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Quote1 You're used to dealing with heroes... But what you don't have much experience with is kings. And that's your problem here. You can't think of them as normal men. You can't even think of them as behaving human--that's thinking too small... They are larger than that, bigger than that... They exist above other men because they were born that way. Authority began at the cradle, you see. Their very idea of morality is different than what you are used to. The people--their people--expect them to do violence to ensure a certain amount of peace and prosperity. And like gods, they are also expected to commit murder... So the people can sleep at night knowing they are protected. Quote2
Maximus[src]

The Illuminati were a covert think-tank originally consisting of Earth's most influential heroes, each representing a different political or superhuman community. They met in secret for a number of years, brought together by events too important to face as individuals. They were initially relatively successful, despite their considerable differences, each bringing with them a perspective unique to themselves.[1] The Illuminati's past mistakes soon began to haunt them, beginning with the group being publicly outed during World War Hulk. They grew increasingly divided, which each crisis seemingly spelling the group's end, only for the next to force them to reconvene. When faced with the impending end of the multiverse due to the incursions, the Illuminati were pushed further than ever before. While they alienated their friends and associates in the process, they ultimately succeeded in saving the multiverse. Following this the group was disbanded,[2][3] but would ultimately reform in order to stop The Maker following his escape from a Damage Control remote prison.[4]

History

Earth's Secret Protectors[]

New Avengers Illuminati Vol 1 1 Textless

Within a week after the Kree-Skrull War, Iron Man of the Avengers gathered several superhuman leaders in Wakanda as he had realized that a unified front of heroes could collectively prevent dangerous threats before they occurred. His proposal was poorly received by the others involved; Namor the Sub-Mariner, the king of Atlantis, argued that such an endeavor would be uncontrollably unpredictable and would lack public support. Reed Richards, of the Fantastic Four, pointed out, however, that their scattered intelligence would be beneficial if communally shared. The Master of the Mystic Arts Doctor Strange echoed that such an initiative should be kept secret, and that the members would be moderated by the mental abilities of the mutant telepath and leader of the X-Men Professor Charles Xavier. The Inhuman royal Black Bolt rounded out the emerging cabal. However, their host and king of Wakanda, the Black Panther, vehemently opposed their covert organization, alleging that superhumans should not decide Earth's affairs solely by themselves and predicted that one day they would find themselves confronted by a crisis that completely and utterly divided them. Undeterred by Black Panther's speech, the newly christened "Illuminati" had their first point of discussion raised by Xavier in the form of the living island of Krakoa.[1]

For years, the Illuminati secretly protected Earth. In retaliation for past schemes against Earth's heroes, they traveled to the homeworld of the Skrulls, who were still reeling from their defeat during the Kree-Skrull War on Earth. Making a show of force, the Illuminati warned the Skrulls from interfering in Earth's affairs again. Their mission went awry however, as they were captured. The Skrulls analyzed their captives in terms of physiology, genetics and technology, gleaning valuable information from their behavior, until Iron Man was able to lead an escape. The Illuminati recognized that a subsequent attack was inevitable, while the Skrull Empire began to make use of the data they had compiled against Earth.[5] By using a clone of Reed Richards, as a result of having had access to his genetic material, the Skrulls were able to become undetectable by the superhumans of Earth.[6]

New Avengers Illuminati Vol 2 1 Textless

The Illuminati searched for the Beyonder after his toying with several of Earth's most powerful superhumans. The Illuminati had mistakenly come to believe that the Beyonder was an Inhuman possessing a mutant X-Gene, whose subsequent exposure to the Terrigen Mists had given him godlike powers. Black Bolt, under the guise of the Beyonder's "king", convinced him to go into another dimension in exile.[7] The Illuminati's effectiveness in this matter appears to have been close to nothing, since the Beyonder returned to torment the superhumans of Earth soon thereafter.[8] It was later revealed that the Beyonder was actually the child of an all-powerful, extra-dimensional species.[9]

In the wake of Thanos' near-destruction of the universe through use of the Infinity Gauntlet, Mister Fantastic revealed that he had been collecting the Infinity Gems, hoping to gather them all with the help of the Illuminati. Despite a general apprehension, the group managed to acquire all six gems. Upon doing so, Mister Fantastic attempted to will the Gems out of existence using the Infinity Gauntlet, but he was unable to do so. Faced with this failure, and a reprimand from the Watcher, he made the controversial decision to give each Illuminati member one gem to hide so that they would never be combined and used again.[10]

Following an attempted invasion of Earth by the extradimensional Kree warrior Noh-Varr, the Illuminati approached him in his prison, the Cube. They showed him the Kree connection to the Inhumans, and their desire to protect the Earth. They demonstrated the primitive nature of humanity, but also the potential of the race to evolve and better itself. Ultimately, using Captain Marvel (a deceased, Kree-born hero who had fought for humanity) as an example, they tried to convince Noh-Varr to use his powers to protect the Earth and guide humans to better themselves.[11]

When Iron Man informed the Illuminati of the formation of a new Avengers team in light of the mass breakout from the Raft, all but Namor wished him well in his endeavor. Iron Man proceeded to the issue of the golden hero Sentry. Although none of the Illuminati had any recollection of him, Mister Fantastic discovered that he had several files on the Sentry, leading Professor Xavier to realize that his mind had been tampered with. The files were used to get through to Robert Reynolds, the Sentry's civilian identity. The Illuminati summoned their respective groups to reverse what had been done to their memories of the Sentry. Iron Man guaranteed that the Avengers would take full responsibility for the Sentry.[12]

