinating little machines, and tells himself that stealing is always wrong – as he very well knows – in fact, it's one of the most disrespectful things someone can do. He decides that he does respect Opal as a scientist, but knows that he won't be able to respect himself in the morning if he doesn't take one more little trinket – and steals something else from her when she isn't looking.

The Beast steps through a portal onto Krakoa and remarks that no small measure of chaos is underway, so decides this is the perfect time to test the fruits of the first Krakoan act of intellectual property theft. He tells himself that the lingering question remains – have his actions needlessly shamed their great nation – or was the juice worth the moral squeeze? He holds up the device he stole and presses the large red button in the center of the device. Black energy begins to swirl around. He declares that the old ladies of Hordeculture hacked their gateways, somehow gaining control of them – and now he knows how they do it. He touches the gateway, and holds the device up to it, smiling as he declares 'And so, to answer the age-old question of whether one would rather serve in righteous heaven or rule in pragmatic hell, I'm forced to say – Dr McCoy, you just might be the devil'.

The Beast clicks the device once more, and a figure appears. 'Okay, you can come on through...' the Beast calls out, and a boy, probably in his early teens, with blond hair, steps through. 'Whoa' he utters, wearing a black and yellow costume, carrying two jetpacks on his back. 'Whoa, indeed' the Beast responds. The Beast tells the boy that he knows that when he heard what was happening over here, he wanted to come through – but he wants him to be careful, as this is no place for a reckless young man – not even one who has the mutant power to explode. 'I'll do my best to stay out of trouble, sir' the boy smiles. The boy then takes flight, 'But no promises' he calls back, waving at the Beast.

Soon, the boy exclaims 'Ah!' as he comes to a battleground, where Selene, Quentin Quire and one of the Stepford Cuckoos can be seen keeping a horde of mutant zombies at bay. 'There you are' the boy smiles as he sees someone below, and flies down to where the mutant zombie called Explodey Boy is chewing on an arm. 'Hey. How's it going?' the boy asks as he drops to the ground. Explodey Boy looks up at him and remarks 'Weird. It's like looking in a mirror'. The blond boy tells him that he wishes he could say the same. 'You... do not look well' he points out. Explodey Boy admits that he is a mess, that he is barely holding it together. He stands up and walks alongside the living version of himself, who remarks that he almost made that joke, but he is working on some new life philosophies, and one o them is “Sure, it's funny...but is it mean?” The zombie version of Explodey Boy asks how that is working out for him, and the living version admits that it is tough – in fact, he's barely holding it together.

The zombie asks his alive double if he wants to see something gross. 'No' the living Expodey Boy replies. But his zombie double ignores that and opens his mouth, vomiting up a torrent of revolting gunk. The alive Explodey Boy jumps backwards so none of the vomit hits him, and tells his zombie counterpart that this is why he shouldn't eat people. 'That actually wasn't meat, it was plants so it's actually the opposite of what you're saying because I'm -' the zombie begins, before interrupting himself, 'Never mind' he mumbles. He then sits down and asks the alive version og himself 'So how are you... me?' he asks. Explodey Boy sits down next to the zombie and removes his jetpack, admitting that it is a little tricky.

They watch the transformed Magik fight the creature, as Explodey Boy informs his zombie self thatr he has been dead a little while, well, they have, but specifically his body. 'Somehow you got brought back – we're working out how – but even though you did get brought back, you're not really us... because you're dead' the alive Explodey Boy explains. 'But I don't feel dead' the zombie replies, while picking at his ear – which falls off. 'That's the spirit. Live the lie' the alive version of Explodey Boy tells his dead seld. 'Okay, so why aren't you dead?' the zombie asks as he throws his ear away. Explodey Boy tells the zombie version that the long answer is some kinda interesting stuff wrapped in a bunch of other not-so-interesting nonsense. 'Short answers is mutants conquered death and I was resurrected' he reveals.

'Resurrected like me?' the zombie asks. The alive Explodey Boy looks at his dead self and doesn't answer. 'So not like me' the zombie realizes, looking away. 'This sucks' he adds. The alive Explodey Boy informs his zombie self that it gets worse, as sooner or later they are going to figure out how to undo this whole undead mutant zombie thing. 'So...' his voice trails off. 'So' the zombie agrees. 'Yeah' Explodey Boy adds. The zombie pauses, before asking 'Well, are we okay?' Explodey Boy puts a hand on the zombie's shoulder and tells him that they are doing real good. 'What about Mom and Dad?' the zombie enquires. Explodey Boy grins as he reveals that he is actually talking to his parents, and that there is another thing that happened where mutants figured out how to cure some diseases, so he hooked Dad up and now his arthritis is gone. 'You should've seen the look on his face' Explodey Boy adds.

The zombie version of Explodey Boy asks if things are all better with the family, to which the alive Explodey Boy replies 'I wouldn't go that far, but... we're talking. So it's a start'. 'That's nice. I'd like to have seen that' the zombie remarks. 'Yeah. Oh, here's something you'd like...' the alive Explodey Boy begins. 'We had our first kiss' he grins. 'Really?' the shocked zombie gasps, throwing his hands to his head. 'Really' Explodey Boy tells him. The zombie asks 'Who was it?' and the alive Explodey Boy tells him: 'That's the amazing part. You know Arachnidor? That girl with the mutant power to smell like spiders?' he asks. 'Shut up' the zombie remarks, putting his hand on his counterpart's shoulder. 'I know' Explodey Boy agrees. 'She is way out of our -' the zombie begins. 'I know' Explodey Boy says again.

The zombie pauses, before asking Explodey Boy 'Well?' to which Explodey Boy asks 'Well, what?' and the zombie exclaims 'How was it?' But the alive Explodey Boy laughs and tells his dead self that he knows they never kiss and tell. 'I will eat your face right now if you don't tell me' the zombie responds. 'Okay. Okay. In a word? Amazing. Totally amazing' Explodey Boy smiles. 'Wow. That's so great' the zombie replies. Explodey Boy then adds that it was a little too great. 'I got too excited. I blew us both up!' he exclaims, throwing his arms into the air. 'Seriously?' the zombie asks. 'No, man. Come on. I was very cool about it. You'd have been proud' Explodey Boy smiles, before the zombie asks what happened – whether it worked out and if they are dating. 'We are not. Turns out we don't like spiders' Explodey Boy reveals. 'Really?' the zombie asks. 'Yeah. Not a fan. But that was a really good day' Explodey Boy remarks.

The zombie asks if they are really doing okay, and Explodey Boy tells him that they are. 'And everything's going to be all right?' the zombie enquires. 'It feels that way' Explodey Boy remarks. The zombie pauses, before asking 'So what about me?' Explodey Boy reminds him that this is definitely going to end, and tells him that he doesn't have to do anything. 'We can just hang out...' he suggests. '... watch these idiots beat the hell out of one another' he adds as they watch Magik try to strike the Cotati giant with her Soulsword. But the zombie gets to his feet and tells the alive version of himself that he isn't going out like that, and asks for the jetpack. The zombie puts the jetpack on his back, 'Hey. We kissed Arachnidor' he remarks. 'Yes, we did' Explodey Boy confirms as he stands up. 'See you later. Or never again. Either way it shakes out, thanks man' the zombie smiles as he turns back to his alive counterpart, then flies off into the air. 'No problem...' Explodey Boy replies as he watches the zombie version of himself depart. '...now go blow some $#%& up' he adds.

Magik flies in front of the giant Cotati creature and holds the staff towards it's face. The creature's mouth is wide open, as the zombie Explodey Boy closes his eyes, 'Open wide' he calls out as he flies into the creature's mouth – and an instant later, there is a massive explosion, which destroys the Cotati giant, covering everyone on the ground below in green gunk. 'Ugh!' one of the Cuckoos complains, while Nightcrawler tries to scrape some out of his ears. One of the Cuckoos looks around and points out that the planet people are dying. She assumes that they were linked to the giant plant monster. 'And after it was destroyed, they -' she begins, before Magik, still transformed into the Zombie Queen, drops back down, standing over the Cotati bodies, she declares 'Not destroyed... vanquished. Leaving me as the paramount power on this island'.

'Illyana, you should probably -' Angel starts to say, but Illyana raises a hand and interrupts him: 'Silence, slave!' she exclaims. She boasts that she has dominion here now, on this world and all infernal realms she sees fit to claim – all that she sees is hers. The Zombie Queen turns to the mutant zombies and tells them to understand that she is mistress here, and they are her slaves. 'You are my slave' she adds, pointing at an unamused Exodus. 'And you. And you' she adds, motioning to Sinister and Quentin Quire. As the time passed since Strange's spell was cast reaches 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, Illyana leans into Nightcrawler and declares 'And you, you dashing, blue demon boy, you will serve me most of all, for I find your appearance to be -' but she is suddenly interrupted as the spell activates, destroying the staff, it begins to change Illyana back into her regular human form. The mutant zombies, too, begin to crumble to dust, and Illyana falls to the ground. 'Woof. Had a little moment there' she remarks.

'Well... that's got to be a bit embarrassing' the Beast tells her. 'I regret nothing' Magik replies, while Madrox exclaims 'Look. The old ladies are making a run for it'. Angel and Beast look over to where Hordeculture are escapring on the hoverchair. 'You want me to...?' Angel begins, but Nightcrawler tells him that today they get a free pass. 'Plus, I stole their tech. So... let's just take the win' the Beast smirks. Monet is awake now, and rubbing her head she asks 'So... home?' to which Nightcrawler looks up at the sky and replies 'Yeah'.

The Beast thinks to himself that Genosha are the ruins of what could have been, but that mutants have become something more doesn't erase that it came at a price. Explodey Boy collects his jetpack from the rubble, and the Beast acknowledges that there will always be a price. While Hordeculture work in their lab, testing and devising, the Beast tells himself that there is no way to avoid it – this is simply their story – over and over again. It ends how it ends. It's done – and then you get on with it...and keep on living. He looks at the equipment he stole from Hordeculture, and realizes that there are some who can't live with it... and some who won’t.

And, elsewhere, the Scarlet Witch sits near a fireplace, reading a book, while a tear streams down her face.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Magik, Monet St Croix, Multiple Man

Beast, Nightcrawler

Explodey Boy

Exodus, Lady Mastermind, Mastermind, Mr Sinister, Quentin Quire, Selene, Stepford Cuckoos


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



Zombie mutants


In flashback:

Scarlet Witch

Dr Strange





Zombie mutants

Story Notes: 

The flashback featuring the Scarlet Witch continues from the flashback shown in Empyre: X-Men #1.

Wolverine appears on the cover to this issue, but not in the issue itself. Similarly, Monet appears in her Penance form on the cover, but does not transform into Penance during the issue.

Written By: