X-Factor: The Quick and the Dead

Issue Date: 
July 2008
Story Title: 
The Quick and the Dead

Peter David (writer), Pablo Raimondi (artist), Jeremy Cox (color artist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Aubrey Sitterson (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Quicksilver, having gone mad after hitting rock-bottom, cowers in a jail cell after being arrested for vagrancy. In his delusions, he speaks with hallucinations of the Scarlet Witch, Magneto, Crystal, Luna, and finally, Layla Miller, who tells him the time has come to put his life back together. Quicksilver follows Layla’s butterfly to the window, out of which he sees a man trying to murder an innocent woman. In his panic to help her, Quicksilver’s mutant powers return, and he breaks free of the jail cell in time to save the woman’s life. He then takes a cathartic, supersonic victory-lap around the world, during which he acknowledges and forgives his own transgressions before finally coming to a stop with a renewed outlook on life.

Full Summary: 

A silver-haired man in a blue hooded sweatshirt crouches in the corner of a dimly lit jail cell, holding his knees to his chest and mumbling nonsensically. “Wanda,” he mutters.

Two police officers approach the jail-cell with a fresh detainee named T-Bar. The contentious thug asks to speak with his lawyer. The jovial jailers tell him the lawyer is probably on his way over already. After all, T-Bar must have him on a million-dollar retainer, right? They shut him inside the cell. A familiar voice speaks up, obviously excited to see his old friend. T-Bar turns and sees his buddy Rufus, who asks what they nailed T-Bar for. Breaking and entering, he says before asking the same question to Rufus. They fist-bump, and Rufus says he allegedly kicked the crap out of a guy who got in his face. “Totally allegedly for me too,” T-Bar says.

He turns toward the third party in the cell and asks who he is. Rufus introduces their disturbed cellmate as “pretty boy”, and tells him to say hello to Rufus. “Crystal,” the pretty boy mutters. T-Bar assumes he’s asking for meth. Nope, Rufus says. He states that this guy has just been muttering the names of women over and over again, names like Wanda, Maggie, Crystal, Luna, and Layla. Rufus has no idea who they are, but he presumes by the angry way he says her name that Layla is his ex-wife.

He approaches the pretty boy and taps him on the shoulder. He needs to say hi to their new guest. “I ain’t playin’ wit’choo, pretty boy,” Rufus says. T-Bar asks why he calls him “pretty boy”. Suddenly, the man looks up at the two strangers, revealing a bruised, battered face and a bloodshot left eye. T-Bar gasps. Did Rufus do that to him, he asks? Of course not, Rufus says. He looked like this when the cops arrested him for vagrancy. He had no identification on him or anything. The two men decide to leave him alone. They turn around, and T-Bar asks why the man’s hands keep shaking.

The silver-haired man, who used to go by the superhero name Quicksilver, says his sister Wanda’s name once again. He doesn’t think he can take it anymore, he says. In response, Wanda Maximoff, dressed in her Scarlet Witch uniform, appears beside him and affectionately nudges his chin. She tells him the ordeal has almost reached its end. “The trials that you’ve been put through…all that you’ve endured…you’re about to come through to the other side. And best of all,” Wanda says, “you’ve been judged worthy.” She smiles at her brother. He looks into her vibrant green eyes and feels her warmth. However, it doesn’t assuage his self-doubts. Of what, exactly, is he worthy? he asks. Contempt? He tells her to look at his body, which has been acting against him. “I am looking and I’ll tell you what I see,” Wanda says. “I see a good man. A man who has consistently acted out of his fervent belief in what’s best for his loved ones and his people.” Quicksilver asks if the same thing cannot be said about Hitler. He, after all, also acted out of fervent beliefs. Does that make Hitler a good man?

A new voice enters the discussion at this point. “Why do these discussions always come down to Hitler?” he asks. “What do you know of him?” Pietro Maximoff looks up and sees his father, Magneto, adorned in his finest, battle-ready costume. Magneto instructs his son to stand when his father is speaking to him! He scolds Pietro for his perpetual arrogance; he always believed he was Magneto’s intellectual and moral superior. Does he still believe that, he asks Pietro? Pietro admits he doesn’t know. Surprisingly, Magneto commends this answer, a more honest one than he would have expected.