Fractured Illuminati[]

Following M-Day, a catastrophic decimation of mutants caused by the volatile Scarlet Witch tampering with the fabric reality, Professor Xavier went missing.[13] Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., approached Iron Man concerning the Hulk, who had destroyed Las Vegas during another of his rampages. Hill argued that heroes such as Iron Man were ultimately to blame for the Hulk's rampages, since they knew he could not be controlled yet refused to find a permanent solution. Bringing the matter to the Illuminati, Iron Man caused their first disagreement by suggesting they exile the Hulk to an uninhabited planet where he would be left alone, as he had seemingly always wanted. Namor was the sole dissident to the plan and angrily unleashed his rage after the remaining Illuminati voted in favor of the idea. Finally agreeing with the Black Panther, Namor claimed that the Illuminati had spelled their own end, predicting that the Hulk would return and kill them all.[1] Regardless, the rest of the Illuminati executed their plan by tricking the Hulk and trapping him inside a spaceship.[14]

Despite deciding not to meet again after this, Iron Man called together the Illuminati to introduce them to the Superhuman Registration Act. He told them that recent disasters had raised public suspicion against super-powered individuals and groups. Wishing to avoid a civil war among heroes, which would cause untold damage, Iron Man argued again for a representative body of superheroes, urging the Illuminati to come out in favor of registration. Namor dismissed the issue as none of Atlantis' business, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt disagreed on principle, leaving only Mister Fantastic positive. As Black Panther had predicted, the Illuminati had been torn apart in a moment of crisis when they could not agree on a solution.[1] As a result, Iron Man's prediction came true, and a war broke out between super heroes in favor and opposed to registration.[15]

Namor McKenzie (Earth-616) and Anthony Stark (Earth-616) from New Avengers Illuminati Vol 1 1 001

Namor and Iron Man come to blows

Although the Illuminati never met or operated as a group during the subsequent Civil War, their actions in the conflict reflected their reactions at the last meeting. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic became two of the leading members of the pro-registration side and worked closely with the United States government and S.H.I.E.L.D. Dr. Strange stayed out of the conflict, meditating and fasting,[16] though he later admitted, after joining the New Avengers and finding new love, that he regretted his lack of involvement. Afterwards, he joined the anti-registration New Avengers, who continued to operate underground without registering. Black Bolt and the Inhumans stayed out of the conflict but began their own Cold War with the United States as a result of a different conflict. Namor was involved only so far as it served his own interests. This included avenging the death of his cousin in the Stamford tragedy and coming to the aid of his friend Captain America's forces in the final battle.[17] Professor Xavier was not on Earth during the conflict.

World War Hulk[]

During the superhero civil war, Reed was contacted by Amadeus Cho, who informed him that the Hulk did not land on the intended planet. Unbeknownst to the Illuminati, he had landed on the savage world of Sakaar, first becoming a slave and then eventually freeing the enslaved peoples of the planet and becoming their new ruler, only for the shuttle that he had arrived in to detonate, destroying his capital city and killing his new wife and unborn child. Blaming the Illuminati, he returned to Earth at the head of an army to seek vengeance. His first act was to attack and defeat Black Bolt at the Inhuman settlement on the Moon. After providing the world with a twenty-four-hour time limit to hand over the other three Illuminati who had exiled him, the Hulk approached Xavier at his mansion to determine whether he would have supported the Illuminati's plan had he been present. He battled the X-Men, eventually beating every single X-Man present at Xavier's school. Xavier told Hulk that had he been there, he would have voted yes, and offered to turn himself over to the Hulk in exchange for the safety of the X-Men. However, after learning of the mutant population's recent severe losses as a result of M-Day, and the deaths of several of Xavier's students, the Hulk decided that the X-Men had suffered enough and that forcing Xavier to live with the fact that he was at least partially responsible for the deaths of his own students was sufficient punishment.

Bruce Banner (Earth-616), Blackagar Boltagon (Skrull) (Earth-616), and Korg (Earth-616) from World War Hulk Vol 1 1 001

The Hulk returns for vengeance on the Illuminati

Having then taken over Manhattan Island, the Hulk was attacked by Iron Man in a new Hulkbuster armor, but just when it seemed that Tony had triumphed, the Hulk became enraged allowing him to destroy Stark's new armor along with Stark Tower. Despite the aid of the other members of the Fantastic Four, including temporary members Black Panther and Storm, the same fate befell Mr. Fantastic. Dr. Strange tried to enter the Hulk's mind, but Hulk tricked Strange into presenting himself in a physical form that he then attacked, crushing Stephen's hands. Strange later invoked and became possessed by the demon spirit of Zom, hoping that he could stop the Hulk before it was too late. However, he lost control of his newfound power, and almost caused civilians to die during his battle with the Hulk. Although the Hulk saved them, this made Strange lose confidence in his powers and made him weak enough for the Hulk to defeat.

Hulk then implanted the Illuminati members with obedience discs and forced them to fight each other in his makeshift gladiatorial ring in Madison Square Garden. The Hulk spared them from killing each other, claiming that he had proved his point to the world, and would now raze New York before leaving. They survived the encounter by the timely intervention of the Sentry, who battled the Hulk, but ultimately lost. When the Hulk's associate Miek admitted that he saw the Red King's forces breach the ship's warp core but kept quiet to initiate what Miek felt was the Hulk's destiny to become the "Worldbreaker", the Hulk completely lost control. Before he destroyed the world, Iron Man managed to disable his powers with an orbital strike, ending the conflict.[18] Namor, being the only Illuminati member opposed to shooting Hulk into space from the beginning, was spared by the Hulk for that reason, and remained uninvolved throughout the conflict.

