Excalibur (4th series) #8

Issue Date: 
May 2020
Story Title: 
Verse VIII: The Unspeakable and the Uneatable II

Tini Howard (writer), Wilton Santos & Marcus To (penciler), Sean Parsons, Marcus To, Robert Poggi & Victor Nava (inkers), Erick Arciniega (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Joe Sabino (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

At the Bloodstone Summer Lodge, two Warwolves scatter when they hear a battle underway. That battle that rages is between Betsy Braddock, Jubilee, Gambit, Rogue and Rictor, who are fighting Cullen Bloodstone, who has decided that he wants to hunt mutants. The heroes restrain him, and when Betsy suggests they need to speak, Cullen agrees and tells the heroes that they will do so over a civilized meal. Later, the heroes sit around the table, none looking overly happy to be there, as Cullen claims that in these politcally-charged times, he had forgotten his manners, and suggests that they continue the hunt but with no mutant powers and he won't use his Glartox monster. That night, Rictor sneaks out of the manor so that he can take a walk to help him sleep – but his walk takes him to where Cullen is speaking to someone over a cell phone, and tells them that he wanted to let their coven know the mutants are here. Cullen sees Rictor and goes over to him, where Rictor speaks briefly about druids, and Cullen claims that his last boyfriend might have known some of the same druids as Rictor. Rictor is confused as to why Cullen is telling him this, to which Cullen explains that he is tired of all the homosexuals with super powers acting like they don't keep track of one another. Cullen then kisses Rictor, but Rictor pulls away after a few moments, and tells Cullen that he will be right back. Rictor races to find Betsy, wearing a strange gown that Cullen gave her to sleep in, and tells Betsy that he overheard Cullen talking to a coven, which he thinks might be Akkaba, and that he thinks Akkaba might  be trying to establish themselves as a safe haven for fearmongering anti-mutant sentiment. After querying whether Rictor and Cullen kissed, Betsy suggests that they wait until the morning, raid the armory and go after the remaining Warwolves as planned – but Rictor tells Betsy that if she think they will get out of this without getting provoked to use their powers, just so those who distrust her can say they had a reason to catch her, then she is naive. Betsy realizes that Rictor is right, and ater changing into her costume and gathering the others, the five heroes go quietly and quickly into the night to find the other Warwolves. But before long, Cullen, who is pouring himself a drink in the manor, sees some lights and feels a seismic vibration in the woods. After Betsy takes out one of the remaining Warwolves, Gambit soon rushes to rejoin his teammates, with the second Warwolf chasing after him. An annoyed Cullen Bloodstone finds the mutants and transforms into his large demonic form – but is quickly taken out by Rogue, disguised as one of the Warwolves. In Cullen's satchel, Rogue finds the remaining Warwolf skull, before Gambit alerts the others to something he has found in some shrubs – a Warwolf pup. Later, Apocalypse reminds Betsy that he required the destruction of the Warwolf species, but Betsy refuses to destroy the pup, and suggests to Apocalypse that he show Krakoa his virtue of mercy. Betsy then gives the pup to Prestige, thinking that she is the best person to raise it given her past dealings with the Warwolves. They briefly discuss Apocalypse, Krakoa and the fact that Prestige needs something to do other than look after the Warwolf pup.

Full Summary: 

The Bloodstone Summer Lodge, where the sun sets over a field where two extra-dimensional pests known as  the Warwolves are squatting. One of them has a rabbit in its mouth. They stand up and look around, when suddenly, there is a loud rumbling noise. One of the Warwolves sniffs their air, before they both utter 'Scatter!' and begin to flee in separate directions.

