When the Illuminati were introduced in 2005, Brian Michael Bendis dropped a nuke in arguably the most wide-sweeping retcon in the history of Marvel Comics. Bendis’s concept idea that these heroes shared a secret history worked brilliantly at the time and though the roster has changed some over the years, the group has continued to be an integral part of several major story lines since. Yesterday’s report by the Illuminati that The-One-Above-All is developing an Illuminati-centric project is hardly surprising (fans have been speculating about it for years), but the timing of the project is.
We know that when Kevin Feige and the creative team of Marvel Studios adapt comic properties they aren’t out to make exact replicas of the books and that is going to have to be the case with the Illuminati as well. Out of the original comic book crew there’s only one member alive and well in the MCU and 4 who don’t exist in the shared cinematic universe (sorry guys, the ABC Black Bolt is NOT a legit MCU character), so the make up of the group will certainly have to change but the notion of forming a secret society does not. So who could make up the MCU version and what would bring them together? Let’s take a look…
A few current members of the MCU seem to be locks to me: Carol Danvers, Bruce Banner and Stephen Strange. Noticeably absent from the list is T’Challa, but I absolutely love the idea of him being ideologically opposed to the formation of such a group and standing apart from his allies. In addition to these 3 “gimmies”, I think you might well see someone like Salma Hayek‘s Ajak join the team as a replacement for Black Bolt. That gives a lineup that keeps some of the ideas Bendis had about the structure of the group intact and looks something like this:
Carol: representing the Cosmic corner of the MCU
Bruce: representing the science sector of the MCU
Stephen: representing the mystics of the MCU
Ajak: representing the long history of super humans on Earth
However, that leaves one fairly large missing piece: the common man. As strange as it seems, that was Tony Stark’s role on the original team. While everyone else was gifted with incredible powers, it was Stark’s ingenuity that made him Iron Man. While it might not be a popular choice with fans, I think the best fit among the current MCU roster is actually Hank Pym. Pym has been around for a long time and seen a lot of things and has quite the secret history himself. I don’t know if this makes up for the slight against him by making neither him nor Wasp founding Avengers, but Michael Douglas is enjoying playing Pym and fits the “common man” archetype better than anyone else. So yeah a really different looking team than what Bendis had in mind, but you work with the tools you have.
What Brings Them Together
In the context of the MCU, this SEEMS pretty easy. If you go back and watch the films and keep track of all the stuff the core Avengers held secret from one another and how those secrets started to tear the team apart and lead to Thanos winning, you can see why a group of folks who sort of cover the major bases might decide it’s best to get together with the intention of making sure something like this never happens again.
So bringing them together at a time when there are no Avengers with the intention of avoiding any major, future issues works just fine; however, the best part about the comic book Illuminati is the unwitting part they play in Skrull Invasion of Earth and, interestingly enough, news of the Illuminati project being developed arrives shortly after news of a Secret Invasion project being in the works as well. I don’t believe this to be coincidental and I think, as I am well aware many of you do, that someone among this crew will be revealed as a Skrull sleeper agent and, if I were to choose RIGHT NOW, I’d choose Carol.
We have no idea what Carol has been up to in the years since she left Earth and we have no idea how advanced the Skrull’s have become. We’ve seen Super Skrulls in the comics with the ability to replicate the powers of the Fantastic Four and while Carol’s powers are enormous, they are a part of her and, therefore, could potentially be reproduced with advanced enough technology. The setup for Carol being a Skrull sleeper agent is there should they chose to go that route. Carol being revealed as a Skrull, after her history as a sort of hero to the people, would cause a seismic shift in the MCU.