Secret Invasion[]

Iron Man called the Illuminati together yet again to show them the body of a Skrull that had been posing as Elektra. He believed that the Skrull represented a secret invasion of Earth, and that the Illuminati were responsible (after traveling to the Skrull homeworld years before). His suspicions were proven correct when Black Bolt revealed himself to be a disguised Skrull. The five remaining members were barely able to defeat it and its two compatriots. Realizing that they could not trust each other anymore, the Illuminati parted ways again.[19]

Iron Man and Mister Fantastic were the two chief leaders of the superhuman forces during the Secret Invasion, taking central roles in the main battles, and were key to the ultimate failure of the Invasion, though at great cost to both of them. Iron Man brought the Skrull corpse to the world's top minds, and summoned Hank Pym (actually a Skrull named Criti Noll in disguise) and Mister Fantastic to examine and dissect the body. Just as Mister Fantastic ingeniously discovered the method of concealment the Skrulls had been utilizing to become virtually undetectable, Criti Noll acted, using a special, Skrull-designed gun to subdue Reed Richards and prevent him from maintaining solidity; the remaining members of the Fantastic Four were also swiftly taken out for most of the invasion, though all survived, if but barely.

Illuminati (Earth-616) versus Skrull spies from New Avengers Illuminati Vol 2 5

The Illuminati are ambushed by Skrulls

Agent Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. freed Mister Fantastic and took the Skrull ship he was held into the Savage Land, where Iron Man and his Avengers were fighting a battle against the Skrulls. The reinforcements turned the tide, but not before the Skrulls managed to infect Tony with an alien virus disabling him, his armor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. After winning the battle in the Savage Land through Reed and Brand's intervention, the forces of Earth fought a final battle in New York, resulting in the defeat of the Skrulls.

In the final confrontation, Norman Osborn, formerly known as the Green Goblin and now head of the Thunderbolts programme, fired the shot that killed Skrull Empress Veranke. This made Osborn the hero of the invasion in the eyes of the public, and gave him enough political clout to assume Stark's role as head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Illuminati were deeply affected by the invasion, most of them finding themselves enemies of Norman Osborn and the new establishment. Tony Stark received the lion's share of the blame for the invasion, and lost S.H.I.E.L.D., a great deal of public support and popularity, and much of his pride and hope, becoming, essentially, a fugitive. Reed endured his own simmering conflict with Osborn, and constructed a machine to peer into alternate realities, hoping to find answers as to why things had gone so wrong in his own timeline.

Feeling compromised by his use of dark magic, Doctor Strange had left the New Avengers during the late stage of the infiltration and departed to parts unknown. He eventually resurfaced, alive but having lost nearly everything, from his sanctum to his position as Sorcerer Supreme. What he did retain were the enmities of the Hood and Dormammu, both of whom wanted to kill Strange more desperately than ever, and a sense of duty to find the new Sorcerer Supreme and hand over the artifacts of the office. Feeling a desperate lack of power, he went to the New Avengers for help.

Black Bolt (along with his son Ahura) were captured before World War Hulk and did not even know about the invasion. His voice was intended by the Skrulls to be used as a powerful weapon of mass destruction, but the Inhumans, aided by the renowned Kree, Ronan the Accuser, found their former king, rescued him and returned to Attilan. The Inhumans, shaken by the invasion and tiring of humanity, decided to depart from the Sol system, destroying the fleeing Skrull ship along the way and assumed control over the Kree Empire from Ronan, realizing their ultimate destiny in a conflict shaking the cosmos.[20]

While Namor was deemed a target of great importance by the Skrulls, neither he nor Atlantis appeared to be especially hurt by the invasion.

Dark Reign[]

During the "Dark Reign", as Osborn's period of authority came to be known, the Illuminati mostly ceased operations, with its membership divided and scattered. Black Bolt and the Inhumans had left the Earth and taken up rulership of the Kree Empire, Doctor Strange was no longer Sorcerer Supreme and was living as a fugitive from the authorities, Iron Man was distrusted by the public and living on the run, Namor had joined Osborn's version of the Illuminati, the Cabal, Xavier no longer led the X-Men and had gone on a journey of self-discovery after a failed attempt on his life, and Reed Richards was preoccupied with keeping the Fantastic Four together and his own troubles with Osborn.[21][22][23][24][25]

Osborn eventually overextended himself, with his fall hastened by the manipulations of Loki. Namor abandoned his temporary alliance with Osborn after refusing to take harsh measures against a rogue Atlantean terror cell and aided the X-Men in finding refuge from Osborn's regime.[26][27]

After his disastrous invasion of Asgard, Osborn's forces were defeated, and he lost his grip on power to a recently resurrected Steve Rogers.

