Excalibur (4th series) #18

Issue Date: 
April 2021
Story Title: 
Mad Women

Tini Howard (writer), Marcus To (artist), Erick Arciniega (color artist), Virtual Calligraphy's Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Russell Dauterman (variant cover artist), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Jay Bowen & Nick Russell (production), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

At the Starlight Citadel in Otherworld, a petulant Saturnyne receives a message from the Krakoans. She is unimpressed by their request and responds by informing them that since they have no Captain Britain for Earth 616 she cannot meet with them. At the lighthouse, where Excalibur now calls home, Rogue and Rachel Summers look out to the shore, where the newly-returned Betsy stands and looks out across the ocean. Rogue is happy her friend is back, but has a strange feeling that something isn't right with her. Rachel wants to probe Betsy's mind, but Betsy telepathically warns her against it, so Rachel lets Rogue absorb some of her telepathic power should she need it. A furious Emma Frost arrives, demanding to know why Excalibur thought it right to keep Betsy's return from the Council. Rictor and Gambit rush towards Rogue, apologizing for letting Emma get past them. Emma goes down to Betsy and asks her if she wants to go to the Healing Gardens, but Betsy doesn't want Emma talking to her telepathically, or at all it seems, as she walks into the lighthouse. Emma scolds Excalibur and tells them they need to get Betsy to snap out of her current state, and if they haven't done so within a few days, she'll be announcing Betsy's return to the Council. Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee and Rictor gather for dinner within the lighthouse, while Betsy sits in the entrance way where the portals to Krakoa and Otherworld are situated. To her annoyance, her niece, Maggie Braddock, runs through from Otherworld. Maggie sees her aunt and rushes back through the portal to alert her father. Captain Avalon follows Maggie back through the portal, but Betsy has slunk away intro the shadows. Captain Avalon is also annoyed at Exclaibur for not telling him about his sister's return. Meggan joins everyone, and Rogue invites the Braddocks for dinner. Later, Captain Avalon sits by a fireplace and Rogue finds him, where she explains that Betsy just washed up here, and that she seems different. Brian is worried it isn't Betsy, but Rogue thinks it is, only she needs some time to recover. Brian disagrees, and thinks something is very wrong. Rogue leaves him and Brian falls asleep, unaware that Betsy had been listening to that conversation. She wakes him telepathically and forces him to return to Avalon. Betsy then wakes Rogue up, and makes sure that Rogue sees her as she flees through the portal to Krakoa. Rogeu wakes the rest of Excalibur. Rogue and Rictor return to Krakoa, while Gambit journeys to Avalon, leaving Jubilee at the lighthouse. Gambit meets up with King Jamie, who reveals that he had a spare Betsy Braddock body built. Jamie takes Gambit into another part of Castle Avalon, where Gambit discovers Morgan le Fay being held prisoner and warns Jamie that her friends on Earth will not be happy with this. Jamie opens the sarcophagus where they discover the body Jamie had made is missing. On Krakoa, Rogue and Rictor visit Apocalypse's old lab, where Rictor reveals what he has learned about mutant magic and some of the secrets of Apocalypse. Rictor lights up a message that Apocalypse had scribed on the wall of his lab, and Rictor realizes they are close to the secrets of the future, something he never thought he would be around to see. Rogue suddenly realizes someone is  watching them, and Betsy, dressed in her Captain Britain costume, rushes from the shadows and attacks them with the Starlight Sword – until she is knocked aside by someone else – Kwannon!

Full Summary: 

Otherworld, inside the spectacular Starlight Citadel, where Opal Luna Saturnyne, the Omniversal Majestrix, sits on a red sofa, empty wine glasses at her feet, and shards of a shattered hero scattered about the floor. 'My lady?' a voice calls out. It's the fish-like being Ryl, Saturnyne's assistant, who enters the room pushing a trolley with a teapot and and a scroll. 'I've brought your tea. I hope you'll consider a small repast' Ryl remarks. Saturnyne scowls as she looks up at her asisstant, when Ryl hands her the scroll, informing her that it is a message from the Krakoans. 'Give it here' Saturnyne snaps as she yanks the scroll from Ryl's hands. Saturnyne narrows her eyes as she reads the message on the scroll, and orders Ryl to fetch her quill pen.

