X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #9

Issue Date: 
December 1995
Story Title: 
Horse Latitudes

Larry Hama (writer), Val Semeiks (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Tom Vincent (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (lettering), Malibu’s Hues (separations), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Psylocke, Beast, and Wolverine travel to Florida in order to investigate reports of the vampire Bloodscream. They rendezvous with Lee Forrester and head out to sea on her ship. They quickly encounter Bloodscream and his army of mind-controlled pirates. A brief battle ensues, which Bloodscream calls off after spotting an island floating amidst a sphere of magic. The X-Men follow him to the island and investigate. They enter a large palace in the center and discover that it belongs to the demon Belasco. He captures the X-Men and then begins opening a portal to the N’Garai dimension. Once the portal begins to open, a demon emerges and attacks Belasco. Beast and Wolverine break free from their cages and fight the demon off. As the look for a way to free Psylocke, Belasco announces that he intends to enslave the N’Garai demons and use them to conquer the world. Bloodscream finally learns of his master’s true plan, and becomes irate. He attacks Belasco but is defeated as well. Lee Forrester manages to turn the tide of battle by shattering Belasco’s power crystal with a well-aimed shot from her rifle. With Belasco’s magic sufficiently weakened, Bloodscream intervenes and pushes his former master into the portal to the N’Garai realm. They both tumble into the demonic realm, while the X-Men escape as the portal engulfs the entire island.

Full Summary: 


A hundred miles off the coast of Florida, a man drifts on a raft salvaged from a broken ship. He finally sees a large sailing ship he recognizes on the horizon, and tries to get its attention. The ship is the Arcadia, and Lee Forrester is her captain. The Arcadia’s crew sees the man and rescues him from the water. They recognize him as a former crewmate named Paolo.
Lee Forrester approaches the dehydrated man and points out that Paolo shipped out on the Biloxi Belle over a month ago, and the ship has since gone missing. After Paolo takes a sip of water, he begins screaming that he has to hide and runs for cover. He runs into the hull of the ship and locks himself in the chain locker, the whole time screaming that he doesn’t want to end up like the others. Lee follows him down and asks what he is doing. “Who are you so afraid of?” she asks.

“He – he eats souls!” Paolo says. Lee asks about whom he’s talking, to which Paolo replies, “Bloodscream!”

One week later, also off the coast of Florida…:

Psylocke, clad in a two-piece bikini, stands on the deck of Lee Forrester’s boat and examines the shoreline with a pair of binoculars. She is eager for Wolverine to arrive so they can get going, but Beast tells her to chill out. Beast explains that Wolverine insisted on coming on this mission once he heard that his old nemesis Bloodscream may be involved. However, since losing the adamantium from his bones, his behavior has become increasingly antisocial, and he refused to come to Florida on an airplane packed full of people. Beast takes advantage of the downtime by sunbathing on the deck of the Arcadia and enjoying a good book while Psylocke impatiently scans the shore for Wolverine’s arrival.

Instead of Wolverine, she sees a wild boar near the shore. Lee comments that wild boar usually stay inland unless they are being chased by something, and when they get defensive, they get violent. Psylocke, meanwhile, performs a psi-scan of the surrounding land and picks up Wolverine’s unique energy signal. Beast perks up and takes a look at the shore. He does not need a pair of binoculars and instead relies on his keen sense of sight. When he looks at the mainland, he sees Wolverine running towards the shore, followed by a stampede of angry wild boars.

Lee tries her best to pick off Wolverine’s followers with her 30.06, but can only hit so many before they get too close to Wolverine for a clean shot. He takes them on his own at that point, unleashing his claws, as well as his animal fury. After a quick battle with the pigs, Wolverine stands victorious and dripping with their blood. He waves to his friends on the ship, and tells them to fire up the barbecue.