The Hood's Search for the Infinity Gems[]

Parker Robbins, aka The Hood, escaped prison and began a search for the Infinity Gauntlet. While at the Raft, he had received a tip from an imprisoned Inhuman which led him to the Reality Gem hidden in Attilan. Then, he teleported himself to the Baxter Building, where he used the first Gem's power to bypass security and take the Power Gem. The two Gems sent him unwittingly to the desert, where he found Red Hulk and defeated him. Red Hulk managed to get to Avengers Tower and bring news of what had happened. Realizing that the Gems were back in circulation, Iron Man quickly gathered the Illuminati, with Medusa answering the summons in place of her deceased husband.[citation needed]

The group went to Attilan to investigate but were discovered by three teams of Avengers, revealing the continued existence of the Illuminati to the superhero world. Their teammates were visibly hurt that these men had been operating secretly and considered it a breach of trust -- the wound between Iron Man and Steve Rogers was particularly deep. However, the Avengers teams united to search for the Gems before Robbins could obtain them. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk recovered the Time Gem at the bottom of the sea. Xavier, along with the Secret Avengers, Wolverine, Spider-Woman and Maria Hill went to the ruins of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, where the Mind Gem was guarded by the Danger Room. The Space Gem was hidden at Area 51 in New Mexico, but when Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange, and some of the New Avengers arrived, Robbins already had it in his possession. The Space Gem brought Hood to the Time Gem, which was being protected by the Red Hulk, Thor, and Namor. Red Hulk managed to take the Power Gem from Hood when he was distracted by the presence of Uatu, the Watcher.[citation needed]

New Avengers Vol 2 29 Textless

Faced with a cavalry charge of angry Avengers, Robbins escaped to Professor Xavier's school and obtained the Mind Gem, with which he defeated Xavier in a telepathic battle. After knocking him out along the rest of the heroes there, Robbins teleported to the location of the Soul Gem on the Astral Plane; there, Strange met Robbins disguised as the mad titan Thanos. He attempted to talk Robbins into giving over the other Gems, but when that failed, he took them both out of the Astral Plane and into the middle of a group of other heroes. Red Hulk attacked Robbins with the Power Gem, allowing Namor and Ms. Marvel to take the Mind and the Space Gems. Parker was unaware of these losses until the Reality Gem was taken from him by the other Gems, which were in the Infinity Gauntlet held by Iron Man.

Iron Man used the Gauntlet to send Robbins back to prison and then seemingly willed it out of existence. In reality he sent it to a secret location, where he reconvened the Illuminati. Now counting Steve Rogers among their number, they divided the Infinity Gems again and took them to new hiding places. The re-formation of the group was kept a secret.[citation needed]

Avengers vs. X-Men[]

When the Phoenix Force returned to Earth, causing a war between the Avengers and the X-Men, Captain America re-convened the Illuminati to convince Namor, who was possessed by the Phoenix, to cease his activities and convince the rest of the Phoenix Five to do the same. The meeting proved to be unproductive as most of the members were split in opinions on the conflict, and all of them left, thinking Namor wouldn't come. Namor arrived in the room after the others had left. Captain America asked him to stand down, but Namor refused, although he acknowledged that he still respected Captain America as a friend, an ally and even a brother, which was why he wouldn't capture him or reveal any of their secrets to the other Phoenixes.[28]

The Phoenix Five were eventually freed from the Phoenix's control, though Professor X would lose his life in the conflict.[29]

Colliding Universes[]

After witnessing first-hand an incursion, an event wherein two universes collide with each universe's Earth as the point of impact, Black Panther realized the need for the Illuminati. Having captured the Black Swan, a mysterious super-powered individual responsible for destroying one of the Earths in the incursion Black Panther witnessed, the Illuminati set to work finding a solution to the phenomena.[30] Beast later joined the team, after receiving Professor Xavier's infinity gem through his last will and testament.[31]

With intel from the Black Swan, the Illuminati came to understand that the only way to save their universe, and the one colliding with theirs, was to either destroy the other Earth colliding with their own or destroy their own world. They resolved however to find a peaceful way of averting the crisis.[32]

The group attempted to use the power of the Infinity Gauntlet to avert an incursion. While wielding the gauntlet, Captain America succeeded in pushing away the other Earth, but in the process the Gauntlet broke, and the gems shattered. Despite having failed and lacking any other method to peacefully avert an incursion, Captain America vehemently refused to go along with the idea of building weapons to destroy other planets, even if such weapons would only be used as a last resort. Finding themselves at an impasse, the rest of the Illuminati agreed to remove Captain America from the group, wiping his memory of their existence.[31]

Illuminati (Earth-616) from Infinity Vol 1 1 001

The members of the Illuminati began working on solutions to destroy other worlds. Iron Man began working on a partial Dyson Sphere to power a weapon Reed Richards named "Sol's Hammer". Doctor Strange retrieved a forbidden tome, with a spell that could destroy a world at an immense cost. T'Challa and Reed developed a large armory of world-killing devices reverse engineered from the world-destroying weapon Black Swan had used. When another incursion occurred, the Illuminati were unwilling to use their arsenal, resolving to at least try and save the other Earth's population. Before they could attempt to put any plans into place however, they were confronted by Terrax the Truly Enlightened, herald of Galaktus, who had led his master to the Earth in order to destroy it so that their universe would be spared any future incursions. He told the Illuminati to leave, but they engaged him in battle, managing to knock him out, and took him back to their hideout in the Necropolis while Galaktus consumed the other Earth, averting the incursion.[33]