The lighthouse that Excalibur calls home, where Betsy Braddock, wearing a sheer dress stands on the shore, looking out across the ocean under the night sky. Rogue and Prestige a.k.a. Rachel Summers stand on the cliff overlooking the ocean and Rogue asks 'Is it her?' to which Rachel replies 'Well... yeah. Look at her. That's Betsy'. 'You know what I mean' Rogue remarks. 'A Betsy? My Betsy? Or some random Cap'n Britain?' Rogue enquires. Rachel reports that she is from this dimension, that she seems to remember Krakoa and everything. Rogue admits that she is afraid of Betsy – one of her oldest friends, and she is scared to death of her right now, she can't tell what Betsy is thinking. 'I can, but she deserves some privacy' Rachel remarks as she sits down on a large rock, adding that Betsy can be pretty inscrutable. 'You swear you looked in her head and it seemed... normal in there?' Rogue enquires.

'Normal for her. She sounds like Betsy. She has Betsy's memories. Theyre a little quiet -' Rachel begins, while Betsy hangs her head on the shore. 'Like she's possessed?' Rogue asks as she sits down next to Rachel. 'Like she's depressed, Rogue' Rachel explains, adding that it is weird that Betsy just washed up on the shore two days ago and has been pretty quiet ever since. 'I have concerns' Rachel admits, before pointing out that it did get those English Coven weirdos to leave them alone for now. Rogue asks Rachel if she can't dig in a little more. 'And find what? She's back from a rough loss. There's no magic or spell or body swap that changes you the way pain does' Rachel points out. Betsy picks up their conversation, and telepathically tells them that she is rather they didn't, her signature butterfly psychic manifestation appearing before the other two women. 'See? I have to respect that' Rachel tells Rogue.

Rachel then grabs Rogue's hand and starts to remove her glove, claiming that she has an idea. 'What're you doing?' Rogue asks. 'Just a little bit. It's not gonna hurt me' Rachel assures Rogue as she gives some of her power to Rogue, explaining that if she can't stay here and psychically babysit her, she can give her a little bit of psychic power for herself, just enough for a few days. 'Just behave with it' Rachel warns Rogue. 'People don't like when you go poking around in their heads' she points out. 'Yeah, I done this before' Rogue responds, before thanking Rachel.

Suddenly: 'Where is she?' a voice calls out, and Rogue and Rachel separate from each other as Emma Frost appears standing over them. 'Why would you hide her from us?' Emma demands. 'Cerebro always snitches' Rachel smirks. 'Emma! Ah can explain!' Rogue responds, while Julio Richter a.k.a. Rictor, carrying Shogo Lee in a frontpack, and Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit rush towards the women, 'I'm sorry! We tried to stop her!' Rictor exclaims. '... you tried to stop me?' Emma asks, scowling as she turns to Rictor and Gambit. 'Not stop. Stall? We tried to stall you' Rictor corrects himself. Emma makes her way down to the shore, 'Betsy? Are you well? Can we take you to the Healing Gardens?' she asks out loud, before telepathically asking Betsy what happened to her after the duel, and why she wasn't with the other Captains. 'Are you still Captain Britain?' Emma enquires. 'Yes. Stop that' Betsy replies, while swatting away Emma's psychic intrusion into her mind, before informing Emma that she doesn't want to go to the Healing Gardens, and that she would prefer not to talk anymore.

Betsy walks towards the Krakoan gate at the base of the lighthouse and announces that she is going to take a hot bath, before bidding everyone a good night. 'What in God's name is wrong with her?' Emma asks. 'I ran some diagnostics. I think she's got what they call upset, Emma' Rachel remarks, arms folded. 'Well, I hope you'll help her find a remedy for it soon' Emma responds. Emma turns to Rogue and reports that the Council has determined a path regarding the permanent nature of Otherworld death – they must either work with Saturnyne to mitigate it, or close the gate to Otherworld. 'You can't close the gate' Rogue declares. 'I assure you, we can' Emma responds, on hand on her hip, to which Rogue announces that they will go see Saturnyne now, and boasts that she isn't scared of her.