Magneto reminds Pietro that his own parents died because of Hitler, a man Magneto views as evil in its purest form. However, Magneto also met his lover – and Pietro’s mother – Magda in that camp. Without Hitler’s actions, therefore, Quicksilver would never have been born. “Perhaps that would have been best,” Pietro says. Magneto clenches his fist and tells his son not to play the self-pity card with him. He has endured more hardships than Pietro ever will, yet he seeks no one’s pity. He expects the same from his son. “Maybe that’s the problem,” Pietro says. “I’m drowning under the expectations of yours…Wanda’s…”

“Mine?” Crystal asks. Quicksilver turns and sees his beautiful Inhuman wife standing beside their young daughter, Luna. He hides his face in shame. Crystal tells him she cares not about his physical state; she only worries about the state of his soul. He has a good and decent soul that is begging for release. Luna tells her father she still believes in him and never stopped loving him. “And we never will,” Crystal says. She approaches Quicksilver and takes him by the hand. He wraps one arm around her waist, and with the other, caresses the back of her head. Crystal puts her arms around his neck and pulls him closer. They kiss, long and passionately, forgetting about the rest of the world.

“Okay, this here is just messed up,” T-Bar says to Rufus. The two thugs watch their deranged cellmate engaging in a make-out session with nothing but the air in front of him. Does Rufus understand a thing he’s saying, T-Bar asks? No, Rufus answers. He acknowledges that the guy’s craziness seems to be deepening, though. Disgusted, T-Bar walks forward and shakes Pietro out of his trance. It’s bad enough he has to wait to hear from his lawyer; he doesn’t need to contend with a crazy cellmate on top of everything else. Quicksilver seems to regain his senses for a moment. T-Bar pushes him into the corner of the cell and tells him to quiver and shake in private.

“Wow. You’re really having a bad day, huh,” a girl says. Pietro looks over to see the new arrival: Layla Miller. He groans; she’s the last person he wants to see. Layla, slumped against the cinderblock wall, casts a disinterested glance toward him. “Miss me?” she asks. Yes, he says, but if she gave him a loaded gun he would never miss her again. She mocks his retort. He cuts to the chase and asks what she wants. She asks what he wants in turn. He wants her dead, Quicksilver answers.

Layla calls him a liar. If he had truly wanted her dead, he would have killed her in Central Park when he had the chance. He claims he merely failed, unconvincingly. His spirit failed, Layla tells him, because killing wasn’t something it would allow him to do. Instead, he found out how low he would go, but no lower. He hit bottom. What should he do now, he asks? “Now you start climbing back up,” Layla tells him.

He asks how he is supposed to do that. He has nothing left, including the Terrigen Crystals. Layla claims the crystals have done their job; Pietro doesn’t need them anymore. He begins to ask how she could possibly know that, but remembers. She knows stuff. This is actually stuff Pietro knows deep down, Layla says.

“A trip down the road to redemption, like all trips, starts with a single step,” Layla says. Quicksilver asks how one takes that pathetic first step. She directs his attention to the butterfly resting on her fingertips. “Caterpillars are pretty pathetic. Look what they turn into,” she says. She tells him the story of a philosopher who once had a dream in which he was a butterfly, and when he woke up, he wondered if he was a man who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming he was a man. The butterfly flutters over to the jail cell’s barred window and flies out into the free world. Quicksilver ambles after it and watches it go. “So,” Layla asks, “are you a mutant dreaming you’re human…or the other way around?” She tells him to follow the butterfly. She will lead him in the right direction, as butterflies always do.

Pietro looks out the cell window and into the sunny freedom of the outside world. “This is ridiculous,” he says. Something on the rooftop adjacent to the jail catches his attention. He sees a young man and a young woman quarreling. He assumes it is the impassioned fight of an amorous young couple. When the man slaps the woman and knocks her to the floor, however, Pietro realizes he has misjudged. His eyes widen as the man drags the woman by the hair, kicking and screaming, to the edge of the roof. He intends to kill her, Quicksilver realizes, yet he can do nothing to stop it! He shouts at the guard to help, but he merely tells Pietro to quiet down. Unperturbed, Pietro continues shouting, much to the chagrin of his cellmates. They are about to shut him up for good when they notice the bars over the window vibrating with an impossible frequency.

Quicksilver, the man responsible for shaking the bars at such a rate, can hardly believe it. It’s not possible! As the brick wall shakes and crumbles and fills the room with dust, T-Bar and Rufus beg for the guards to release them. Their cellmate is a freaking mutant, they shout! He’s going nuclear! Behind them, the bars finally come off the windows. Quicksilver laughs hysterically. “You’re right! I’m a freaking mutant!” he laughs. “But not just any freaking mutant! I’m freaking Quicksilver! And you can eat my freaking dust!” After shooting his cellmates a crazed smile, Quicksilver departs.

He runs down the side of the jail just as the misogynistic man on the adjacent rooftop tosses his girlfriend over the edge. Quicksilver catches her right before she hits the concrete. Running at a supersonic speed, he tells the confused woman his name and who he is: a hero. He advises her not to return to her boyfriend, who obviously doesn’t love her. Quicksilver knows a thing or two about the topic. The woman, meanwhile, has more pressing matters on her mind, like the fact that she cannot breathe at this speed. Quicksilver apologizes for overlooking this and comes to a halt. He drops the woman off where he stops – on a sandy beach at Montauk Point – before zipping away. The confused woman looks around and asks if she is in heaven. A man and his son standing nearby inform her she’s not in heaven, but on Long Island. How is that possible, she asks? Moments ago she was two hours away!

Quicksilver, meanwhile, continues his mad, cathartic dash, which he perceives as a miracle. He runs across the surface of the ocean, toward the setting sun, rousing the interest of a school of playful dolphins as he goes. He realizes now how presumptuous he was in thinking he knew God’s will; he even believed he was God’s vessel on Earth, operating on his behalf. How foolish, he thinks. He barely even understood his own mind; how could he have presumed to understand God’s? Of all my sins…perhaps that was the greatest, he thinks. And what has He done? He’s forgiven me.

Quicksilver runs through Paris, down to Venice, and then to a snow-capped mountain at the top of the world. He takes a flying leap off the tip at full-speed while pondering the lessons he learned in humility, power and mercy, but ironically, he finds he may have overestimated the lessons he learned as he barrels helplessly through the stratosphere at faster than the speed of sound.

Nearby, a commercial airliner begins its descent into an airport. The airborne Quicksilver collides with the plane’s cabin and ricochets back toward the surface of the Earth, much to the surprise of the plane’s pilot. Quicksilver screams as he plummets like a falling bullet toward the ocean. He hits the water and skips along its surface before finally stopping and falling unconscious. Fortunately, a nearby luxury cruise ship spots his inert body floating on the ocean’s surface and orders a rescue boat to retrieve him.

Quicksilver, meanwhile, lies on his back near the top of the water and drifts to sleep. His thoughts once more turn to Wanda, then Magneto, then Crystal and Luna, then Layla, and finally, God. He thanks them all for everything as he sinks into the ocean. He doesn’t care at this point whether he lives or dies. He is content simply knowing he is loved.

Regardless, the rescue boat reaches him in time and pulls him aboard. The rescue crew calls Quicksilver the luckiest man on the planet and asks what happened; was it a shipwreck? “Yes…in a…manner of speaking,” the breathless Quicksilver says. “The shipwreck…that was my life.” After asking his name, they inform Pietro they work for one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the Pacific Ocean. He can sit back and relax; it’s clear sailing from there on out. The sopping wet Quicksilver smiles. “From your lips, to God’s ears,” he says.

Characters Involved: 


Rufus, T-Bar (Quicksilver’s cellmates)

Police officers

Misogynistic man

Battered woman

Fishing father

Fishing son

Airplane pilot

Cruise ship crew

hallucinations only:

Crystal (Quicksilver’s ex-wife)

Luna (Quicksilver’s daughter)

Magneto (Quicksilver’s father)

The Scarlet Witch (Quicksilver’s sister)

Layla Miller (Quicksilver’s nemesis)

Story Notes: 

This issue opens with the following inscription on Quicksilver’s cell wall:

“Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it and it darts away.” – Dorothy Parker

Quicksilver wants revenge against Layla Miller for misleading him, with tragic consequences, in the Silent War miniseries.

This issue takes place shortly after Quicksilver’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of Layla Miller in X-Factor (3rd series) #23.

Quicksilver next appears in Mighty Avengers #21.

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