The next great team of UCM superheroes exiled the Hulk, wielded the Infinity Gauntlet, and battled entire universes. But who are the Illuminati?
As news comes up that Marvel Studios is preparing a project for the Marvel Illuminati to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many Marvel fans will wonder what this secret society of superheroes is. The Illuminati brought together the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe, wielded Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet, and decided the fate of the multiverse together … but became more than just heroes along the way.
Illuminati is a name with centuries of history in the real world related as a secret order of enlightened individuals who gather in search of secret truths. In the Marvel Universe, the Illuminati are a group of superheroes formed after the Kree / Skrull War by Iron Man, who realized that the top minds in the Marvel superhero community were aware that they could have avoided war if they would have organized and shared what they knew.
The initial list included:
Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, leader of the Avengers; Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, Scientific Leader; Namor, King of Atlantis; Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans; Dr. Stephen, supreme sorcerer and mystical leader; and Professor Charles Xavier, an extremely powerful psychic leader and mutant.
Together, the group anticipated and worked to suppress possible threats to Earth. The Civil War of superheroes, the invader Marvel Boy and the Skrull Empire were threats that were on his radar. And when they were too scared of the Hulk, they designed a trap that sent it into a rocket into space, resulting in the Planet Hulk story Thor: Ragnarok was based on and later the World War Hulk, the story the Green giant returned to earth to take revenge on the people who exiled him to space and those who were responsible for the destruction of the planet Sakaar.
At one point, the Illuminati assembled the Infinity Gauntlet to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The group decided to divide the gems among themselves and never use them. Since Black Bolt was presumed dead, the sixth gem was given to Captain America, a firmer hero who could serve as the group's conscience. But that awareness did not last long. Society's biggest challenge came in the 2013 series New Avengers: Illuminati. Black Panther discovered that parallel realities collided with each other, destroying both universes involved in each collision. He was recruited by the Illuminati; and together they determined that the Marvel Universe would inevitably have these 'forays' and that the only way to survive was to destroy Earth from the parallel universe prior to the collision.
Captain America reluctantly used the Infinity Gauntlet to save both universes, but the effort completely destroyed the gems. This started a shadow war between the Illuminati and other worlds, each seeking a peaceful way out or trying to destroy the other's world. El Capi refused to participate in a possible genocide; and the others cleared their minds to avoid interference. In the end, when New Avengers led to Secret Wars, the Illuminati were the last survivors of the end of the multiverse, along with the Cabal. The Cabal was a parallel group of villains founded by Namor when the first group threw him out to destroy another Earth.
When Namor, Thanos, Black Order member Black Swan, and the inhuman pretender to the throne Maximus the Fool consisted, they joined in a ruthless quest to save the universe by destroying the others. Both were considered villains in the end, thanks to their secrecy and drastic decisions. Black Panther realized that his morality had been compromised; they were not good men, they were only kings.
Fan theories suggest we've already seen the new Illuminati and the next phase will build the 'raid' story to build an adaptation of Secret Wars as the element of a common narrative for the upcoming stories. Whoever the UCM Illuminati is, they have tough decisions to make ahead … and their moral compasses may not survive.
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