Rogue starts to walk away, and Emma calls out after her: 'A kind offer, but as our reality had no Captain Britain, we had no representation with which to approach her. But apparently, Betsy's now returned. And again I have to wonder why would you hide that from us?' Emma remarks. Rogue spins around and snaps 'You saw her, Emma! She's a mess! Either that ain't Betsy, and I'm glad I'm keeping her away from everyone, or it is, and she probably doesn't want everybody seeing her this way!' Rogue explains. Emma states that she won't force Betsy to do anything, but reminds Rogue that Betsy has a job to do, just like the rest of them – and they can't be patient forever. 'Remind Captain Britain to keep calm and carry on, yes? I'll tell the Council to expect her within a few days' Emma announces as she walks towards the gateway. 'I tried -' Gambit begins as he goes over and puts his arms around Rogue. 'Ah know ya did, Remy. We're all just trying' Rogue utters.

Later, Gambit, Rogue, Rictor and Jubilee are in the kitchen within the lighthouse, Jubilee puts Shogo into a high chair, while Gambit's cats Figaro and Lucifer can be seen, one on a windowsill, the other sitting at the table, where Gambit looks at the food laid out before him and remarks that it looks good, and that it was a nice idea to all have dinner together. 'It was your idea' Rogue reminds her husband. Rictor suggests someone tell Betsy that this is her last chance to come up here, or she will be eating whatever is left over. 'I mean it!' Ric calls out over the handrail that separates the kitchen area from the large open space within the center of the lighthouse, where Betsy is sitting on some steps down below, near the portals to Krakoa and Avalon. 'Suit yourself!' Ric adds when Betsy doesn't answer him. 'Betsy's sitting down there alone? No way – Shogo and I are gonna take our plates and go sit with her' Jubilee remarks, but Rogue tells her not to, that Betsy isn't in the mood to have company.

Suddenly: 'Eeeeeeeheeeee!' Maggie Braddock calls out as she runs through from the Avalon portal. '... Aunt Betsy?' Maggie asks, coming to a stop when she sees her aunt. 'Father!' Maggie shouts. 'Dammit!' Betsy scowls, turning from Maggie and narrowing her eyes as she slinks off into the shadows. 'Where is she? Where is my sister?' Brian Braddock a.k.a. Captain Avalon asks as he steps through the portal into the lighthouse. 'I saw her myself!' Maggie exclaims, pointing to where Betsy was sitting. The commotion causes Jubilee, Rictor, Gambit and Rogue to rush downstairs, and Jubilee tells Brian not to freak out. 'Come on, mon ami! Don't tell – you'll frighten the little one!' Gambit suggests. 'Oh, I'm not afraid. I'm cross!' Maggie snaps. 'How long as she been here? Why wouldn't you tell me?' Brian asks. 'Because! We're not all sure if it's her, okay!' Jubilee remarks. 'What do you mean? Do you think that she's one of the other Captains?' Brian enquires. 'Just let me talk to her. I assure you, no one knows more about these things than me' Brian reminds everyone. At that moment, Meggan Puceanu-Braddock walks through the Avalon gateway, 'I'm sorry, did Maggie run through here? She keeps -' Meggan begins, before Maggie spins around and points at her: 'Hello, Mother! We're having a confrontation!' Rogue suggests that they all have a lot to catch up on, and asks the Braddocks if they would like to join them for dinner. 'Oh dear' Meggan frowns.

Later, Brian is looking pensive as he sits on a lounge chair next to a fireplace in a library. 'Hey' Rogue calls out to him as she enters and tells him that she is sorry Betsy wouldn't come and talk to him, explaining that she has been acting weird, and assuring him that they didn't mean to hide her from him. Rogue stands behind Brian as she reveals that Betsy just washed up here, and they had to get some of the Coven Akkaba freaks off their backs. 'It wasn't until after I got a chance to talk to her that Ah realized... she just... she seemed...' Rogue's voice trails off, and Brian asks her 'You don't think it's really her'. Wide-eyed, Rogue admits she doesn't, and that she just thought she was being crazy. 'I don't think you're crazy' Brian responds, glancing back at Betsy. Unaware that Betsy is hiding in the shadows of the library, Brian tells Rogue that his sister has thrown some fits, but that she has never just locked herself away from him without at least a parting shout through the door. 'I can't say I know more than the world's most powerful psychics, but I've known my sister since day one. Something's very wrong' Brian declares.