Later that evening, Lee fills the X-Men in on some recent events. She tells them of the trouble ships have had finding fish recently, which has forced them to venture further out into the ocean into a realm known as the Horse Latitudes. “Wasn’t that a song by the Doors?” Logan asks. Lee confirms that it was actually more of a poem, and then explains the reason for the name. “It’s an area of calm – no wind,” she explains. “In the days of the sail, Spanish conquistador ships would be becalmed so long that they would run out of feed for the horses, and they would have to pitch them overboard.” She then adds that ships often return from this realm with strange tales. Beast adds that the Bermuda Triangle is probably located somewhere in the Horse Latitudes.

He then tells Lee he can relieve her of her sailing duties while she and Psylocke take Logan down to meet with Paolo. Paolo has refused to leave the chain locker since he first boarded the ship a week earlier, even to go to the hospital. Wolverine, Psylocke and Lee descend into the chain locker in order to talk with Paolo.

Terrified of his visitors, Paolo crouches in a dark corner of the room. He is not angry at their presence, but is terrified of leaving himself exposed, for even a single moment. He begs them to shut the door. Instead, Psylocke steps forward and probes the mind of the terrified man. She is immediately flooded with psychic turmoil, but manages to pick one image out of the clutter. It is the image of a pallid, screaming face with a mouth full of dagger-like teeth.

She describes the image to her Wolverine, who confirms that it is the image of Bloodscream. “I thought I had finished with him up in Canada,” he says. Lee then adds that many ships have gone missing in the area recently, and she needed the X-Men to do something about it, as the Coast Guard certainly would not be able to deal with a problem like Bloodscream.

A few days later, as the team sails out into the Horse Latitudes, they encounter an abrupt cloud of fog. Despite Paolo’s frantic objections, they sail right into it. They immediately encounter Bloodscream’s ship, which, according to Lee, resembles a Spanish Galleon. Bloodscream’s ship pulls right alongside Lee’s Arcadia, presenting an army of ghastly pirates. Bloodscream is delighted by the presence of Wolverine, to whom he refers as “Patch.” He comments that he wants Wolverine’s blood for his “heathen elixir”, and tells his pirates to leave Wolverine to him.

The pirates begin boarding Lee’s ship. A quick psi-scan by Psylocke reveals that all of Bloodscream’s minions have been brainwashed into submission, and are actually the missing crew members from all the vanished ships! “I’ll bear that in mind, Psylocke,” Beast responds, “…as I counter homicidal intent with judicious restraint!”

Wolverine orders his teammates to grant no such mercy to Bloodscream, however, adding that he’s “as bad as they come and not quite alive to begin with!”

Psylocke tries to attack Bloodscream with her psychic knives, but he laughs at her attack and knocks her away. He comments that he has been cursed by a heathen shaman, and can only be slain by “metal not made by human hands.” Wolverine follows up Psylocke’s failed attack with one of his own, but he too is bested by Bloodscream.

Bloodscream then says that he has been redeemed somehow, and that his redemption means he is even willing to give up on his dream of using Wolverine’s blood for a cure for his condition. As if to prove this point, he whips out a large hand-held cannon and fires a barrage of blades at Wolverine. Wolverine takes the hit right in the chest, and is blown off the side of the ship into the shark-infested waters below. The combination of Wolverine’s frantic thrashing and all the blood pouring out of his body quickly catches the attention of some nearby sharks. Psylocke notices these predators swimming towards her injured teammate, and dives over the side of the ship to save him. She manages to land on the back of one shark, and shuts down its brain with her psychic knife.

Back aboard the pirate ship, one of Bloodscream’s watchmen sights land. Bloodscream disengages his assault on Lee and the X-Men and turns his ship toward this land, telling his men that destiny waits. Bloodscream’s flotilla sails toward the island.

The X-Men gather themselves onboard Lee’s boat and watch Bloodscream sail away. Lee attempts to follow, but finds it difficult in the fog. Wolverine gets up in the bow and uses his heightened sense of smell to follow the ship. What he ends up smelling, however, is a whole lot of nothing. Before the team has a chance to figure out what he means by this, they sail off the edge of the water and begin floating through a void. At the center of this large, ethereal void is an island, seemingly acting as some sort of nucleus.

