To Better Know a Hero: Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

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Quicksilver - QuicksilverQuicksilver

Real Name
Pietro Django Maximoff

First Appearance
X-Men #4, March 1964

Nicknames & Aliases
Pietro Frank, Matheo Maximoff,

Powers & Abilities
Quicksilver possess the mutant ability to move and think exceedingly fast. He can run at speeds up to Mach 5, and his body is designed to survive the rigors of moving at such speeds.

For a time following the Scarlet Witch’s depowering of 98% of the world’s mutants, Quicksilver was powerless before artificially gaining the ability to briefly move forwards and backwards in time. His original abilities have since been restored.

Weaknesses & Achilles’ Heels
Impatience, arrogance, and a certain proclivity for bouts of insanity.

Friends & Allies
Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff, his sister), Crystal (his ex-wife), Luna Maximoff (his daughter), Polaris (Lorna Dane, his sometimes-sister), Bova (his surrogate mother), the Avengers, the X-Men, X-Factor, the Inhumans, the Knights of Wundagore.

Foes & Antagonists
Magneto (his sometimes-father), Maximus the Mad (his ex brother-in-law), Kang, Ultron, Immortus, Cthon.

Movies & Appearances
Quicksilver has made appearances in various animated ventures through the years, including the Captain America portion of the Marvel Superheroes show in the 60s and the 90s X-Men cartoon. He was a recurring villain on X-Men: Evolution, as one of Mystique’s teenaged Brotherhood members, and has appeared on the more recent Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon.

Quicksilver is one of the rare Marvel Universe characters whose licensing rights are held by two different movie studios, allowing the character to appear in both an X-Men film (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and an Avengers film (Avengers: Age of Ultron), played by two different actors, Evan Peters and Aaron Taylor- Johnson.

Quicksilver - DoFPQuicksilver - AoU

One-Sentence Origin
Raised by gypsies and recruited by Magneto for his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Pietro Maximoff eventually gave up his villainous ways and joined the Avengers, using his mutant super speed to help save the world as Quicksilver!

Memorable Moment
X-Factor #87: In the excellent Peter David-penned epilogue to “The X-Cutioners Song”, Pietro explains to super-therapist Doc Samson why, exactly, he is always so impatient and irritable.

Quicksilver - PMS

Fun Fact
DC’s Flash could beat Quicksilver in a foot race. While Quicksilver is easily the fastest character in the comparatively more down-to-earth Marvel Universe, Flash is capable of running at speeds up to and, in some cases, beyond the speed of light, far eclipsing Quicksilver’s top speed.

Austin’s Analysis
One of Marvel’s earliest villains-turned-heroes, Quicksilver is generally known for three things: semi-regular reversions to villainy, his relationship with Magneto and Scarlet Witch, and being an insufferable ass.

Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch

First introduced as a member of Magneto’s original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (their familial relationship hadn’t been established at that point), before long Quicksilver quit the group and, alongside his sister, joined the Avengers in their first major roster shakeup, as part of “Cap’s Kooky Quartet”. As an Avenger, Quicksilver frequently picked fights with fellow villain-turned-hero Hawkeye, undermined Captain America’s leadership, and was hugely over-protective of Scarlet Witch. He left the Avengers to briefly rejoin Magneto before seeing the errors of his ways again, eventually meeting and marrying the Inhuman named Crystal.

Scarlet Witch - Quartet

Over the next few decades of publishing history, Quicksilver oscillated between good and evil, including stints as the head of the Zodiac criminal cartel (while under the influence of Crystal’s mad brother-in-law, Maximus) and as a member of the government-sponsored X-Factor team. Quicksilver was the driving force behind the “House of M” reality, in which an insane Scarlet Witch, at Quicksilver’s urgings, remade reality with mutants as the dominant species and the family of Magneto rulers of the world. This led directly, following the destruction of that reality, to the removal of 98% of the mutant populations’ powers, including Quicksilver’s, and another bout of insanity and return to villainy. Currently, Quicksilver is once again working with the Avengers, trying to make amends for his (most recent) crimes.

While his see-sawing between good and evil can be tiresome (and is largely a victim of heavy-handed plotting), the relative uniqueness of Quicksilver’s character is interesting: a hero who isn’t really that nice a guy. Everyone would want to hang out with Captain America, but who would want to hang out with the moody, arrogant and impatient Quicksilver? He doesn’t like most people, but still does his best to protect them (when in his right mind, at least). That’s a unique perspective on a character, even in the more-tarnished Marvel Universe, and it adds some depth to Marvel’s overall tapestry.

Scarlet Witch - Scarlet WitchScarlet Witch

Real Name
Wanda Maximoff

First Appearance
X-Men #4, March 1964

Nicknames & Aliases
Wanda Frank, Ana Maximoff, Wanda Magnus

Powers & Abilities
Ostensibly, Scarlet Witch has the mutant ability to alter localized probability, colloquially referred to as casting “hex bolts” or “hex spheres”. For example, during a gunfight, she could use her power to prevent a foe’s weapon from misfiring or jamming. Through the years, this ability has expanded to suggest that she doesn’t alter probability, but rather reality itself, such that using her power causes reality to be rewritten to allow for the eventuality she desires to occur (so using the gun misfiring example, she doesn’t so much cause the gun to misfire in the moment as she recreates reality so that the gun would have always misfired at that exact moment).

Originally, her power was more random and scattershot, with Wanda herself unsure of what outcome she’d get when using it, but through years of training, she gained the ability to control the outcome and bring out specific, desired results.

Additionally, Scarlet Witch possess an innate inclination towards sorcery, and has received extensive training to hone those abilities.  At times, her magical abilities have been tied to her mutant power, in which it is suggested that her true abilities lie in being able to manipulate chaos magic. She is also an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant, having received training from Captain America, and has displayed leadership skills on occasion.

Weaknesses & Achilles’ Heels
Shifting abilities, an inclination towards bouts of catastrophic insanity, robotic men.

Friends & Allies
Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, her brother), Magneto (her sometimes-father), Polaris (Lorna Dane, her sometimes-sister), Vision (her one-time father), Wiccan and Speed (Billy and Tommy Maximoff, her sometimes-children), Agatha Harkness (her tutor in magic), Bova (her surrogate mother) the Avengers.

Foes & Antagonists
Kang, Immortus, Ultron, the Masters of Evil, Cthon, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, mutants in general, prejudice.

Movies & Appearances
Scarlet Witch has appeared, to varying levels of involvement, in a variety of Marvel animated projects, both X-Men (such as X-Men: Evolution) and Avengers (such as Avengers: United They Stand) related. She makes her live action debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and has already been announced as appearing in the subsequent Captain America: Civil War.

Scarlet Witch - AoU

One Sentence Origin
Born a mutant and raised by gypsies, Scarlet Witch and her brother were recruited by Magneto to join his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants but quickly defected, joining the Avengers to atone for their past crimes and to help defend the planet.

Memorable Moment
House of M #6: Forced to restore reality to its proper form, Scarlet Witch does so, but with a caveat: no more mutants, three words that would have huge ramifications on the Marvel Universe.

Scarlet Witch - No More Mutants

Austin’s Analysis
Despite a long and storied career that stretches all the way back to almost the dawn of Marvel’s Silver Age, Scarlet Witch is a character defined by two polarizing stories by two polarizing creators. The first, by writer/artist John Byrne, involved a massive deconstruction of her character. After several decades of existence, in which Scarlet Witch went from a seemingly-reluctant member of Magneto’s original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to a stalwart member of the Avengers, met, fell in love with and married the synthetic man Vision, discovered and honed her innate magical abilities, learned of her true heritage (including her relationship to Magneto) and bore Vision two magically-conceived twin boys, Byrne set about pushing Scarlet Witch to the edge.

In the pages of Avengers West Coast, her husband was dismantled by fearful consortium of world governments. Rebuilt, he lacked the emotional capabilities and brain engrams that enabled him to love his wife. Fellow Avenger Wonder Man, on whom Vision’s original brain was modeled, refused to be copied again, having feelings for Scarlet Witch himself. Wanda then learned that her powers were actually altering reality, not just probability. Her children were revealed to be constructs of a demonic soul, and ceased to exit , and in the wake of it, she slipped into a catatonic state. When she emerged, she was a Dark Scarlet Witch, attacking her teammates and embracing Magneto’s anti-human beliefs with passion. Eventually, she returned to some semblance of normalcy. But her family was “dead”, gone or replaced by a version of her husband that resembled him in name only, and the character struggled under the weight of all that she had lost and her brief stint as a villain.

Scarlet Witch - Dark Wanda

Whatever Byrne’s intentions for the character following the dismantling of her personal life, he left Avengers West Coast when he was told he couldn’t do the story he’d had mapped out, leaving it to other writers to ultimately resolve the “Dark Scarlet Witch” plot and its later ramifications. Fast forward to the early 00s, and writer Brian Michael Bendis selected Wanda to serve as the impetus for his own deconstruction, not off her, but of the entire Avengers. Bendis, playing with elements of Byrne’s story, presented an increasingly-insane Wanda who, upon suddenly remembering her long absent children, set about destroying the team, leading to the deaths (for a time) of, amongst others, Hawkeye and Vision, and the short-term dissolution of the Avengers as a whole.

Scarlet Witch - Disassembled

This, in turn, led to Bendis’ rebuilding the team, the end result being a revitalization in sales, if not always fully-embraced creativity, for the series as the Avengers quickly became Marvel’s #1 franchise (eventually, a certain blockbuster feature film didn’t hurt in that regard, either). But Scarlet Witch, Bendis’ instrument for the revitalization of the Avengers, was nowhere to be found, held instead for his “House of M” event series, in which Wanda rewrites reality with mutants, and her father, in supremacy. After the heroes of this new world band together and force her to return things to normal, she reluctantly does so, but with a caveat: the elimination of 98% of the Marvel Universe’s mutant population. M-Day, as it came to be called, had a huge impact on Marvel’s X-Men books, thus tying Scarlet Witch to big, series-altering events for both the Avengers and the X-Men, and by the time the dust had settled, the character was mostly untouchable  for other writers, a condition that has only recently started to change.

Which is a shame, because Scarlet Witch possesses a lineage shared by only a handful of characters, having been a part of the Marvel Universe almost since its inception. For all the havoc she wreaked in the wake of her two respective breakdowns, she remains a vibrant character with a rich history and strong ties to both the Avengers and the X-Men. Hopefully, her introduction to a wider audience via Avengers: Age of Ultron will help restore the character to the place of prominence in the Marvel Universe she deserves.

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