'Exactly! I don't know why Ah would know, of all the people, but Ah do' Rogue remarks. Brian tells Rogue that he has a lot to think about, and asks Rogue if they can speak again in the morning. He adds that Meggan took Maggie home, but he thinks he is going to stay down here, in case Betsy changes her mind about speaking to him. 'Sure' Rogue replies, before telling Brian that she is sorry he had to show up angry, but she is sure glad he is here. Brian bids Rogue goodnight, and Rogue replies the same as she leaves the library. Brian puts his head against the back of the chair, and closes his eyes – when suddenly, Betsy emerges from the shadows and telepathically puts him under her control. 'Shh' she utters. 'This way' she commands him as they walk through the lighthouse, towards the Avalon gate, which Brian steps through. 'Hail, Captain Avalon... and good evening' a guard on the other side of the gate calls out as Brian walks past him.

'Wake up' Betsy telepathically commands Rogue, prompting her to stir in her sleep. 'Tag' Betsy telepathically utters. 'Ow!' Rogue complains, while Gambit sleeps next to her, one of his cats sleeping on his back. 'You're it' Betsy telepathically informs Rogue, while fashioning her psychic energy in the form of a psi-blade, before running through one of the portals. 'Brian? I think she's gone. I think she went – where the hell is Brian?' Rogue calls out as she sees Betsy dart into the portal. Gambit, Rictor, Jubilee and Shogo join Rogue down in the foyer where the portals meet, and Gambit suggests that Brian might have gone back with Meggan and the little one. 'By himself? He can't use the gates' Rogue reminds him. 'Someone would have had to walk him through. Maybe the girls came and got him?' Gambit proposes. 'Maybe' Rogue replies, before telling her teammates that she doesn't feel good about this, as they were supposed to talk this morning, before announcing that she knows where Betsy is – on Krakoa, and she think she wants her to find her, as she tagged her in her sleep. Rictor offers to go with Rogue, remarking that he has a stop to make.

Jubilee holds Shogo close as the baby begins to cry and she tells her teammates that Shogo is pretty fussy today, and she was planning to stay in, before suggesting that someone check Avalon, as there is no need to panic if Brian is just in bed. 'Guess that leaves me, then?' Gambit asks. 'You mind?' Rogue asks him, suggesting that they can meet up later. 'And talk to Monarch while you're there? You know I don't trust that burger king' Rogue adds. 'Fair enough' Gambit tells her, before asking her to be careful. 'Betsy and I are old friends. What could go wrong?' Rogue replies. 'Famous last words, cher' Gambit points out. 'You're telling me' Rogue remarks as they part ways.

Shortly, 'Good morning, King Jamie! You seen Cap'n Avalon around?' Gambit asks as he steps into Avalon through the portal. 'Jamie Braddock a.k.a. Monarch sits on his throne and replies 'He's asleep in his chambers, the lazy oaf. Why – is he not supposed to be?' Jamie then leans forward on his throne and reveals that he saw Meggan come through without him, and that he thought it was mighty interesting that they might be getting up to separate things at night. 'Say, where's your wife?' Jamie asks. Gambit tells Monarch to take it easy, before asking if Betsy was with Brian by any chance. 'Betsy? No. She's still missing, right? Did she return and no one told me?' Jamie asks. 'Ah, $%#& - well, we ain't sure it's really her, yet...' Gambit informs Monarch, who throws his arms into the air and assures Gambit that he didn't make any extra Betsys this time, reminding him that they told him not to make any Betsys, so he didn't. 'So if there's some pretender running around, I didn't make her!' Monarch declares. 'Okay, mon ami, fine' Gambit tells King Jamie, who then smiles and reveals 'But if you decided it would be helpful to have an extra one...I did have one made'.