Beast, Psylocke, Wolverine and Lee try to understand this strange occurrence. Beast notes that the force field is strong enough to hold back an ocean’s worth of water, but somehow allows ships and life forms to enter. Psylocke informs her teammates that the field is not an energy field, but an occult manifestation. Wolverine, however, recognizes the island, having been there once before: it’s the home of Belasco, the resident demon of Limbo.

Paolo and Lee stay aboard the ship, while the X-Men depart in order to investigate the strange island. Beast infers that Bloodscream and Belasco must have some sort of alliance, which Psylocke finds odd. It makes perfect sense to Wolverine, however. “They’re both creeps who keep popping up after ya thought ya put ‘em down for the count!” he says. Psylocke ponders what Bloodscream meant about being redeemed.

After Wolverine comments that the entire island reeks of evil, Psylocke decides to run a psi-scan over the entire land mass. She immediately encounters a strong psychic backlash and is knocked to the ground. Picking herself back up, she begins the scan again, this time operating at a more moderate frequency. Using this lighter method, she reveals to her teammates and herself the presence of thousands of psychic mines scattered all around the temple. After identifying these booby traps, the team manages to reach the entrance to the large citadel at the center of the island.

As the team enters the palace, they encounter several things they consider odd. First of all, Wolverine swears the palace is larger than it was on his previous visit. The second thing he notices is a large hole in the center of the plaza that reaches all the way through the island and to the ocean below. This hole was also not there during his last visit. Beast spots some sort of large, stone slab at the bottom, but they cannot determine what it actually is. Finally, Beast comments on a series of bas relief sculptures on the wall that seem to depict the enslavement of an ancient race of mutants. Wolverine also confirms that these depictions are new.

The three X-Men finally come to a perplexing image on the wall of some empty prison carts. Psylocke asks what everyone else makes of these sculptures. “They were to be the repositories for the enemies of the elder gods,” a voice booms behind the X-Men. They turn around and see the sorcerer Belasco, wearing gladiator garb and bearing a large, smoking sword. “But now, they shall serve my purpose!”

Wolverine does not hesitate to attack. He lunges at Belasco, but the necromancer hits him with a beam of concussive magic. It knocks Wolverine all the way back to the wall. Belasco then ensnares Beast within some tentacles, and hurls him against the wall too. Suddenly, the bas relief cages spring forth and take on a three-dimensional shape around the two X-Men, imprisoning them. Wolverine tries to slash his way out, but finds that the bars of the cages are made of some sort of arcane energy, and therefore impervious to his attack.

Psylocke takes a turn attacking Belasco with her psychic knives. Belasco puts up an impenetrable magic shield before Psylocke connects with her attack. Then, he smacks her with the flat edge of his blade, knocking her out. He is about to slay her when he realizes she has potential to be a powerful sorceress, perhaps even more powerful than Illyana Rasputin. Instead of killing her, he encloses her inside a giant, emerald prism.

Meanwhile, back at Lee’s ship the Arcadia, Paolo spots Bloodscream approaching the isle with his vessel. Lee takes a look, and sees that Bloodscream now has three other phantom ships in tow. Realizing they are defenseless without the X-Men, Lee and Paolo seek cover before they can be discovered. They hide out in the fish freezer to mask their scent. Sure enough, it works: Bloodscream boards the vessel but finds no sign of anyone. He heads for the island instead.

Inside the palace, Belasco gloats to his captive foes. He then summons the large slab from the bottom of the mysterious hole. The slab rises to the top and emerges. Beast recognizes the slab instantly, for it resembles the cairn from the grounds of the Xavier Institute that serves as a portal to realm of the Demon N’Garai. Belasco comments that he discovered this particular cairn on a recent salvage operation, and it will be the key to his future conquests.

