A Primer to Marvel’s Quicksilver
So hopefully we’ve all seen the new publicity photos of Marvel’s most famous speedster, Quicksilver, in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past. Let’s look again.
I don’t know how anyone thought this look was a good idea, and his facial expression, cheap wig, and the terrible blur effects make the whole scenario even funnier. Besides, anyone who is familiar with the character would be hard-pressed to look at this costume and find anything distinctly “Quicksilver” about it. If you don’t know much about the character, allow me to give you a bit of a primer so that you can shake your head at this movie with the rest of us nerds.
For the past 30 years or so (out of 50 years of existence), Quicksilver, aka Pietro Maximoff, has been largely defined by his relationship to his father, Magneto. Given what we’ve heard about Days of Future Past so far, I think this family tie will be eradicated, just like the other and arguably more important relationship in Pietro’s life – his twin sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. (Released images suggest that Wanda could be Pietro’s much-younger sister, and I can’t decide if that’s any better than having her absent from the movie completely.) One thing’s almost definite though – Pietro won’t be Magneto’s son. It seems like Quicksilver was chosen because his super-speed will be useful in an action sequence, so I’m not expecting too much time spent on his history. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will both be in the Avengers sequel, presumably as twins, and reportedly working for Baron Strucker and HYDRA before they switch sides and join the superhero team.
In the comics, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (you can’t talk about one without the other) first debuted in X-Men as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, although at the time they were unaware of their familial connection to their leader. Magneto had found them in their native region of Transia, when they were about to be attacked by locals after their powers were revealed. Their debt to Magneto kept them loyal to the Brotherhood for awhile, but they eventually recanted and joined the Avengers alongside former-villain Hawkeye.
While an Avenger, Pietro met Crystal Amaquelin, sister of the queen of the Inhumans, and fell in love. He moved to the Inhumans’ home, Attilan, and married Crystal who soon after gave birth to a baby named Luna. But their marriage grew rocky; Pietro can be cold and inattentive, and Crystal found affection in the arms of another man, so they separated. They made a few attempts to repair the marriage, but they were unsuccessful, and Pietro lives on Earth full-time again.
Years later, after extended personal trauma, the Scarlet Witch lost control of her powers and lashed out against the Avengers, who had erased her memories of her lost children. Pietro was absent during these events, but was the technical instigator of the incidents of House of M, when Wanda recreated reality to an ideal world in the secret hearts of the other heroes. When Magneto learned what Pietro had done, he killed him, but Wanda brought her brother back to life, and then uttered her famous phrase “no more mutants” and disappeared.
In the aftermath of House of M, Pietro was depowered, and stole the Inhumans’ sacred Terrigen Crystals, which instigate mutation in Inhumans – basically like evolutionary stones in Pokémon. But like evolutionary stones, Terrigen Crystals don’t work on humans, so when Pietro tried to use them to give mutants their powers back, it had unforeseen consequences – like making them blow up. And unsteadying Pietro’s mind. He hit rock bottom when a pre-teen with no combative powers beat the crap out of him using a merry-go-round (completely serious). In an attempt to atone, Pietro joined Hank Pym’s Mighty Avengers team, later becoming an instructor at Avengers Academy, and is currently active in the All-New X-Factor series.
Originally believing themselves to be orphans, Wanda and Pietro have learned the “truth” of their origins a few times, but the one that stuck – in 1982’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch series – was that their mother was a Romani woman named Magda who fled her husband after seeing him use his powers trying (and failing) to rescue their daughter. Afraid that her children would be mutants too, Magda left them, and they were raised by a Roma family until adolescence when their powers first manifested. When Magneto learned they were his children, he tried to make amends, and Wanda was receptive, but Pietro has always been cold toward his father.
As far as personality goes, there’s really no denying that Pietro is a jerk. He’s arrogant and quick-tempered, and rashly makes poor decisions without fully considering the consequences – all part of being a speedster, maybe. In X-Factor #87, Pietro’s temperament is famously compared to waiting in line at an ATM behind someone who doesn’t know how to use it: “Your life is being slowed to a crawl…by the inabilities or the inconvenient behaviour of others. It’s not a rational or considerate attitude to have, but there it is. Now, imagine, doctor, that everyone you work with, everywhere you go… your entire world… is filled with people who don’t know how to work cash machines.” This attitude – in addition to his tendency to be kind of evil sometimes – leaves him feeling isolated from fellow superheroes. To make things worse, he has always been remarkably like his father, and thus of his siblings is most danger of following in Magneto’s footsteps. But he tries to do the right thing, it’s just that his selfishness and inability to think things through often leads him astray.
His most humanising quality has always been his protective and unconditional love for his sister, which the Ultimates took completely the wrong way. Their relationship is essential to both characters’ progression, and the idea of separating them in the film shows incredible disregard for the characters. In Avengers Academy, he developed a bond with a student, Finesse, who had trouble relating to her fellow students. Her polymath abilities – she can learn anything at an accelerated rate – and her detached disposition meant that she always felt like an outsider, so she looked up to Pietro as someone who can understand her. He’s a jerk, but a complicated (and often well-meaning) one, and I love him.
If you’re looking for an idea of what to expect from the character in Days of Future Past, I don’t know how much help this will be. Everything I’ve seen tells me we’ll probably get a jerky speedster, but that will be the end of the similarities; hopefully Avengers 2 will do better by him.
If you want filmic accuracy (at least of costume), maybe check out this Captain America porno instead.
And a close-up of Pietro from Captain America XXX: