While most people are aware of teams such as Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, when someone mentions the Illuminati there might not be that instant recognition. Marvel's Illuminati has an impressive roster that includes A-list characters from every corner of the Marvel universe, though for the large part, nobody knows of their existence.
Of course, when those powerful characters operate in secret for the supposed betterment of their planet, things don't always go as planned. Marvel's Illuminati has been rumored to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, so today we are going to go behind the curtain to expose the members of the secret elite of the Marvel Universe and see how they stack up against each other.
Henry McCoy was not the first representative of the mutant race and the X-Men to become a part of the Illuminati, but he was there during one of the team's most important battles. Henry McCoy used his experience as both an X-Man and an Avenger to investigate and defend against a series of incursions by alternate reality versions of Earth that threatened to destroy the mainstream Marvel universe.
Alongside the Illuminati, Beast was responsible for defending his Earth from alternate reality attackers, though refused to destroy another Earth in order to save his.
During Jonathan Hickman's "Time Runs Out" storyline, Captain America and the Avengers declare war on the Illuminati. This led to both sides acquiring new allies and members as they fought against each other, with the Avengers hellbent on taking down the secretive sect while the Illuminati continued to try to stop the incursions.
10 CAPTAIN BRITAIN
As Captain Britain, Brian Braddock defends the endless collection of alternate realities known as the Omniverse, so it makes sense that he would side with the Illuminati to stop the incursions during the "Time Runs Out" storyline.
Unfortunately, as the majority of this storyline takes place eight months after Captain America declares war on the Illuminati, much of Captain Britain's contributions are unknown, though he does take part in a few battles with the Avengers.
9 DOCTOR STRANGE
As the Master of the Mystic Arts and Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange represents the magical side of the Marvel universe in the Illuminati. While Strange originally disagreed with the idea of the Illuminati following their first meeting after the Kree-Skrull War, he agreed to return for updates with the other members of the superhero community.
This led to continued moves made by the Illuminati over the years in crucial Marvel events, though Doctor Strange sat out on a few key events like the superhero Civil War.
The King of Atlantis' involvement in the Illuminati was initially hesitant; however, over time, Namor's participation became more active, especially during the incursions. While the other members of the Illuminati are mostly upstanding members of the superhero community, Namor has frequently toed the line between hero and villain.
This line was erased a number of times, like when Namor caused the destruction of many alternate worlds with the evil Cabal, or when he destroyed the nation of Wakanda as a member of the Phoenix Five in Avengers vs X-Men.
7 BLACK PANTHER
While T'Challa was invited to the initial meeting of the Illuminati held in Wakanda, he refused to join the team, and even warned them against their actions, fearing they would cause more harm than good. Black Panther's warning proved to be warranted as the Illuminati were directly responsible for the Secret Invasion by the Skrull empire.
He is forced to join with the Illuminati when the incursions began, which causes further tension between Black Panther and Namor, destroyer of Wakanda.
6 CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America was added to the Illuminati shortly after the Secret Invasion, though his time with the group was short. When they learned of the incursions, the Illuminati gathered the Infinity Stones they had kept hidden, and tried to use them to end the incursions, to no avail.
Dismayed by the Illuminati's other plans following the failure of the Infinity Gauntlet, Doctor Strange was forced to erase Captain America's memories of the Illuminati entirely. It was only when he learned of the memory wipe in Original Sin that he then declared war on the Illuminati.
5 CHARLES XAVIER
As the founder of the X-Men and the public figurehead of the mutant race, Professor Charles Xavier was the perfect representative of the mutant race among the Illuminati. His powerful telepathic abilities were also seen as a way to keep the other members of the Illuminati honest with each other, though Xavier wasn't able to determine that there was a Skrull secreted among the Illuminati before it was too late.
Xavier's time with the Illuminati ended upon his death in Avengers vs X-Men, which led to the Beast taking his spot with the team.
4 BLACK BOLT
As the King of the Inhumans, Black Bolt was another founding member of the Illuminati who represented a specific portion of the Marvel Universe. While he usually required his wife Medusa to help him communicate due to the destructive power of his voice, professor Charles Xavier was able to telepathically assist him in communicating with the Illuminati.
Black Bolt was replaced by the Skrulls during their Secret Invasion, though he rejoined the Illuminati to deal with the threats of the incursions.
The Hulk is an interesting addition to the Illuminati, as he was one of the first revealed casualties of the way the Illuminati went about their work. Following one of the Hulk's rampages, the Illuminati decided to send Hulk into space, resulting in the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines.
It was only when Hulk had gained super intelligence to become Doc Green that he joined with the Illuminati to work alongside them against the combined threat of the incursions.
2 IRON MAN
Tony Stark has always considered himself to be a futurist, the man who sees what's coming before it gets here. So when Iron Man and the Avengers were blindsided during the Kree-Skrull War and Earth was used as a battleground, he blamed himself.
This inspired him to first assemble the Illuminati, as each member had separate information that could have prevented the War had it been shared with the others. As always, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
1 REED RICHARDS
While he may seem to be the most unthreatening member of the Illuminati, the truth of the matter is that Reed Richards is without a doubt the most dangerous member of this elite group. It's not only because he is always the smartest guy in the room or his elasticity powers. It's because he doesn't always think about anything but the intellectual problem, and can see past "lesser" issues like ethics and morality to serve the greater good.
Thankfully he has Susan and his family in the Fantastic Four to help serve as his moral compass when his overly logical brain tells him otherwise.