Marvel’s ’90s trading cards were packed with stats. If you were a ’90s kid who wanted to win playground arguments with cold, hard facts, these cards were for you. We’ve already used these cards to determine the ultimate fighters of the ’90s Marvel Universe; this time around, we’re focusing on Marvel’s speedsters as detailed in “Marvel Universe II-V” and 1995’s “Marvel Metal” set.
Only characters with cards in at least three of the five sets listed above were considered for this list. That means these guys were the most prominent speedsters of the ’90s, as opposed to one-card-wonders like the super fast Century, Salome, Death, Captain Mar-Vell and the appropriately named Judas Traveller. Without further ado, here are the fastest fighters in the Marvel Universe according to those unimpeachable ’90s trading cards.
While you might know Rogue as one of the strongest heroes around, the Southern X-Man was also consistently ranked as one of the quickest heroes in the Marvel Universe in those five trading card sets. She appeared in all five of them, earning 4s and one 5! That means that Rogue could fly at around subsonic speeds of 250-500 miles per hour. Yeah, if the bottom entry peaks at 500 miles per hour, then you know there are some fast characters on this list.
Of course, these cards measured Rogue’s abilities back when she was operating with Ms. Marvel’s power set. As you’ll remember, Rogue permanently siphoned off Carol Danvers’ super abilities, making them her own. One could, therefore, argue that Ms. Marvel — now Captain Marvel — would also come in at the #15 spot if she had trading cards during this time period. Still, Rogue’s well-rounded powerset got her onto this list, making her one of the fastest X-Men, in addition to being one of the strongest (and also sassiest).
The character that is basically tied with Rogue just so happens to be the other Southern X-Man, Cannonball. Sam Guthrie’s blasting powers might not let him fly with as much grace and accuracy as Rogue, but he still gets the job done when it comes to speed. Like Rogue, Cannonball earned rankings of 4s and a 5 in terms of speed, meaning he flies just under the speed of sound. Not bad for an ex-coal miner from Kentucky.
Cannonball isn’t just fast, either. His bio-kinetic blasting power also equips him with a forcefield that makes him nigh invulnerable while he’s rocketing through the air. He’s even been able to extend that blast field outwards to protect those in close proximity to him. On top of all that, he’s a solid strategist and great team player. He’s served with teams ranging from the outlaw X-Force to the X-Men proper and even the Avengers. This high-flying hero can currently be seen in “U.S.Avengers.”
While Sam Alexander may hold down the Nova moniker today, Richard Rider was Marvel’s original Nova, wearing the bucket helmet throughout all of the ’90s. As a member of the New Warriors, Nova added even more attitude to the already radical team. He also added some much-needed speed to the group, with his cosmic-powered ability to fly almost at the speed of sound.
Like Rogue and Cannonball, Nova also scored mostly 4s in the trading card sets. Unlike Rogue and Cannonball, however, Nova earned a 6 in the 1995 “Marvel Metal” set, which pushes his average above subsonic speeds. There’s one common thread in this list: if you’re a cosmic hero, odds are you’re super fast. Despite being an average kid from Long Island, Richard’s Nova armor gifts him with abilities far beyond that of a normal human. Fans are now reacquainting themselves with Richard, as he’s just returned in the pages of Marvel’s new “Nova” series.
12. CAPTAIN BRITAIN
Unlike America’s resident superhero Captain, Captain Britain has the ability to fly — and fly fast. If Steve Rogers and Brian Braddock were to race, the UK hero would undoubtedly win, due to his ability to fly at the speed of sound (770 miles per hour). As a member of the X-Men spinoff team Excalibur, Captain Britain had a solid presence on ’90s trading cards, despite his diminished profile in today’s Marvel Comics line.
It’s worth noting, however, that even though Captain Britain can fly at the speed of sound, he really shouldn’t travel too far. Unlike pretty much every other superhero, Captain Britain’s powers are based on his proximity to the United Kingdom. The farther away he gets from the isle, the more his powers diminish. Captain Britain discovered this during a mission with Excalibur to Manhattan, which saw his abilities start to dwindle the longer he was away from home.
Like Captain Britain, the veteran X-Man codenamed Banshee can also fly at the speed of sound. In addition to his unique history as a police officer, Interpol agent and brainwashed criminal, Sean Cassidy also distinguishes himself on this list because of the way he flies. While a lot of the other heroes — excluding Cannonball — are able to silently glide through the air, Banshee’s flight is propelled by the sonic scream he emits through his mutant vocal cords. In order for Sean to take flight, he has to scream.
