Blink and you’ll miss him. Pietro Maximoff, better known as Quicksilver, has been an unexpected hit in X-Men: Days of Future Past. But who is Quicksilver in the real Marvel Universe?
Introduced in X-Men #4 in 1964, Quicksilver was a member of Magneto’s first Brotherhood of Mutants. He’s one of the few mutant characters to have made the leap to the broader Marvel universe – Beast and Wolverine being the other major ones – and this has meant that the licence for using Pietro belongs both to Fox and Marvel. That’s why he’s appearing in both the Marvel and Fox / X-Men cinematic universes.
The life and times of Pietro Maximoff
Pietro and his sister Wanda had lived the lives of those without home or family for many years. Brought up as Roma, they travelled Europe, but their developing mutant powers branded them as a demon and a witch. It all came to a head in one village, when a man attempted to rape Wanda and she used her Hex Magic to defend herself; Pietro could not protect her, but Magneto arrived on the scene.
Believing themselves in Magneto’s debt for saving their lives, Pietro and Wanda agreed to become part of the Brotherhood. They found the experience troubling, to say the least, and quietly intervened on occasion to prevent the X-Men being killed. We learned in X-Men: First Class that Wanda even briefly dated the Angel.
When Magneto was taken by the Stranger, the two decided to make a fresh start. Incredibly, they read in the papers that the Avengers were looking for new members, and wrote in asking to join up! The mind boggles: in the Marvel Universe, do the papers include job adverts for super-hero teams? If you went to a job recruitment agency, would they ask if your special talents included superhuman abilities? Still, the same comic included Giant-Man tossing Captain America up and down as you would a baby and calling him a “shield-spinnin’ scalliwag”, so I guess back then comics didn’t take themselves particularly seriously!
As the years passed, Pietro remained a ‘shades-of-grey’ character. We learned that his super-speed just made him look at ordinary humans, and even heroes, with more than a little disdain; people were just so slow. This would always poison his relationships with others, translating into an arrogance that can see people as just a means to an end. Only a handful have ever really penetrated this, and to those few Pietro is fiercely and unquestionably loyal – to extreme lengths.
Injured after a battle with the Sentinels, Pietro nearly died. However, he was rescued by Crystal, of the Inhumans.
The two began a romance, which of course turned nasty because Crystal was already romantically tied to the Human Torch! To the Torch’s heartbreak, she chose Quicksilver. In Fantastic Four #150, the two were married. Crystal would bear Pietro a daughter, Luna.
Matters would never be simple for Pietro. On the one hand, his family history became a source of constant tension for him; for a while he believed he and his sister were the children of heroes, but ultimately they were revealed to be the children of none other than Magneto himself! Pietro in particular took this badly, and will always have a deep hatred of everything his father stands for.
And his married life went little better. The villain Maximus drove Pietro insane, a condition only cured with the help of X-Factor, and he chose to remain with the government-sponsored team. A gulf was widening between Pietro and his wife and child, and it only got worse as he learned of the sparks between Crystal and the Black Knight.
Pietro’s sister Wanda was going insane, and her powers unleashed a devastating attack upon the Avengers. Although Professor Xavier tried to stabilise her condition, he was failing; the X-Men and the Avengers gathered together to decide what to do. Fearing they would kill Wanda (and justified in this fear, to be honest), Pietro took Wanda away, and was responsible for her powers going out of control – and deactivating the X-gene, bringing the mutant race to the verge of extinction.
His own powers deactivated, Pietro was left unable to bear the change. In the Son of M mini-series, Pietro – overcome with grief – attempted suicide. He was recovered, and healed once again, by the Inhumans. Pietro saw an opportunity to get his powers back by exposing himself to the Terrigen Mists, and betrayed the Inhumans in order to take that opportunity.
Granted time-travel abilities by the Mists, Pietro stole the Crystals that generate them, and abducted his daughter. He believed repeated exposure would restore himself and other mutants. He broke the Council’s decree in exposing Luna, as a half-human, to the Mists, but others proved to react unstably – the deactivated X-gene and the Mists reacted in a bad way. The majority of the Crystals were captured by the U.S. Government, sparking a cold war between the U.S. Government and the Inhumans, but Pietro used the last to bathe in the Mists for days. He became able to reactivate powers at a touch, but again this proved unstable; he crossed paths with X-Factor, with young Layla Miller declaring herself his ‘nemesis’.
His powers eventually stabilising, Quicksilver once again returned to an Avengers roster; the events of Secret Invasion gave him an ‘out’ for his past actions, as he claimed he had been replaced by a Skrull imposter. His daughter Luna, who has developed the ability to perceive truth, called him on the lie and now refuses to have anything more to do with him. Still, with the Avengers believing him redeemed, Pietro was able to become a tutor at the Avengers Academy. Pietro’s currently joined the latest incarnation of X-Factor, working for Serval Industries and sporting a bright yellow uniform.