While interrogating Black Swan, who revealed that the incursions began with the "birth" of the Great Destroyer, another incursion struck, this time in Latveria.[34] This incursion was different from the others, as the world they were colliding with was dead, an empty husk used by the Mapmakers, multiversal A.I. who use the incursions to move from universe to universe. After realizing that the colliding Earth was already dead and bereft of all life, Black Panther detonated the trigger of the Antimatter Injection System, destroying the other Earth and saving theirs.[35]

Despite the overwhelming threat of the incursions, the Illuminati found themselves plagued by internal conflict. During the war between the Avengers and X-Men, Namor had unleashed a tidal wave on Wakanda, nearly destroying the city, prompting T'Challa to swear vengeance on him. As tensions between the two nations escalated, they were forced to set aside the conflict for the good of the planet. T'Challa was nevertheless unable to stop his countrymen from launching a surprise attack, decimating Atlantis.[36][37]

Infinity[]

Still coming to grips with the incursions, the Illuminati and the other heroes of Earth found themselves embroiled in a war on two fronts. The ancient race known as the Builders had launched an intergalactic crusade, attacking various alien civilizations with the ultimate goal of destroying the Earth to spare the universe of the incursions. While the vast majority of the Avengers were dealing with this alien threat, Thanos and his Black Order invaded the Earth. Destroyed by Wakanda's surprise attack, Namor and Atlantis secretly surrendered to Thanos. As vengeance for what had happened to his city, Namor directed the Mad Titan and his forces to Wakanda, telling them they would find the Infinity Gems there.

Thanos demanded a "tribute" in exchange for the survival of the Earth's inhabitants, whereupon Black Bolt revealed to the Illuminati that the Mad Titan was in fact searching for his secret son Thane, born to an Inhuman woman.[38] Using the Terrigen Codex, the Illuminati embarked on the search for Thanos' son among several hidden Inhuman tribes, but were interrupted by the occurrence of a new incursion in Australia.[39]

Illuminati captures Thanos from Infinity Vol 1 6 001

The Illuminati captures Thanos

Before reaching a decision about what to do about the other Earth, the Illuminati were greeted by an Aleph arriving from the other universe. The Aleph led them to the Builders of that universe who explained that the early death of the multiverse had led to the collapse of the Superflow, the space between universes, that they used to traverse different realities. In order to avert disaster and ensure the continued existence of the multiverse, the Builders had decided to destroy all Earths, thus hopefully stopping the incursions. Since the Builders of Earth-616 had failed in their mission, having been defeated by an intergalactic coalition, these Builders urged the Illuminati to destroy their own world for the sake of the multiverse, before detonating the Earth of their universe, averting the incursion.[40]

Upon returning to Earth, the Illuminati discovered that Thanos had invaded Wakanda and found their hideout in the Necropolis, gaining access to the Illuminati's antimatter bombs by capturing Black Bolt.[41] The Illuminati managed to defeat Supergiant, one of Thanos' lieutenants left in charge of the Necropolis, with aid from Bolt's brother Maximus and Lockjaw.

The Illuminati travelled to Greenland in order to help the newly returned Avengers defeat Thanos but arrived after the battle had ended when his son trapped the Mad Titan and his two generals Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight in an amber construct which left them in a state of "living death." Iron Man convinced the Avengers to let him take care of Thanos and secretly placed him in the Necropolis, where he and the rest of the Illuminati were once again free to plan for the coming end of the multiverse, now alongside Maximus, who joined them in their efforts, though not as an official member.[42]

After an incident with an alternate reality team of Avengers, Bruce Banner learned of the coming end of the multiverse and deduced that the Illuminati had been reconvened. He angrily confronted Tony Stark for bringing the Illuminati back after what they had done to him, but after Tony explained the incursions, Bruce chose to join them.[43]

Incursion of Earth-4290001[]

New Avengers Vol 3 19 page 23

The Illuminati vs. the Great Society

Seeking to learn more about the incursions, Black Swan prompted the Illuminati to build a "mirror" that would allow them to look into other universes. Reed Richards realized however that he had already built such a device; The Bridge, which he had used to seek answers after a crisis of faith during Osborn's time in power.[44]

The next incursion pitted the Illuminati against the Great Society of Earth-4290001, a group of noble heroes who had been able to prevent the destruction of their Earth without bloodshed. However, the Society no longer had the means to prevent this incursion as they had the others. The Illuminati tried to convince the Society to work together with them, but the Society doubted that the Illuminati had any intentions of allowing their own world to be destroyed and knew that they had the means to destroy the Society's Earth. Knowing that it would come to bloodshed in the end and unwilling to waste anymore time, Namor struck the first blow, starting a battle for the fate of their respective worlds.[45]

Even though the Great Society quickly took the upper hand, Doctor Strange ended the battle by unleashing an eldritch being that killed most of the Great Society and fatally injured their leader Sun God. Terrified of the creature that Strange had unleashed, the Illuminati knocked him out, ending the spell. As the Illuminati were leaving this Earth, having set the antimatter injector, Sun God begged them not to destroy his world. Black Panther offered him the chance to return with them, but he refused, preferring to die with his own Earth alongside his friends.

Back on their own world, and with only ten minutes before impact, the Illuminati debated who would activate the antimatter injector. Beast, Iron Man and Doctor Strange all refused. Both Mister Fantastic and Black Panther tried to will themselves to do it but failed. Namor was disgusted by their weakness, remarking that their own personal morality wasn't worth the countless lives that would end if the two universes collided, and pulled the trigger.[46] Following this course of action, the Illuminati confronted Namor for taking the decision out of their hands. The friction between Namor and T'Challa escalated, and after revealing that he was the one who tricked the Black Order into assaulting Wakanda, Namor left.[47]

Time Runs Out[]

Just as the previous incursion had been averted, another incursion occurred. The Illuminati found themselves unwilling to destroy yet another Earth, and resolved to die with their own world, each seeking solace in their last day of life. Namor however refused to allow the universe to die, and together with Maximus, he freed the Illuminati's prisoners in the Necropolis, asking them to help him stop the incursions. This would lead to the formation of the Cabal.[48]

Due to exposure to the explosion of the Watcher's eye, which revealed deep secrets related to those caught in its blast radius,[49] Captain America remembered the mindwipe the Illuminati submitted him to, and confronted Iron Man about it.[50] He decided that the Illuminati's actions couldn't be tolerated, and charged the Avengers with hunting them down.[51]

Illuminati (Earth-616) from New Avengers Vol 1 25 001

Illuminati on the run

Eight months into the future, the Illuminati had gone into hiding, and added to their ranks Captain Britain, Amadeus Cho, and Yellowjacket.[52] They had also lost Dr. Strange, who had joined the Black Priests; and Tony Stark, who had gone missing. Because of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s increasingly effective methods of tracking them down, the Illuminati had to periodically move from base to base. After Cho infiltrated Avengers Tower, now the S.H.I.E.L.D. Station: Golgotha, the team recovered the files of the missing Tony Stark, which were key to helping the Illuminati gain an upper-hand.[53]

While on the run, the Illuminati repeatedly attempted to find a way to solve the problem of the incursions, from trying to create a new Earth with a Cosmic Cube and then with Franklin Richards' powers, to asking the Celestials and Galactus for help, but all these plans failed.[54]

With a new incursion on the horizon, the Illuminati devised a plan to get rid of Namor's Cabal, who had become officially sanctioned by the United Nations.[55] They let themselves be found by Steve Rogers' Avengers, and set a trap to subdue them with the help of Sunspot's Avengers.[56] Even though the help of the Invisible Woman was needed to make this possible, as Rogers' Avengers had brought their own reinforcements,[57] the Illuminati were able to claim victory and shared their plan with Steve.

Namor, who had become disgusted with the Cabal's needless slaughter of the inhabitants of worlds they could destroy painlessly, was ready to turn himself in, but also to set a trap to destroy the Cabal. During the next incursion, Namor led the Cabal to the other Earth, activated the antimatter injector without their knowledge, and left them to die with said Earth, preventing them from escaping through the use of an A.I.M. platform capable of creating an impenetrable barrier between the two colliding Earths. However, as Namor had left the incursive Earth and prepared to activate the platform, Black Panther and Black Bolt appeared before him. They incapacitated Namor and threw him off the platform to the soon-to-be-destroyed Earth in order to make him personally pay for his crimes. As the antimatter injector began to destroy the Earth, T'Challa and Black Bolt returned to theirs, informing the Avengers that not only had the Cabal been destroyed, but also that Namor would not be coming back.[55]

With the Cabal seemingly dealt with (even though they had actually survived and escaped to Earth-1610), the Illuminati and S.H.I.E.L.D. reached a truce and started working together.[54] Inspired by Valeria Richards, the Illuminati stopped working on a way to stop the incursions and started planning the creation of a "life raft" to survive the destruction of the multiverse. Meanwhile, the Shi'ar empire discovered the link between the decay of the multiverse and the Earth, realizing that if the universe was to survive, the Earth needed to be destroyed. Even though they planned a sneak attack on the Earth, the Guardians of the Galaxy managed to discover the Shi'ar plans and warned the Avengers.[58]

While approaching Earth, the Shi'ar alerted humanity that they had two hours left to live until Earth was destroyed by their fleet. Using a super-weapon capable of channeling the Earth's power, Sunspot and A.I.M. retaliated against the Shi'ar from the front, while S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Avengers used a Planetkiller, seized from the Builders, to attack from behind. However, A.I.M.'s weapon overheated and exploded, and the Planetkiller was destroyed by the Annihilation Wave. With no options left, the Avengers prepared to meet their end. They were rescued by Iron Man, who used Sol's Hammer to destroy the Shi'ar fleet.[59]

Secret Wars[]

The final incursion drew near, which pitted the last two remaining universes against each other, Earth-616 and Earth-1610. Having finished their life raft, they began assembling the chosen few who would be required to restart human civilization once the multiverse was destroyed. As the final incursion raged, and the heroes of the two worlds fought each other, Steve finally confronted Tony for having betrayed his trust. The two fought to the death, while the great battle between Earths raged around them.[60]

While the heroes of Earth-616 managed to take the upper hand in the ensuing battle due to their larger population of superhumans, and the intervention of the Phoenix, the two worlds still collided. The only members of the Illuminati to survive the destruction of the multiverse were Mister Fantastic and Black Panther who were aboard the life raft created to survive the multiverse's end. They were joined by several other heroes, teleported onto the raft by Manifold.[61] After the multiverse was no more, the life raft found its way onto Battleworld, a patchwork planet created from the remnants of destroyed universes by Doctor Doom.[62]