Of course, with decades of experience under his “X” belt, Banshee learned how to glide along on top of a frequency that human ears couldn’t detect. It’s that exact kind of resourcefulness that Banshee imparted to his students in the ’90s series, “Generation X.” Unfortunately, for the more recent generations of young mutants, Banshee’s not been around to show them the ropes. He’s been missing in action for years.
Archangel is another member of the “speed of sound” club, thanks to his consistent 5 speed rankings on these cards. Yes, that club would theoretically involve Captain Britain, Banshee and Archangel flying alongside each other at the speed of sound while chatting (except Banshee, who needs his voice to fly). Warren Worthington III was only able to reach the speed of sound club because of the biological and mechanical upgrades he received from the super villain Apocalypse.
Those upgrades came at a cost. Previously, Archangel was known as Angel and possessed feathered wings. After those wings were amputated following a battle with the Marauders, Apocalypse swooped in and gave the suicidal Warren new wings — ones that came with a darker, more intense personality and skin draped in shadow. Warren eventually grew accustomed to his new wings, only to have them change back and forth from metallic to feathered multiple times as the result of further mutations.
There are certain areas where Thanos’ power is indisputable. The Mad Titan’s strength and intelligence are both more than formidable, making him one of the toughest and most cunning beings in the Marvel Universe. As one of Marvel’s extraterrestrial characters, he’s also faster than a lot of Earth’s heroes — but how much faster is up for debate.
Thanos’ “Marvel Universe II” card gives him a 7 ranking, the fastest there is. Subsequent sets downgrade him from traveling at light speed (7) to just supersonic speeds (6). Then there’s the constant outlier, 1995’s “Marvel Metal” set, which gives Thanos a 3 (superhuman, around 115 miles per hour). Thanos can travel as fast as a sports car or light speed — you know, somewhere in there. Thanos averages out to between the speed of sound and supersonic, which sounds about right. Really, Thanos can kill heroes in any number of ways already. He doesn’t need to also be super fast to get his evil deeds done. It just helps.
8. WAR MACHINE
At this point in the list, we’re hitting the upper echelon of machine-assisted flight. The cosmic Nova suit got the New Warrior to subsonic speeds and Apocalypse’s Celestial tech upgraded Archangel to the speed of sound. Now get ready to learn what Stark Tech suits can do. First up is War Machine, the armor piloted by James “Rhodey” Rhodes. This armor can travel anywhere between the speed of sound (770 miles per hour) up to supersonic speeds, between Mach 2 to Mach 4.6. That means War Machine, a suit of armor just bigger than a person, can travel faster than the real world SR-71 Blackbird jet.
Just to prove a point made in the previous entry, War Machine’s speed didn’t stop Thanos from defeating him in battle during 2016’s “Civi War II.” The two characters, back-to-back on this list of speedsters, met in battle and Thanos emerged victorious. One deadly, powerful punch from Thanos destroyed the Stark armor and cost Rhodey his life.
7. IRON MAN
When it comes to suits of armor, it looks like Stark Tech is remarkably consistent — at least when it comes to speed. Both Iron Man and War Machine’s suits are capable of traveling at supersonic speeds, earning them all 6s (and one lone 5) in their speed rankings. Of course, Iron Man ranks higher because he was featured in more trading card sets and, therefore, got a few more 6s under his iron belt.
The Iron Man suits are basically wearable fighter jets, equipped with life support tech, defenses and even more firepower. That makes anyone wearing one of these suits formidable, especially if they know what they’re doing. War Machine and Iron Man’s suits represent the fastest any Marvel hero — at least the ones featured in these ’90s trading card sets — could travel without the help of cosmic or mythological assistance. Tony Stark would no doubt be proud of that fact, although he’d probably try to figure out how to outpace the members of this list’s top five.
6. PHOENIX (RACHEL SUMMERS)
The power of the Phoenix knows no limitations. The cosmic entity took on the form of a mortal, Jean Grey, and allied itself with the X-Men for the period of time that it believed itself to actually be Jean Grey. Of course that stint with the X-Men ended notoriously, as the Phoenix became corrupted by its absolute power and destroyed an inhabited solar system. So yeah, if a cosmic entity has the power to destroy a sun, odds are it’s also pretty fast. After all, you have to travel to that distant sun in order to suck in its energy.