That rumbling is courtesy of the mutant Rictor, who creates a powerful seismic shock that knocks Cullen Bloodstone off his horse and frees Jubilee from a set of tentacles that had captured her. Jubilee falls the ground, while Rogue and Betsy Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain take to the air, and Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit rushes towards Jubilee. Rictor levitates himself somehow and hovers near Rogue and Captain Britain as he calls out 'C'mon, Cullen. Hit me back. You hit me with a good one. I hit you right back'. 'Hit me again and I'll call the authorities' Cullen snarls as part of his face appears demonic, and vines rise up behind him. 'Do I make myself absolutely $%#&*%!& clear?' Cullen shouts as the vines extend from his body and one of them wraps around Rictor. 'Put Rictor down and we can talk about this reasonably!' Captain Britain exclaims as she drop down towards Cullen, her psychic sword at the ready.

A short time later, Cullen is tied up as Gambit and Rictor stand over him. 'Now you got ugly' Gambit remarks. 'And we were being sporting'. Captain Britain kneels in front of the captive Cullen Bloodstone and tells him that she doesn't appreciate him threatening to call the authorities. 'As though you don't think of me as an authority' Betsy points out, before suggesting Rictor let Cullen up so they can talk. Rictor uses his power to release the restraints around Cullen. 'You're$%#&*#!%& right we need to speak' Cullen mutters. 'But I expect you all to sit and do so over a civilized meal' he adds.

Later, Betsy rests her head nervously against a hand as she sits with her teammates around a table, listening as Cullen tells the heroes that he thinks they got off to a bad start – and admits that perhaps that is on him. Cullen explains that, typically when they do this sort of thing they have civil comforts first – tea, cake, wine and a meal among friends. Rogue narrows her eyes, while Gambit listens to Cullen who suggests that perhaps in these politically charged times, he forgot his manners. 'We are here to share in the great tradition of the hunt' Cullen declares. Rictor rolls his eyes as Cullen tells the mutants that they need Warwolves, and he desires to play host in this fine place and enjoy the good sport of a good hunt – so he proposes they ignore scary things like powers, parasites and any super-abilities. Jubilee scowls as Cullen tells Excalibur that they should just come together for fun – no Glartrox monster from him, no mutant stuff from them – they just hunt as people who enjoy the game of it – and of course he will let them keep the skulls. 'To civility!' Cullen smirks as he raises a glass of wine.

Betsy looks across the table and thanks Cullen for the lovely sentiment, and for dinner. 'And thank you for understanding' Cullen replies. Jubilee exclaims that she has a question, and raises her glass of wine. Peering into it, she asks if that sentiment is fair – not mutant stuff, no parasite. 'It's fine, Jubilee' Betsy tells her, but Jubilee tells her to hang on. 'I mean, you have a parasite. We are mutants' Jubilee reminds Cullen, who tells her not to be like that – all he means is that they shouldn't use their powers. 'Be like what? Even if I'm not doing this, I'm still a mutant!' Jubilee exclaims as she creates a flare of plasma energy. Rictor rests his head in his hand, propped up by his elbow on the table, as Cullen asks Jubilee not to do that inside. He explains that he has to wear a ring to suppress his power.

Betsy tells Cullen that if she recalls his time at the Braddock Academy, the ring helps him suppress the monster, not him – so it is a little different. Cullen stands up from the table and asks Betsy whose side she is on. 'Sides? She just asked you the truth, dude!' Jubilee exclaims, while Rogue tells Cullen that he is the one picking sides. Cullen frowns and tells the mutants that dessert will be served soon, but personally, he is not feeling well. 'I hope you all like your rooms' he mutters.

Later: 'Jubes. Jubes!' Rictor calls out as he sits on the windowsill of Jubilee's room, where Jubilee is snoring in bed. Jubilee looks up and removes her eye-mask, 'What?' she calls out. Rictor tells her that he can't sleep, that he is going to go walk around in the dirt so he can sleep. 'Okay!' Jubilee snaps back. 'Okay, bye!' Rictor calls back as he leaps out the window, and lands on the dirt outside the mansion. 'Mmmmm... yeah' Rictor smiles. Rictor gets up and walks around the grounds, coming to a pavilion where he finds Cullen talking on a phone, telling the person he is speaking to that his sister has reached out to MI-13 in the past, but that they have mutants on staff, and he doesn't know if he can trust them on this account. He adds that he might feel safer with an arcane protector, which is why he is reaching out. 'I don't necessarily agree with all the stuff your coven says, but... I just need to let someone know she and her team are here. In case something should happen to me' Cullen explains, before telling the person he is speaking to '... one moment'.