Wolverine begins to warn Belasco that nothing good will come of him manipulating the cairn, but is interrupted by the sudden emergence of an N’Garai Demon. It springs out of the cairn and lashes out at the unsuspecting Belasco. Then, it flies over to Wolverine’s cage and begins clawing at him through the bars. Wolverine calls for help once he realizes he is completely defenseless. Perhaps due to the urgency of the situation, Beast tries to break his way through Belasco’s supposedly unbreakable bars. He applies his knowledge of physics and his brute strength to a set of the bars and pulls with all his might. Surprisingly enough, the bars break and Beast comments on this “triumph of reason, intellect and superior musculature over superstitious drivel!” He hurls himself at the demon and forces its body up against the bars of Wolverine’s cage. Wolverine pierces the trapped demon through the chest.

Finally freed from their cages, Wolverine and Beast try to devise a way to get Psylocke out of her crystal prison. Wolverine clutches his bleeding torso and, while patiently waiting for his healing factor to kick in, ponders the purpose of Belasco’s plan. “Was that Belasco’s ploy? To bring the N’Garai through to this world and let ‘em run rampant?”

Belasco overhears the X-Men talking as he recovers from his bout of unconsciousness. He stands up, clutches the crystal that is the source of his power, and explains that his plan is not to just let the N’Garai wreak havoc. His actual plan is to travel through the gateway to the realm of the N’Garai and conquer it using his superior magic. His crystal, while extremely powerful in this realm, is at least a thousand times more powerful in the N’Garai realm and would allow him to rule as a demi-god of sorts. After years of subjugation and conditioning, Belasco plans on returning with his army of N’Garai demons and conquer Earth.

While Belasco reveals his plan, the crystal begins emitting a large amount of energy. The energy swirls around the crystal and eventually forms an emerald pillar the reaches all the way to the sky. Above the island, the air swirls and creates a hurricane of mystical energy. The force of the magical pillar becomes so strong that it tears the floating island into two.

Bloodscream witnesses this cataclysm from his ship. He is under the impression that Belasco intends to stop the invasion of the N’Garai using his great magic. Because he is completely unaware of Belasco’s true intentions, he isn’t alarmed. Lee and Paolo, however, are very alarmed by this turn of events. Lee orders Paolo to take the wheel of the ship while she tries to get a better look at the source of the hurricane. Using the scope on her rifle, she sees Beast and Wolverine clinging to floating pieces of the island while Belasco mocks them from near the cairn.

Belasco offers the desperate X-Men a place at his side in the realm of the N’Garai. Wolverine and Beast both refuse, telling him that they would not take his side even if he had already won. Bloodscream finally arrives and overhears the X-Men rejecting Belasco’s offer. He, too, offers them a chance at salvation. “Join with us,” he tells the X-Men. “I was lost in my own evil and now I am redeemed! By this quest I mint the coinage to buy back my humanity!”

“It’s counterfeit specie, Bloodscream!” Beast retorts. He then tells Bloodscream about Belasco’s true plan to conquer the world using the N’Garai army.

“Enough!” Belasco shouts, silencing them. “The portal yawns before us!”

Sure enough, the portal finally opens. The N’Garai demon Kierrok emerges and demands to know who has unsealed the cairn. Belasco tells him that he is responsible, adding that Kierrok can now call him “master.”

Bloodscream finally understands what is happening, and asks Belasco if what Beast said is indeed true. Belasco confirms it, and justifies it by adding the world will be much more peaceful under the rule of a single, strong leader like him. Bloodscream lashes out and says he will have no part in it. Belasco barely flinches at this betrayal and zaps Bloodscream with a bolt of arcane energy. It incapacitates Bloodscream and sends him falling toward the magical vortex.

The situation looks pretty bleak for the X-Men at this point. Luckily, Lee has been following all the action from her boat thanks to the scope on her rifle. She realizes the crystal is the source of Belasco’s immense magical power and zeroes in on it with her sight. Taking aim, she fires and shatters it to bits.