Partnering with the Molecule Man, Doom had discovered that the all-powerful Beyonders had planned to destroy the entire multiverse as part of an experiment. To counteract this, Doom had begun destroying alternate reality versions of the Molecule Man, who had been created as a "bomb" with which the Beyonders would end the multiverse. Doing this eventually led to the incursions, and in time Doom assumed the identity of the "Great Destroyer", and gathered followers to aid him in his quest. Together with Doctor Strange, he had launched an all-out assault against the Beyonders, after discovering their weakness. He destroyed them but could not avert the end of the multiverse. Instead, he stole their power, and used it to create Battleworld.[63]

The survivors of Earth-616 remained in a state of suspended animation for eight years until they were finally awoken by Dr. Strange, who had become God Emperor Doom's right hand and the sheriff of Battleworld.[64] Strange had found the life raft three years earlier but didn't open it and kept it a secret, fearing its contents would've disturbed the order of Battleworld, where none of its inhabitants remembered what existed before the world they lived in.[62] Strange had finally decided to open the raft up because of another one which had been found and opened, that contained the Cabal, the survivors of Earth-1610. Among the Cabal was its founder and former Illuminati member Namor, who had kept his treachery secret.[64]

Strange was later killed by Emperor Doom after defying him by using his power to teleport and scatter the interlopers throughout Battleworld, in order to save them from Doom's wrath.[63] Black Panther and Namor found themselves in the Battleworld domain of Egyptia,[65] and formed an uneasy alliance to travel to Doctor Strange's Isle of Agamotto. After arriving at the isle and getting past the security measures, Namor and Black Panther were given by a recording of Strange two objects with enough power to defy Doom. The first was the Siege Courageous, a means of instant teleportation anywhere in the world. The second was an Infinity Gauntlet which granted the wearer unlimited power, but only in one area: the capital domain of Doomstadt.

Elsewhere, Reed had formed a similar alliance with his Earth-1610 counterpart the Maker. They hid in the domain of Utopolis and devised a way to defeat Doom. With help from the Spider-Man of Earth-616 and the Spider-Man of Earth-1610, it was discovered that Doom's power came from the Molecule Man, who was kept in a hidden chamber in Doomstadt.[66] During a large insurrection whipped up by Maximus, the two Reeds set out to sneak into Emperor Doom's castle and confront the Molecule Man. Meanwhile, the Panther and Namor helped distract Doom by adding to the insurrection and confronting Victor directly.[67]

Namor was quickly killed by Doom, and the Panther engaged Doom in battle. Even with the Infinity Gauntlet, Doom proved superior. However, the Panther's part of the plan was done, because during the fight, the two Reeds had managed to reach the Molecule Man. After the Molecule Man subdued the Maker, who had tried to betray Mr. Fantastic, Doom arrived on the scene. Molecule Man powered Doom down to make the ensuing fight against Mr. Fantastic fair. During the furious battle, Doom accused Richards of believing he could've done better if he had Doom's power. Reed conceded that he did, and retorted that deep down, Doom knew this to be true. Doom bitterly admitted the truth of this, and on the grounds that both agreed, Molecule Man gave his power to Reed, destroying Battleworld in the process. Using the Molecule Man's power, Reed then restored the Multiverse.[3]

Keepers of Death[]

The original members of the Illuminati briefly reconvened when the Maker, who had previously been imprisoned on Earth-616, escaped custody and stole equipment from them, both to further his own ends and as a taunt. The heroes managed to track him down, but arrived too late to stop him from escaping into a different reality, covering his tracks in the process.[4] Shortly afterward, a new formation of the Illuminati assembled, including newcomers Emma Frost and Blue Marvel. They were sought out by the cosmic embodiment of Death, who desired to experience a human life and death. Bargaining with foreknowledge of Earth's future extinction, Death convinced the Illuminati to help her amnesiatically adopt the identity of Roberta Marshall, modelled after Marie Collins, a young girl from Fresno whose untimely demise had spurred on her decision.[68] The team saw themselves forced to intervene when Thanos invaded Fresno in search of his mistress.[69]

Membership and Structure[]

The Illuminati was a clandestine council of equals. Any member of the group could call a meeting to raise a matter of their choosing, and the Illuminati reached decisions through majority voting, though some members would occasionally demand that the group reach a consensus.[1][31]

The first meeting of the Illuminati, wherein the group was formed, consisted of seven of the world's most powerful and influential superhuman leaders. The original members were:

During the Hood's search for the Infinity Stones, the Illuminati were joined by two members:

  • Queen Medusa, who inherited the place of her husband Black Bolt, when he was believed to be deceased. Medusa learned of the Illuminati when she responded to the call intended for Black Bolt. She did not remain with the group after the Hood was defeated.[70]
  • Captain America, who stumbled upon the Illuminati during the search for the Hood. Despite initially disapproving of them, he accepted membership following the Hood's defeat. In addition to also representing the Avengers, at the time of his inclusion he also represented S.H.I.E.L.D. and the intelligence community. He was removed from the group following his refusal to adhere to a vote during the Incursion crisis.[71][31]

The discovery of the incursions and their eventual status as outlaws forced the Illuminati to expand their membership:

  • Beast, an original member of the X-Men and expert on mutation, was conscripted when the then-deceased Professor Xavier left him his Infinity Gem, as well as files on his involvement with the Illuminati.[32]
  • Hank Pym, the brilliant inventor of Pym Particles and the hero known as Yellowjacket, was recruited to discover the origins of the incursions.[38]
  • Bruce Banner, who had loathed the Illuminati, was invited in order to assuage his rage upon discovering that the group had persisted after launching him into space. He agreed to join and to spare the group after learning of the incursions, and added his scientific brilliance as well as the fire-power of the Hulk.[72]
  • Amadeus Cho, one of the smartest men on Earth, was recruited by the Illuminati during their time on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D..[53]
  • Captain Britain joined the Illuminati following the fall of the Starlight Citadel. In addition to being an extremely powerful superhuman, he represented the multiversal Captain Britain Corps.[53]

