New Avengers: Illuminati #1: Review

Mar 2006
Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev

Story Name:

(no title given)

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

New Avengers: Illuminati #1 Review by (November 5, 2013)
The 2nd problem *could* be addressed by saying that Stark *knew* the bill would pass despite objections, and wanted the Illuminati to minimise the damage. The Official Index and the Marvel Chronology Project take a bolder approach. They move the ASM and FF issues next to the 2nd meeting (about the Hulk). Stark is initially against the Bill in ASM. He comes round to seeing its necessity at the end of IM#12 (published later than these issues). (Someone has taken over his armour and used it as a weapon. Tony realises that all superpowers are dangerous weapons and should be registered like guns.) Then in the 3rd meeting he *really* supports the Bill, which is soon to become an Act. There are unfortunate side-effects of this move. The direct reference in FF#356 to the 3rd meeting in this issue must be ignored. As must Iron Man's bringing the leaked copy of the Bill to the meeting. (But this raises the question of why the Illuminati didn't know about the Bill.) Fury still gives Stark the leaked Bill, which must happen before the ASM issues, but it now doesn't get used anywhere.

This issue is bannered 'The Road To Civil War', and shares this banner with Amazing Spider-Man #529-531 and Fantastic Four #536-537. A page from this issue is repeated in FF#536 as Mr Fantastic remembers being at the 3rd meeting discussing the Registration Bill, which he has just returned from. ASM#530 has Tony Stark returning from an Illuminati meeting too, although the reference isn't specific enough to tell which one. But both ASM#530 and FF#536 show Reed and Sue Richards watching Stark and Peter Parker at a press conference. These comics were plainly *meant* to occur next to the 3rd meeting in this issue. The ASM issues are true preludes to Civil War as they concern Stark and Parker attending a government committee hearing on the Bill. The FF issues are about the finding of Thor's hammer (and the return of Dr Doom). They don't actually have anything to do with Civil War apart from the references to the ASM issue and this one. The hammer isn't involved in the creation of the Thor clone during Civil War. And Thor himself won't reappear until just before Secret Invasion. There are a couple of problems with linking the ASM issues to the 3rd meeting. In the Illuminati meeting Iron Man says he has a leaked copy of the Bill (which a flashback in the later CW: The Confession will show Nick Fury giving him). But in ASM (and FF) the Bill is being openly debated, and hence must have been published. Secondly, Stark is firmly against the bill in ASM but urges support for it in this issue.

The 3rd meeting takes place in Funtime Inc, the abandoned site that Stark will later use as a refuge during Dark Reign. It suggests that the Illuminati disbanded after the Hulk affair (but this wasn't mentioned in Hulk #91-92). Only this last section is directly connected to Civil War, but the whole issue is thematically connected to Stark's support of registration and the need for superheroes to band together. I have documented this issue after New Avengers #15, where the Official Index places the Hulk stuff. The 3rd meeting will take place closer to Civil War.

Then we have this issue's 2nd meeting, following on from Hulk fighting Thing in Las Vegas in FF#533-535, where the group discuss the plan to send Hulk off into space. (Actually Reed Richards seems to have got the idea from Human Torch at the end of FF#535.) The artificial Hydrobase island was originally the base for villain Dr Hydro in Sub-Mariner #61. Stingray took it over, and let the Avengers use it as their airfield from Av'262. They then used it as their main base between Av#279 (after Avengers Mansion was destroyed in Under Siege) and Av#311 (during Acts of Vengeance). Unfortunately for its use here the whole island was sunk in Av#311, and I don't recall it being raised again. Tony Stark's drunk-in-charge-of-the-armour periods were the Demon In A Bottle storyline (IM#12-128) and his relapse in IM#167-169 which led to Jim Rhodes taking over as Iron Man. Dr Strange banished Hulk to the Crossroads of Eternity in Hulk #300-313. DS, Hulk and Namor were of course united for a long time in the Defenders. The political trouble that Maria Hill mentions is probably the 1st intimations of the Superhero Registration Bill. The Fury LMD then recruits Hulk in Hulk (1999) #88 to fight the God's-Eye satellite in #89-91, at then end of which the Illuminati send him off to space in #91-92. The plan was to send him to a deserted but habitable planet. Unfortunately a wormhole dumped him on Planet Hulk. This Nick Fury is an LMD, and Maria Hill is in charge of SHIELD, because Fury has been thrown out of the organisation after his Secret War.

Mr Fantastic talks about how they should have pooled info about the Kree and Skrulls before the War. But it was really only the Fantastic Four who knew anything about them. The Inhumans knew they were created by the Kree, but they were a reclusive bunch. The Avengers had heard about the Kree from earlier involvement with Rick Jones and Captain Marvel. This initial gathering led immediately to the Illuminati going to the Skrull homeworld to warn them to keep their hands off Earth in Illuminati v2 #1. (Though why they didn't also warn off the Kree is never mentioned.) The recorded Illuminati appearances then continue with v2 #3 (Secret Wars), #4 (wives and girlfriends), #2 (Infinity Gems) and New Avengers #7-10 (Sentry).

The 1st part takes place immediately after the Kree/Skrull War that ended in Avengers #97. Locating a tale in the far past is a tactic ripe for errors. Iron Man has armour with hip pods, which is OK. But it also has rivets on the helmet, which only happened much further back in part of the Tales of Suspense era. And the whole look of the suit is reminiscent of that time too. Sub-Mariner is attired throughout the issue in his current costume. While that is fine for the 2nd and 3rd sections it doesn't suit the 1st part. Namor *did* put on a similar costume for a while from #67 of his 1st series, but that was much later than the Kree/Skrull war. No mention is made of the fact that Black Panther is an ex-Avenger (or that he was calling himself Black Leopard at the time),. Namor mentions rumours about a mutant assassin working for the Canadian government. This is quite a long time before Wolverine actually debuts in Hulk #180-181. Prof X is already worried about Krakoa. Again a long time before Giant-Size X-Men #1. (I'll throw in here that Xavier in this comic is definitely modelled on Patrick Stewart.)



