Marvel’s Illuminati has been pulling the strings behind the scenes of some of the biggest events in the Marvel Universe for years. A secret society originally featuring Iron Man, Professor X, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, and occasionally Black Panther, it brought together the greatest minds from all areas of Earth.
Believing they could prevent catastrophic events from reaching their home planet by sharing their intel and exchanging tactics, their motivations were pure. Unfortunately, their good intentions were often overshadowed by big egos, brash action, and clashing personalities, endangering Earth rather than saving it. Here are 10 of the worst things Marvel’s Illuminati have done.
10 They Kept Big Secrets from Other Heroes
If the countless superhero teams and team-ups over the years have taught us anything, it’s that we’re stronger if we unite and work together. The whole point of the Illuminati, however, was to be secret and solitary. A closed group, it was created to pull resources and information. But this level of secrecy inevitably leads to mistrust. When the Illuminati and their actions were publicly revealed, the superhero community were shocked and angry, and the secret society was forced to go into hiding to avoid arrest.
Not only did they keep secrets from other heroes, but they also kept secrets from each other. From the outset, the Illuminati have been a highly dysfunctional team with each member tending to put their own group’s needs before the collective needs of the superhero community. Time and again, this has proven to be their downfall, and if Black Panther’s latest attempt to create a new version of the Illuminati is to succeed, he might need to be more open to teamwork and honesty.
9 They Developed World-Ending Weapons
If the Avengers assembled to, well, avenge the world, the Illuminati came together to protect it from future threats. Even with the Incursion threatening Earth-616, it was startling to discover that part of their world-saving plans involved developing weaponry which could completely obliterate planets.
Bringing the world’s most intelligent minds together, the team was able to develop highly-devastating machinery together quickly. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic worked together to power Sol’s Hammer, while Mr. Fantastic also worked with Black Panther to create a huge armory of weapons capable of completely destroying worlds. Doctor Strange even delved into the darkest of magics, using forbidden books to learn world-killing spells.
8 They Kick-Started Civil War
The Superhuman Registration Act heralded a particularly low moment for the Illuminati. Summoning the society to meet, Tony Stark introduced the idea of the Act to the team, concerned that a catastrophe caused by superheroes could lead to the government introducing an even stricter bill. Tony urged the Illuminati members to publicly support the act, which would require all superheroes to register as “living weapons of mass destruction,” believing that their vocal support would be crucial in influencing others to agree to the movement.
Despite knowing the inevitability of Earth’s heroes turning against each other as a result of the SRA, Tony worked with the government to roll out the new law following an incident with the New Warriors. Both Tony and Mr. Fantastic played key roles in implementing the Act. However, civil war tore the Illuminati apart for a while, so perhaps this one is more on Tony—but the Illuminati knew his plans and could have prevented the act in the first place.
7 They Banished Hulk to Space…
When Maria Hill discussed her concerns about the Hulk’s increasingly dangerous behavior with Iron Man after the big green rage machine devastated Las Vegas, Tony decided to take the matter to the Illuminati. Hill had suggested that Earth’s heroes could stop Hulk if they chose to but were held back by their friendship and loyalty. The Illuminati’s cruel decision would prove her theory to be very wrong.
Using a Life Model Decoy of Nick Fury, the Illuminati lured the Hulk on a fake mission, claiming a dangerous satellite needed to be disabled in space. Hulk followed orders, arrived at the satellite, and found himself trapped in a craft which launched into deep space with the intent of abandoning him on an uninhabited planet to live the rest of his life in solitude.
6 …Which Nearly Unleashed Worldbreaker Hulk on New York
Namor opposed the decision to banish Hulk, predicting that he would return for revenge—and he was right. Instead of landing on a lonely planet, Hulk’s craft landed on Sakaar, where he created a new life for himself. However, the faulty craft would eventually explode, killing Hulk’s pregnant wife in the process.
Seeking revenge, Hulk returned to Earth via the Moon where he quickly defeated Black Bolt. He overpowered the entire X-Men team and destroyed Tony’s upgraded Hulkbuster armor as well as Stark Tower. Doctor Strange called upon the demon spirit Zom to help with their attack but couldn’t control the newfound power and nearly killed civilians himself. After rounding up all of the Illuminati who had banished him, he forced them to battle in a gladiator-style arena, sparing them upon the brink of death.
His final act of vengeance was to destroy New York, only to be stopped by The Sentry. Narrowly stopping Hulk from fulfilling his Worldbreaker destiny, the entire east coast could have been destroyed if The Sentry hadn’t swooped in at the last second.
5 They Sometimes Turn to Villains for Help
While it’s clear the Illuminati are happy to blur the boundaries between good and evil for the protection of Earth, they have a peculiar relationship with villains. For instance, Iron Man convinced the Avengers to let him deal with Thanos after he was defeated in Greenland, only to keep him locked away in the Illuminati’s secret lair.
Namor is perhaps the worst culprit for approaching villains for help. Not only did he take a seat at the parallel version of the Illuminati headed by Norman Osborn, the Cabal, but he also released all of the Illuminati’s prisoners and led them to destroy an approaching planet during the incursions. Growing bored of leading a group who kill needlessly, he deliberately—and coldly—led the group to a planet, knowing they had no hope of return.
4 They Meddle With The Infinity Gems … A Lot
The Infinity Gauntlet has the power to destroy almost the entire universe—and it nearly has a few times, thanks to evil supervillains wielding the glove. When combined with all six Infinity Gems, the wearer is granted unlimited power. It made sense that the Illuminati wanted to prevent other evils from gathering the Gems, but their history of meddling with the Gauntlet has proven that they’re perhaps not the right team to hold onto such important stones.
From attempting to destroy the Gems to splitting them up between the members, the Illuminati have come into contact with the Gauntlet so often that they have even been scolded by The Watcher for interfering with such power. Attempting to hide the Gems from The Hood, Iron Man deceived Captain America and the Avengers, allowing them to believe he had willed the Gauntlet out of existence. In reality, he had teleported it to a secret location where the Illuminati met and split the Gems up between themselves once again.
3 They Wiped Captain America’s Mind
Although not an official member of the Illuminati, when Captain America discovered the Infinity Gems were still in existence, he approached the secret society and agreed to look after one of the Gems himself. However, as his association with the group continued, Steve’s noble beliefs meant he couldn’t agree with the Illuminati’s actions.
The core members ultimately decided to remove him from the group. But the cost of Steve Roger’s temporary membership was great—the Illuminati wiped his memory, leaving him with no recollection of his association with the society. It wasn’t until he was caught in the blast of the Watcher’s eye that he recovered his memory, which led to the Avengers hunting the Illuminati and a huge showdown between Tony and Steve.
2 They Caused Secret Invasion
The Illuminati originally came together following the Skrull-Kree War. They ventured to the Skrull’s home planet to deliver a warning to their leader, with Black Bolt destroying a Skrull warship to flaunt their authority. However, their plan didn’t play out quite as expected. The Illuminati were taken by the Skrulls, allowing the alien species to analyze and examine the heroes.
Years later, when Tony discovered Elektra was a Skrull sleeper agent, he called the Illuminati together. Having used all the knowledge about superheroes they had gained while studying the captured Illuminati, the Skrull had managed to gradually infiltrate Earth over the years. To make matters worse, Black Bolt himself was revealed to be a Skrull imposter, meaning the secret society's meetings perhaps weren’t so secret after all.
1 They Destroyed Other Planets
One of the worst things a superhero team can do is murder, but the Illuminati did exactly that in hopes they could save their own Earth. During the Incursions, the team realized that the only way to suspend the fate of the colliding multiverses was to destroy planets which threatened to impact their own, detonating Antimatter Injection Systems on rival worlds.
But their most evil act came when they confronted the Great Society, a super team who had prevented their own Earth’s destruction. Instead of working with the brilliant minds of the Great Society to figure out a solution, they killed almost all of the heroes, leaving the fatally wounded survivors behind to die on the planet as they destroyed it. Heartless and hardly heroic, the Illuminati were eventually forced to watch as their own world crumbled around them.