When Death sought the Illuminati's help to achieve mortality, new members had joined the Illuminati:

  • Blue Marvel, whose intelligence contributed greatly to the team.[69]
  • White Queen, who used her psychic powers to brainwash Death at her own request.[68]

While not official members, the Illuminati also employed the services of:

  • Black Swan, initially a prisoner of the Illuminati, who taught them about the incursions and aided them in combating them. After learning of her sordid past, the Illuminati severed their partnership with Black Swan and re-imprisoned her.[73]
  • Maximus the Mad, brilliant inventor and a powerful Inhuman, he was brought into the group by his brother Black Bolt. He aided the Illuminati in combating the incursions, but ultimately joined Namor in leaving the group and founding the Cabal.[74]

Paraphernalia

Equipment

The Bridge, Incursion Detection devices, formerly the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Gems, Xavier School's Cerebro

Weapons

Transportation

A Skrull stolen spaceship, Lockjaw, Quinjet

Notes

  • The Black Panther was offered membership, but he declined, believing that working behind other super-heroes' backs was a bad idea and that the Illuminati would never be able to agree on how to solve the world's problems.[1] After discovering the crisis of colliding universes however, he reconvened the Illuminati and joined.[30]
  • An interesting point discovered by Reed Richards during the Dark Reign with the Bridge is that only sixty-seven Earths in other dimensions succeeded in attaining peace after suffering through the creation of the Illuminati and the Civil War.[75]
  • The existence of the Illuminati was revealed to the general public during World War Hulk, and the full extent of their actions and involvement with the incursions was revealed after the formation of the Cabal.
  • While the name "Illuminati" appears to have begun as an informal name of the group used by Iron Man, the rest of the members have also adapted the name, and it grew into the "official" name of the group.
  • Black Swan was listed as being a member of the Illuminati in Infinity #1 although she was not. This was later rectified by Tom Brevoort.[76]

Trivia

  • In order to verify each other, Illuminati members used the sign and countersign "Memento Mori" and "Illuminatus," respectively.[62]
  • The real world "Illuminati" that the group is named after was an 18th century Bavarian secret society, which in modern times has become the subject of various conspiracy theories, often depicting them as a group of individuals who secretly rule the world.[77]

See Also

Links and References

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 New Avengers: Illuminati #1
  2. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #13
  3. 3.0 3.1 Secret Wars #9
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ultimate Invasion #1
  5. New Avengers: Illuminati (Vol. 2) #1
  6. New Avengers #44
  7. New Avengers: Illuminati (Vol. 2) #3
  8. Secret Wars II
  9. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #30
  10. New Avengers: Illuminati (Vol. 2) #2
  11. New Avengers: Illuminati (Vol. 2) #4
  12. New Avengers #710
  13. House of M #8
  14. Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #91
  15. Civil War #1
  16. Civil War #6
  17. Civil War #7
  18. World War Hulk #5
  19. New Avengers: Illuminati (Vol. 2) #5
  20. War of Kings
  21. Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1
  22. War of Kings #1
  23. X-Men: Legacy #211
  24. Dark Reign: The Cabal #1
  25. Invincible Iron Man (Vol. 2) #8
  26. Dark Avengers #6
  27. Dark Avengers #8
  28. New Avengers (Vol. 2) #29
  29. Avengers vs. X-Men #12
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #1
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #3
  32. 32.0 32.1 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #2
  33. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #4
  34. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #5
  35. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #6
  36. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #7
  37. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #8
  38. 38.0 38.1 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #9
  39. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #10
  40. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #11
  41. Infinity #5
  42. Infinity #6
  43. Avengers (Vol. 5) #27
  44. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #13
  45. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #19
  46. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #21
  47. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #22
  48. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #24
  49. Original Sin #3
  50. Avengers (Vol. 5) #29
  51. Avengers (Vol. 5) #34
  52. Avengers (Vol. 5) #35
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #25
  54. 54.0 54.1 New Avengers (Vol. 3) #29
  55. 55.0 55.1 Avengers (Vol. 5) #40
  56. Avengers (Vol. 5) #39
  57. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #28
  58. Avengers (Vol. 5) #42
  59. Avengers (Vol. 5) #43
  60. Avengers (Vol. 5) #44
  61. Secret Wars #1
  62. 62.0 62.1 62.2 Secret Wars #3
  63. 63.0 63.1 Secret Wars #4
  64. 64.0 64.1 Secret Wars #2
  65. Secret Wars #5
  66. Secret Wars #6
  67. Secret Wars #78
  68. 68.0 68.1 Thanos (Vol. 4) #3
  69. 69.0 69.1 Thanos (Vol. 4) #1
  70. Avengers (Vol. 4) #8
  71. Avengers (Vol. 4) #12
  72. Avengers (Vol. 5) #28
  73. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #215
  74. New Avengers (Vol. 3) #1523
  75. Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2
  76. New Brevoort Formspring -- The recap page for Infinity #1 said Black Swan an Illuminati... Wait, is she?
  77. New World_Order (conspiracy_theory)#Illuminati
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