Dark Phoenix earned a 7 speed (light speed) in its one card appearance. This entry, however, focuses on Rachel Grey, the mutant host of a section of the Phoenix power who served as a member of Excalibur. While the Phoenix Force’s powers were ever so slightly limited at the time, Rachel Grey was still remarkably fast. On average, Rachel could travel the cosmos at supersonic speeds thanks to the Phoenix Force.
Iron Man definitely wants to figure out a way to upgrade his armor to outrun Thor, no question. As the fastest of the mainstay Avengers, the Asgardian god of thunder is able to travel at near light speed (which is around 186,000 miles per second). We say “near” because Thor’s streak of 7 rankings was upset by his “Marvel Metal” card, which gave him a 6. But that’s all right — as long as Thor can fly circles around Tony Stark, it’s all good.
We also have to point out that Thor doesn’t even fly at light speed — he gets pulled at light speed. In order to soar through the air, Thor actually hurls his Asgardian hammer Mjolnir and then gets pulled along either by the hammer’s strap or holding on to its handle. The reason Thor is one of the fastest beings in the Marvel Universe is actually because he’s also one of the strongest beings in the Marvel Universe.
Like Thor, Galactus also enjoyed a streak of 7s, interrupted by one lone 6 for speed, which landed him in the top four instead of being at the top of this list. As the devourer of worlds, though, Galactus is plenty powerful enough as it is. This being, older than the current universe, is a massive cosmic force of nature that sustains itself by consuming the life and energy of planets — inhabited or not.
Galactus’ fortunes have recently turned around, however. He still possesses his immense power, but he recently underwent a transformation and become the Lifebringer. In the pages of “Ultimates” and “Ultimates2,” Galactus now uses his abilities to restore life to the planets he once destroyed, thus changing up the natural order of the entire universe. That didn’t sit too well with some of the other cosmic beings, who killed the Living Tribunal (a one-hit-trading-card-wonder with a 7 speed) for allowing Galactus to continue to serve in his new role.
As former Protector of the Universe, the human Wendell Vaughn took on cosmic-level power once he came to possess the Quantum Bands. This interstellar artifact gifted Wendell with a number of out-of-this-world abilities, including powerful energy blasts, cosmic awareness and super speed. As Quasar, Wendell was able to travel at light speed, no questions asked. The guy has nothing but 7s when it comes to speed.
Wendell’s not the only person to wield the bands’ power. Captain Mar-Vell’s daughter Phyla-Vell briefly took on the mantle of Quasar as well, which she earned during a battle with Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave. Most recently, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Avril Kincaid claimed the Quantum Bands. Vaughn currently acts as Kincaid’s new mentor, teaching her how to properly use the powerful accessories — ones that allow her to be tuned-in with the entirety of the universe and travel across it faster than light.
2. Adam Warlock
Adam Warlock has a lot going on. Yes, he was created by Earth scientists to be the perfect artificial being, but he emerged from their experiments more perfect and powerful than they ever could have imagined. He was then modified by the mad scientist known as the High Evolutionary and began a stint as the champion of Counter-Earth. He soon came to possess the Soul Gem, one of the highly powerful Infinity Gems, and began a quest across the cosmos to stop Thanos from achieving his mad desires. Along the way, he has gone on numerous adventures that have changed the very nature of his being, including numerous deaths and rebirths that have left him more and more powerful than possibly any other being in existence.
Seriously, dude’s got a lot of powers. In addition to his many, many abilities, Adam Warlock is also able to travel at light speed with great ease, moving so fast that some have wondered if he’s actually a secret teleporter.
1. Silver Surfer
Before we get to Silver Surfer, let’s address the elephant in the list: Quicksilver isn’t on this list. Yes, the Marvel character defined by being a speedster isn’t on the speedster list. That’s because, curiously, Quicksilver only ever earned 4s on these trading cards, meaning he can only run between 250 to 500 miles per hour. That’s makes him sit just below Rogue, who got a 5 in the “Marvel Metal” set. Seriously, Quicksilver comes in at #16, which we agree is kind of nuts.
On to the Number One speedster! If you’re going to fulfill the job of herald of Galactus, then you’ve gotta be fast. Galactus himself is super fast, and the job of a herald is to, you know, get there first. Silver Surfer fulfills that requirement easily. This alien-turned-all-powerful-cosmic-crusader glides on his silver surfboard at the speed of light, ensuring that he arrives just in time to give planets a heads-up that the devourer is on the way. The Surfer left his gig with Galactus long ago, becoming a hero in his own right and establishing an identity for himself.
What do you think of Marvel’s speed ratings? Hurry over to the comments and let us know!