Meanwhile, within the Grove of Possibilities on Genosha, where Rogue looks around and asks Rictor 'Apocalypse's creepy old magic lab? You think she's around here?' As he stands at Apocalypse's work station, Rictor assures Rogue that they will look for Betsy soon, and asks her to keep her psychic eyes open, as he reveals that he has been meaning to come back here, as it is where they first learned what mutant magic could do. 'So this is where he did all his plotting?' Rogue asks as she looks around the grove. 'Why do you call it plotting?' Rictor asks. 'Well, I don't know about you, but he never actually let me in on much of it. Didn't much get a say in my part of it' Rogue tells Rictor. 'He wanted you to learn' Rictor remarks as he touches a raised level of the table where a book would sit.

Rictor continues, telling Rogue that Apocalypse wanted all of them to learn. 'This is the great mystery of our people. Our greater powers in communion – communion that was stolen from us' Rictor explains. 'He used me like a battery and threw me in a drawer' Rogue reminds Rictor, who removes a thick book from his satchel, Apocalypse's book, and places it on the raised part of the bench as he begins to flick through it. 'He's lived a really, really long life, Rogue. He's done more bad things thatn we ever have. And more good ones than we ever have to' Rictor declares. 'But we will. We'll have forever' he utters. Rogue joins Rictor, looking through the book, as Rictor admits that he is not glad Apocalypse is gone, but tells Rogue that if she is, then this is even better for her. 'This stuff is outs, not his'. 'You believe in all this?' Rogue asks. 'That we're all able to join up our mutant powers in covens and all?' she adds. 'What's there to believe? Look at the kind of energy you've channeled – that I've channeled. Look at the Five, what they're doing!' Rictor exclaims. He reminds her that their enemies kept them running, hiding and separatyed for so long, because they are capable of miracles, of doing the impossible when they are together – of magic.

Rictor remarks that they only have the urge to doubt it because they were raised in the human world, and to them, magic only comes from what they sell their souls to. 'We were denied a lot, being raised in their world. The next generation will believe in magic' Rictor exclaims. 'Did ya being me here to preach at me?' Rogue asks. 'No, dude. If you're right, and that's not the real Betsy, I think we're going to bleed magic to help her come back' Rictor explains. 'Some sorta spell?' Rogue asks. 'Kind of' Rictor replies, adding that he got to thinking: 'What's a lighthouse for if not for guiding someone home?'

Back in Castle Avalon, 'I promise I didn't do it myself! No reality hijinks. It's just an empty body. I did it the old-fashioned way' Jamie tells Gambit as he leads him down into an underground part of the castle. 'Empty body? What does that mean?' Gambit asks as he looks around the large chamber, with a table covered by a white sheet in the center of the room. 'What is this place? It gives me the frissons real bad. Some kinda lab?' Gambit asks. Monarch tells him that is exactly what this is – their old pal Apocalypse set it up, but he has certainly made use of it himself. 'Over here, please don't snoop around' Monarch tells Gambit, who can't help himself, and lifts the sheet off the table – where he finds a woman restrained to the table, a device covering her mouth so she cannot speak.

'The hell is this, Monarch? Why you still got prisoners down here!' Gambit calls out. Monarch reports that the woman is a security threat to this nation, but Gambit tells Monarch he has to think a little more clearly – this woman has friends on the outside – and they aren't happy with his family right now. 'So what, I should just let her go? She's no fan of witchbreed, might I remind you' Monarch states, asking if he should have a meeting with Madame Morgan's friends back home. 'I'd prefer not, as we trying to keep the heat off us. I was thinking differently – you let Morgan le Fay go and they cool down real fast' Gambit suggests, adding that he isn't fond of Jamie keeping women imprisoned. 'We'll discuss that in a bit' Jamie replies, leaning against a sarcophagus, he tells Gambit that it sounds like he is asking for this as a deal, a favor – and that intrigues him. 'You're a useful one to have a favor in with, you sticky-fingered chap' Jamie smirks, before suggesting that they deal with one thing at a time – he thinks he can help each other. 'You're about to see just how helpful I can be' Jamie declares.