 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

New Avengers: Illuminati #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This issue breaks into 3 sections.

Shortly after the Kree/Skrull War Iron Man calls together Black Bolt, Dr Strange, Mr Fantastic, Prof X and Sub-Mariner to a meeting hosted by Black Panther in Wakanda. IM thinks that if Earth had been more unified the aliens may not have attacked it. He proposes an alliance of all super-humans to face such threats.

Namor absolutely thinks such an organisation would be unworkable. Dr Strange, Mr Fantastic and Prof X also express strong reservations. Panther points out that most super-heroes are counter-establishment, and that allying with mutants is more likely to increase distrust of non-mutant heroes rather than decreasing anti-mutant bigotry. Subby follows this line by mentioning the dubious Avengers such as Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and BB's brother Maximus who helped the Kree invasion.

With the super-hero army shot down, Reed Richards picks up on the idea of sharing information. If they'd pooled the knowledge about the Kree and Skrulls they could have been better prepared. This group itself could meet to discuss big problems.

Sub-Mariner is prepared to trust the people in the room, but he wants it kept secret from everyone else, including teammates and family. Charles Xavier can telepathically monitor the group to detect any betrayal.

6 of them agree, but T'Challa opts out. He says that their decision proves how wise the world is not to trust superhumans. He also advises them to drop the idea, before disagreements split them apart at a crucial moment.

But after he's left the room the others decide to continue meeting. Including Black Bolt, as Xavier reports what he's thinking. Before they part Prof X brings up the subject of the island of Krakoa.

Thus were the Illuminati born.

The next section of this issue occurs many years later. It opens with Hulk and Thing fighting in Las Vegas. Then we cut to Iron Man in the SHIELD Helicarrier discussing casualties of the battle with Maria Hill. She tells him that politicians are looking for things to blame on superheroes. And 1 thing people are asking is why the Avengers haven't done something to stop Hulk for good.

The Illuminati meet on the Avengers' abandoned Hydrobase, except for Prof X missing since House of M. Iron Man proposes sending Hulk into outer space because the country will never be safe with him in it. Namor is again the one who disagrees. He asks Stark if he's sure he never killed anyone when he was drunk in charge of the armour. He also thinks Stark and Richards could have cured Banner if they put their minds to it.

Reed angrily retorts that he's spent years trying to find such a cure. And Strange has tried to find magical means. Stephen once banished him to a place called the Crossroads, but it didn't last. And Xavier once probed his mind, but only to find that Hulk couldn't even kill himself.

Subby's last ploy is to argue that IM wants to punish Hulk as displacement activity because he can't punish Scarlet Witch for Avengers Disassembled.

But in the end all but Namor vote for Stark's plan.

Sub-Mariner swears he won't let them harm Hulk. He and Iron Man fight. Subby takes the conflict into the sea, and rips Stark's helmet off. But Dr Strange halts the battle by levitating them both into the air.

Namor asks Strange how he can do this to Hulk after all the 3 of them have been through together. He flies off, quitting the group. But before he goes he predicts that Hulk will find a way back from wherever they send him, and kill them all.

An LMD of Nick Fury is sent to Banner to recruit Hulk to deal with a satellite whose AI has gone rogue. But while he's up there the 4 remaining Illuminati contact him by video to let him know what they're doing. And they send him in the satellite off into space.

The 3rd section of this issue is month's later. This time the Illuminati meeting is in the abandoned Stark subsidiary Funtime Inc. IM has called for the others, including Namor but not Xavier who's still missing. But he doesn't know if they'll come because they disbanded after sending Hulk away.

Stark has the draft of the Super Hero Registration Act which he says will soon be made law, requiring all people with powers to register with the government. This is the consequence of Avengers Disassembled, Nick Fury's Secret War, House of M and the mutant discord in the 198 series. He and Richards predict this will polarise the super-community and the country. Tony suggests that the Illuminati come out in support of the bill before it passes, to defuse the situation.

Namor is amused. 1st IM persuaded them to get rid of Hulk. Now he wants all superhumans under his control. This is what Stark has wanted ever since the 1st meeting.

Stark responds that if they don't take control of the situation now, it will blow up in their faces. He predicts that some inexperienced hero will make a mistake that kills lots of people. And this will start a witch hunt and a civil war that will pit friend against friend.

Sub-Mariner leaves them to it, confidant that they will tear themselves to pieces before they can turn on Atlantis. Dr Strange and Black Bolt just think the Act is wrong, and walk out too. That leaves Mr Fantastic supporting Iron Man, and he doesn't think he'll get the agreement of the whole of the Fantastic Four.

Now the Illuminati really are finished (not).


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> New Avengers: Illuminati: Book info and issue index

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Alex Maleev
Alex Maleev
Dave Stewart
Gabriele Dell'Otto (Cover Penciler)
Gabriele Dell'Otto (Cover Inker)
Gabriele Dell'Otto (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos.
Editor: Tom Brevoort.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Panther
Black Panther

(T'Challa)
Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange

(Stephen Strange)
Hawkeye
Hawkeye

(Clint Barton)
Hulk
Hulk

(Bruce Banner)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)
Professor X
Professor X

(Charles Xavier)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)
Thing
Thing

(Ben Grimm)