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The Terrigen Mist is a substance from the Marvel Comics universe. It plays a prominent role in the stories of the Inhumans, a race of super-humans. The Terrigen Mists were first referenced in the Fantastic Four comic book series.[volume & issue needed]
The Terrigen Mist is a natural mutagen, arising as a vapor from the Terrigen Crystals, which are able to alter Inhuman biology. The Mists were discovered by the Inhuman geneticist Randac approximately 25,000 years ago; he immersed himself in the Mists and gained mental powers comparable to the Eternals. Sometimes the mutated subjects gain superhuman abilities; Medusa and Black Bolt are two examples of this.
However, in the past, uncontrolled exposure to the Mists (due in part to Randac wishing for all the Inhumans undergo Terrigen treatment, or Terrigenesis) mutated the majority of the Inhuman population into hideously deformed monsters. After centuries of eugenics and birth control, the Inhumans managed to mitigate the genetic damage and cultivated a more responsible use of the Terrigen Mists. The practice they developed was to let only genetically perfect specimens undergo the random mutations provoked by the Mists. Their theory was that genetic screening could avoid the risk of hideous and animal mutations in an individual. However, there are examples throughout the Inhumans' canon where an exposed Inhuman became a devolved, sometimes mindless, evolutionarily inferior throw-back. The term Alpha Primitives was coined for these unfortunate outcasts of Inhuman society, who would for centuries become the breeding stock of a slave race. Resentment at this caste system sometimes bubbles up, and the Alpha Primitives have tried to overthrow their rulers in multiple storylines, often as a result of manipulation by a third party.
Use by non-Inhumans
Since the introduction of the Terrigen Mists, the inhabitants of the Marvel Comics universe have believed that Terrigen Mists were toxic for regular Homo sapiens. When the depowered mutant Quicksilver subjected himself to the Mist, he gained the ability to travel through time as an acute enhancement to his former super-speed. Luna, Quicksilver's half-human half-inhuman daughter, gains psychic abilities from the Mists allowing her to see emotional auras emanating from individuals.
It is also shown in this series that depowered mutants, if exposed to the Terrigen Mists, gain an uncontrollable version of their former powers. For example, the Mists restore the hyperacute senses of Callisto, but all the amplified stimuli cause her to fall into a coma. However, the effect is only temporary; powers fade after a short while. As shown with Quicksilver, the bodies of those exposed to the mists for extensive periods begin to produce their own Terrigen Crystals with the same mutagenic effects. At the end of the Son of M series, the U.S. government confiscates the Terrigen Crystals dropped by Quicksilver, which leads Black Bolt, the leader of the Inhumans, to declare war on the United States.
Use on X-Cell depowered mutants provided moments of renewed powers but then caused them to explode. Use on U.S. Marines in Silent War also proved that the mists, while providing temporary powers to humans who are certain in their purpose, also causes certain death. The Inhuman Gorgon was subjected to a second exposure while imprisoned, which increased his strength, but possibly lowered his intellect.