Cullen walks towards Rictor and asks him what he is doing out here. 'Cullen! Uh... sorry, I couldn't sleep. Sometimes I need to go outside' Rictor replies, adding that it is just druid stuff. 'So you are a druid' Cullen states, while holding up a flask. 'That's how you were able to $%#&# with my own lawn so bad?' Cullen remarks. Rictor looks out the corner of his eyes and tells Cullen that he doesn't know about that – that he knows some druids, he vibes with druids. Cullen hands the flask to Rictor and informs him that his last boyfriend was super ancient and Celtic, and might know some of the same druids that Rictor does. 'Well, I say boyfriend. I don't think he knew he was my boyfriend' Cullen admits. Rictor looks nervously at Cullen and asks him why he is telling him this. 'Because I'm tired of all of us homosexuals with super powers acting like we don't keep track of one another' Cullen smirks.

'That's a very human way of looking at it' Rictor suggests. 'I'm serious! It's hard enough out here!' Cullen retorts. Cullen puts his hands on Rictor's shoulders and tells him that he really doesn't believe that mutants are bad people, but it's all scary – all of a sudden the mutants are in charge. 'But I'm not really here to talk politics' Cullen admits. 'We aren't in charge, we just live in our own -' Rictor starts to reply, as Cullen leans in closer, and then kisses the surprised Rictor on his lips, putting a hand to Rictor's neck, Rictor goes wide-eyed, before he pulls away, excusing himself, he tells Cullen that he will be right back.

'Bets!' Rictor shouts as he bangs on the door to the quarters where Betsy is sleeping. 'Betsy!!!!' Rictor shouts. Betsy opens the door, 'Bets, you – what are you wearing?' he asks as he sees Betsy wearing a long white night gown. Betsy explains that she wanted something comfortable to sleep in, and Cullen said she could raid the drawers. 'What's going on?' Betsy asks. Rictor tells her that it is Cullen, that he overheard him talking to some people – and he thinks it might have been Coven Akkaba. 'That's a wild accusation' Betsy points out. Rictor rubs his head as he informs Betsy that Cullen was on the phone with someone after their conversation at dinner, and that he thinks Coven Akkaba might be trying to establish themselves as a safe haven for fearmongering anti-mutant sentiment. 'You're all flustered. Were you two...' Betsy's voice trails off, as Rictor turns away from her and exclaims 'We both like dudes, whoopee, so what? He's going to frame us, Betsy! We have to get out of here now!' Rictor declares.

Rictor starts to walk away from Betsy and announces that he is going to wake up the others, but Betsy tells him to wait, and points out that Cullen is watching them, so they should just behave. 'He said no powers, so we won't. We'll just wait 'til morning, raid the armory tomorrow and do it according to the rules' Betsy suggests. Rictor puts his hands on Betsy's shoulders and reminds her that, firstly, they are hunting Warwolves, who are dangerous, and they can't risk fighting them without their powers – and secondly, if she thiinks she is getting out of this without getting provoked into breaking the rules just so the humans can say they had a reason to catch her, then she is naive. '... Oh. I suppose you're right' Betsy frowns, before suggesting to Rictor that they get those skulls and get out of here.

Soon, Excalibur are awake and dressed in their costumes as they run through the woods, as Captain Britain asks if they are doing this quickly or quietly. 'I can try to get you both' Gambit boasts. Still wearing the Warwolf skin as a cloak, Rogue declares that she will go ahead with Remy, as she suddenly pulls the Warwolf over her body, disguising herself as a Warwolf. 'Oh, is that how that works?' someone asks. Rogue explains that Warwolves wear skins, and she drained its powers – she doesn't know if it will last, but supposes that it is usseful for now. 'Let's do this thing' Rogue exclaims as she turns to Gambit. 'You can talk like that?' Gambit asks. 'Last I heard, all Warwolves talked' Betsy remarks, before explaining that Cullen has surmised that the Warwolves' time imprisoned away from the Mojoverse has weakened their minds somewhat. Rogue runs off, informing the others that she smells something this way. Gambit follows Rogue, while Betsy tells them that she will check in. Betsy then turns to Rictor and Jubilee and tells them that she understands they are not having a very good time – and she would like to offer then a chance to remedy that now.

Back inside the mansion, Cullen is making a drink and singing to himself, when suddenly, his glass begins to shake as he feels a strong rumbling. 'What in the world -' Cullen begins, before he looks out the window and sees bright colorful lights glowing in the woods. 'Are you serious?' he scowls. '%$&#!%*$ mutants!' Cullen shouts as he pushes his drink, a bottle of alcohol and an ice bucket off the kitchen counter in a rage.

Outside, 'Please don't make me do this' Jubilee remarks as a Warwolf lies motionless on the ground in front of her, Betsy and Rictor. 'Truly. You're going to make me behead it for you?' Betsy asks. 'What would I even use? It's not like I bring sword around with me' Jubilee points out. 'Well...maybe you should start!' Betsy declares as she raises her psychic sword overhead, and brings it down, a loud WHACK can be heard. The trio suddenly look up, as Rictor reports that he hears something. 'It doesn't sound like a wolf...' Jubilee's voice trails off, before Gambit emerges from the shrubs ahead, 'Mes amiiiiiiiiis!' he calls out as he runs from a Warwolf, while carrying the  skull of another in his hand. 'Gambit!' Betsy exclaims as she raises a psychic shield in front of herself, Rictor and Jubilee. 'What did you do?' Rictor calls out. Gambit reaches his teammates and informs them that Rogue nosed the Warwolves out real quick, and drained one of them, but he thinks the other got pissed when he saw him throw a few cards and snatch his buddy's skull. Jubilee holds the skull of one of the other Warwolves up and asks where Rogue is. 'She's behind the other one, chasing him after me!' Gambit replies, before Jubilee tells Gambit that that is not Rogue.

Indeed, a moment later, Cullen appears, his arms turned into massive tentacle-like vines as he tells the mutants that he knows everything is easy for them – but that the rules still apply to them. Cullen's form changes again, a huge monstrous form taking over him, he appears from the waist up in the monster's tongue. 'Did you get the skulls you came for?' Cullen asks. 'Good. Now try to leave with your lives' he grins, before a Warwolf leaps at him and pulls him out of the monster's tongue. Cullen begins to scream, 'Auuuuhg, get it off me!' he cries out. 'I know we should stop that thing' Jubilee tells the others as she glances upwards. 'But I don't want to' Rictor tells her, not looking at Cullen. 'It's helping us' Betsy utters. 'I told y'all' Gambit declares. 'We may've gotten separated, but she was right behind me!' Gambit exclaims as the others look over to where Rogue is standing over Cullen's unmoving body.

'We're going to be crucified if you hurt him, Rogue' Betsy calls out. 'He's tougher than he pretends to be. Gives him an excuse' Rogue replies. Jubilee holds up her Warwolf skull and tells the others that she counts four. 'Weren't we supposed to have five?' she asks. Rogue reaches into a bag around Cullen's waist and pulls a Warwolf skull from it. 'He's got the last one. Two boys, one stone' Rogue jokes. Betsy touches Cullen's head and points out that he is out cold and could probably do with a nap. She looks over to her teammates and suggests that they take Cullen back to the estate, and then get the hell out of this place.

Jubilee holds up all the Warwolf skulls in her arms, while Rictor smiles and looks over to Betsy: 'What's the matter, Posh Spice?' he jokes. 'Littlle Lord Bloodstone's hunting lodge leave a bad taste in your mouth?' Rictor asks. Betsy laughs, and tells Rictor 'Perhaps it does', before Gambit, who is near some shrubs a few feet away, calls out to the others 'I think we got a problem'. The others gather around Gambit and look down into the shrubs, 'Oh my god. We can't kill it' Jubilee exclaims. Rogue agrees, and tells the others that they have gotta get them all. 'Don't make Betsy be the bad guy' Rogue adds. 'Perhaps we give it a home' Betsy suggests as she steps forward and reaches into the shrubs, adding that she knows just the place.

Later, a baby Warwolf lies on a bed of moss on a table that Betsy and Apocalypse stand beside, looking down at the pup. Apocalypse reminds Betsy that he made himself clear – he requires the destruction of the Warwolf species. Betsy addresses Apocalypse by his Krakoan name and tells him that is no longer an option – this one belongs to someone else. 'So you'll have to go through me if you want it dead' Betsy adds. Apocalypse reminds Captain Britain that he has endeavored to work with her, and points out that he requested the heads of the remaining Warwolves – not simply five. He adds that magic is not a currency, that one does not buy things with heads – for if you could, he would have long ago. Betsy picks up the Warwolf pup and tells Apocalypse that, technically, the component is complete, and that this pup can't make babies on his own. But Apocalypse declares that their destruction must be a decisive act, not a slow petering out. Betsy takes the Warwolf pup and remarks that the ritual is changed now, and warns Apocalypse that she is not letting Apocalypse kill the pup, suggesting to him that he do what he does the best – adapt. 'You've been so eager to show all of Krakoa your virtues. Show us this one' Betsy asks. Apocalypse reaches out and puts a hand on the pup, deciding that mercy is its own kind of power, and supposes that perhaps it will suffice – at a cost.

Soon, Betsy sits next to Rachel Summers, who holds the Warwolf pup in her arms. 'Whoooo is this amazing, baby?' Rachel asks the pup, before telling Betsy that he is a cute Warwolf, adding that she hasn't seen one of these things since she was living at the lighthouse. Betsy tells her friend that she couldn't think of a better person to take care of the pup than her. Betsy dangles a small stick above the pup, who looks up and tries to reach for the stick. Betsy reminds Rachel that she has tangled with these things more than just about anyone – and someone has to keep it alive after she fought so hard for it. 'You were passionate enough to save its life -' Rachel begins, to which Betsy exclaims that it is a puppy – and she doesn't have to want to walk it to want it to live. Betsy adds that the pup needs a mum with Rachel's brand of psychic control to make it behave. She glances sideways as she tells Rachel that if they are going to trust Apocalypse, they need to know he is willing to truly sacrifice for them. 'And I got it from him' she adds.

Rachel takes the pup back in her arms and smiles as she tells Betsy that is so stubborn, and that she is impressed. 'Are you Omega-level stubborn?' she asks. Betsy lovingly slaps Rachel's shoulder, and Rachel pulls away, 'Hey, I'm kidding!' she grins, before pointing out that Betsy has been through a lot on an island of women who have been through a lot, and that she sure fits in. Betsy stands up and declares that it is an island of women she is honored to fit in among, before asking Rachel if she wants to go have a drink with her. 'Are you kidding? I have a puppy now. Big responsibility' Rachel replies, before asking Betsy if she heard that they are getting a tiki bar on Krakoa – which means she thinks they will soon get tourists. 'Rumormongering?' Betsy asks, before telling Rachel that she needs a proper job!

Characters Involved: 

Apocalypse, Captain Britain II, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor, Rogue (all Excalibur)

Cullen Bloodstone


Story Notes: 

This issue contains a text only letter from Reuben Brousseau of Coven Akkaba to the noble Homo Sapiens of Britain, asking for support against the mutant nation of Krakoa.

This issue contains a text only page with several quotes under the heading “To the stars, from the stars."

Rachel Summers' story will continue in X-Factor (4th series) #1.

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