Without the crystal Belasco loses most of his power. Psylocke bursts out of her crystal prison and immediately lunges at Belasco. However, he still retains enough of his magic to keep Psylocke at bay. Wolverine, in the midst of one of his animal rages, jumps in to assist his teammate. Beast tries to call him off, however. He explains that if they don’t rescue Psylocke and get out of the magic vortex immediately, they’ll all be pulled in to the N’Garai dimension and be at the mercy of the demons.

Belasco thwarts their escape using his magic and tells them that he will slay them all before he leaves. Surprisingly, Bloodscream leaps forward and attacks Belasco. “My redemption shall not be undone!” he shouts as he tackles Belasco, breaking his concentration. “I know full well that without that crystal we face certain defeat at the hands of the N’Garai, but I will gladly go into the long dark night to be the instrument of thy undoing!”

Belasco and Bloodscream then tumble into the vortex. As Bloodscream falls, he compels the X-Men to leave while they still have the chance. They take advantage of Bloodscream’s sacrifice and dive off of the floating bits of rock. As they plummet into the ocean below, the vortex finishes pulling in the island, and then collapses, leaving no trace behind.

Beast, Psylocke and Wolverine cling to a wayward palm tree in the water and watch the portal vanish. Beast remarks that he really needs to investigate the true nature of these cairns. Psylocke notes that Bloodscream truly redeemed himself, which is a shame, considering the cruel fate that awaits him in the N’Garai dimension. Then they realize that Lee and the Arcadia are nowhere to be seen. “She was on an old wooden hull,” Beast says. “The prognosis is not good.”

With nothing else to do but drift, the X-Men beginning paddling in the direction of the mainland. After a while, they paddle against the current for a while. Wolverine gets frustrated and complains about the futility of their situation.

“What do you suggest, Logan? Do you have an alternate plan?” Beast asks.

At this desperate moment, the X-Men catch a glimpse of the Arcadia on the horizon. They draw the ship’s attention, finally putting an end to their ordeal.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Psylocke, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Lee Forrester





N’Garai Demons

Story Notes: 

Bloodscream is cursed with a form of vampirism with only one cure: the blood of an immortal. He believes Wolverine’s blood can cure his condition, and has tried to subdue him for years.

According to Danny Sugerman’s Jim Morrison biography No One Gets out Alive, a young Jim Morrison was inspired to write the poem “Horse Latitudes” after seeing a paperback book with a picture of a drowning horse. These are the lyrics:

When the still sea conspires an armor

And her sullen and aborted

Currents breed tiny monsters,

True sailing is dead.

Awkward instant

And the first animal is jettisoned,

Legs furiously pumping

Their stiff green gallop,

And heads bob up





In mute nostril agony

Carefully refined

And sealed over.

Lee Forrester first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #143. She has been an ally of the X-Men ever since.

Good Queen Bess was one of the nicknames of Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Francis Drake was one of her knights, and a commander of the English fleet. Both of these figures died in the 16th century.

The “metal” to which Bloodscream refers is the Honor Sword of the Clan Yashida.

Wolverine and several other X-Men visited the mysterious island and encountered Belasco in Uncanny X-Men #160. Neither Beast nor Psylocke were present for that particular trip.

During that visit, Illanya Rasputin was aged from six to thirteen years old, and gained some arcane abilities, becoming the super-hero Magik. Her transformation was later expanded upon in the Magik Limited Series.

Belasco’s removal of Wolverine’s skeleton was not shown on-panel in Uncanny X-Men #160. The skeleton of an alternate Wolverine was shown lying on the floor in front of Kitty, but how it got there and how he died was never made clear. However, Belasco did pull Kitty Pryde’s skeleton out of her body in this same issue.

Ur is one of the earliest known cities in human civilization.

A specie is another name for a coin. It is unrelated to the word “species”.
Belasco and the N’garai return in the X-Men: Black Sun Limited Series.

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