The Illuminati were a covert 'think-tank' team consisting of Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor X, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, and Namor. They met in secret for a number of years collaborating on information and strategy, operating relatively successfully initially, despite their unique traits and considerable differences in nearly every way.
They each represented a certain something that was very special – Namor, of course, was the king of 71% of the planet and represented a certain mindset; Tony Stark represented a certain type of hero – the Avenger type of hero, one who understood and appreciated that heroes could work with the government, rather than outside of it; