Since I spent some time last week waxing on how awesome super speed would be, it only seems right I now list off my favorite practitioners of said ability in comics, right?
To make things a bit more interesting though, I’m taking my obvious number one, Wally West, out of the—pun intended—running. To make things even more interesting, I’ll also remove anybody called The Flash (or Kid Flash) just because. And finally, I’ll endeavor to make this a list where it’s more about how the characters relate to and reflect the ability of super speed than their overall coolness, but of course the lines will inevitably blur.
Honorable Mention: MEANSTREAK
No real discernibly cool personality, but I always just thought he had a rad codename.
Honorable Mention: JOHNNY QUICK
I like Johnny, but I haven’t read enough of All-Star Squadron to really know him as anything else but the dude from The Golden Age, and one story alone—even a really good one—doesn’t get you on the list.
Combine your typical overexcited and oft-insecure teenage girl with the hyper kinetic nature of a person with super speed and you get XS, a bundle of fun from the 30th century. I always got a kick out of how Jenni would be incredibly enthusiastic over everything to the point where she spoke fast than her teammates could hear and then immediately flipped to extreme embarrassment once she realized just what she had done. Very endearing character and I hope she gets some play in Legion soon, as every team can use a good speedster.
The Eternals’ Makkari combines my love of speedsters with my love of mythology in one gaudily-but-awesomely-costumed package. Mak’s the most inquisitive and adventurous of the Eternal bunch as befits an immortal god-type who can run really fast. Rather than cool his heels in Olympia with the rest of the gang, he made frequent incursions into the mortal world, be it to teach Plato philosophy or serve among the Marvel heroes of the Golden Age. Besides just the fact that he’s fast, I’m a fan of Makkari since he’s always on the move, jumping from one thing to the next with a natural curiosity that matches his ability to physically accelerate—he’s the James Franco of the Eternals.
3. JESSE QUICK
They don’t really play it up at all these days, but the era where Jesse Quick was not just a super hero but also a high-powered business executive always seemed an appropriate and interesting use of a speedster character to me. Of course whether they used their powers or not somebody with super speed like Jesse would be ideal in the corporate world where deadlines and innovation are key and of course she’d be a workaholic able to create more hours in a busy day because those are her powers and the environment she likely grew up in given her parents creeping into her personality. Her status as a headstrong female character who in my mind was assertive but certainly not the b-word also made Jesse Quick a favorite of mine during her Flash and even Titans stints.
2. MAX MERCURY
This is the flipside of my number one, but there is of course the aspect of super speed that allows you to live each moment as if it stretches a lifetime, so the idea of a “zen master of speed” such as Max Mercury both appeals and makes a lot of sense to me. After you pass the just running fast period of being a speedster, you’re going to get bored, and while frustration is one response, it’s cool that at least one guy took the road less traveled and spent the extra time his power affords him learning as much about it as he could. It’s neat the way Max has a better intuitive understanding of stuff like the Speed Force and also how he counters pretty much every other person with a similar ability set by having also learned near infinite patience and becoming the ideal mentor figure (though Impulse forced that “near” qualifier pretty well). There’s also a lot of untapped potential in Max Mercury as far as his crazy origins and not-fully-explored traipses through time, so an appearance by him is always welcome.
In the years since Pietro Maximoff was introduced and then fully fleshed out and then further fleshed out as a character, there have been other speedsters who do the “I’m a total dick because I’m perpetually frustrated by how slow the rest of the world is” routine, but none as well, and of course inarguably none who innovated it. Quicksilver is a great character because cool powers aside, you really do have to find a reason to root for him; sure he loves his family and does generally save lives, but he’s also a former terrorist with a superiority complex who tends to lose his mind every so often. Probably no writer did him a great service than Peter David in X-Factor when he established the idea that Pietro isn’t a tool for no reason at all, he’s really just annoyed for the rest of us to figure out how to work an ATM machine. Kurt Busiek also had the great bit in JLA/Avengers where Quicksilver finally meets somebody faster than him in The Flash and rather than embrace him immediately becomes jealous, insecure and obsessed with winning a race. Quicksilver isn’t the most likable character and never will be, but he’s wonderfully layered and, more than that, probably a pretty realistic depiction of how most folks would handle super speed once the initial buzz wears off.