Jamie starts to open the sarcophagus, it creaks as Jamie tells Gambit 'You underestimate me. You all do. But I'm not just mad, I'm brilliant. And I considered that, at the very least, if our dear Betsy needed returning... it might help if she could return to this -' but as the sarcophagus opens completely, they find it is empty. 'Well, this is unexpected. I was keeping a body in there' Monarch utters.

Back on Krakoa, Rogue asks Rictor if when he summoned up the Captain Britain Corps, whether Apocalypse taught him that. 'No' Rictor replies. 'You guessed?' Rogue asks. Rictor tells her that he didn't guess, either, just followed the instructions and filled in where he had to, adding that it felt kinda natural. Rictor suddenly slams his hands on the wall of the Grove, and it lights up gree, displaying strange symbols in red. 'This place is our history. But we aren't at the end of anything. We're at the beginning of our history' Rictor announces. 'Noble cause. I salute you' Rogue smiles. Rictor adds that someday someone will find this part of their history, and it will mean the world to them. Unaware that someone is standing in the bushes nearby watching, Rictor tells Rogue that if there is anything they should learn from Apocalypse, it's that they aren't as far from the past as they want to believe – which also means they are scary close to the future.

'Why is it scary?' Rogue asks, while the eyes of the figure watching in the shadows glow pink, and Rictor answers Rogue's question: 'Because, Rogue...I didn't always expect to be here for it'. The borrowed psychic powers that Rogue has suddenly flare up, and she tells Rictor to hold on, as someone is out there. 'I think it's her!' Rogue exclaims, turning around, she sees Betsy, wearing the Captain Britain costume, leap towards her from the bushes, psi-blade at the ready. 'You again' Betsy snarls as she hurls some psi-darts towards Rogue and Rictor, who is struck by one of them. 'Look out!' Rogue exclaims. Rictor puts a hand on the ground and tells Rogue to hang on, while he prepares to shake the earth. 'Who the hell are you?' Rogue asks. 'One of your oldest friends!' Betsy replies as she lunges at Rogue, while taking Rictor out with a psi-blast before he can shake the ground around her. 'Back off. Back off!' Betsy snaps as she forces Rogue to the ground, then raises a psi-blade above her, preparing to bring it down. 'Betsy, c'mon!' Rogue calls out, unable to free herself.

Suddenly, a surge of telekenetic energy smacks Betsy backwards, knocking her to the ground. 'Stand down!' a voice calls out. Rictor has recovered and he and Rogue sit up, to see Kwannon standing over them, psi-blade at the ready. 'You both talk too loud. But you're right about two things: This is not Betsy Braddock. And you are going to need a real psychic to watch your back here before you get yourselves killed!'

Characters Involved: 

Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor, Rogue (all Excalibur)
Captain Britain II
Captain Avalon
Maggie Braddock
Jamie Braddock/Monarch
Shogo Lee
Emma Frost

Figaro & Lucifer


Morgan le Fay

Avalon guards

in illustrative image:
Egg, Elixir, Hope, Proteus, Tempus (all the Five)

Story Notes: 

This issue contains a letter from Saturnyne to the Krakoans, indicating that she will not be able to meet with them as requested because their reality presently lacks a Captain Britain.

This issue also includes a note to Rictor from Cypher, who has translated the symbols from within the Grove. The translation reads:

As we have defeated death, it did not occur to me that we might have a need for wills or other mortal codices. But I know that I am leaving soon, and have affairs to settle.

I, Apocalypse of Krakoa, declare this Will of my intent after I am gone, and hereby revoke any existing will or codices.

To my apprentice, I leave everything.

(Rictor – In the place in your heart where you have always seen a failure, there is instead a fault – a deep aching split in you that exposes a molten heat. You have always endured it. It is what I have always known about you – the great secret of the powers of Earth is that you must have a spirit that can stand to the heat beneath.)

Like Cypheris the only one who can hear Krakoa's words, you are the only one that can hear her heartbeat. This era among us has given you the power of the land, made you powerful in a way previously undreamt. It is why this magic must be yours. All I have learned and gathered of our magic, I leave to you.

As you read this, you know by now why I have done what I have done. Everything before now is pre-history.

I leave it all in your hands.

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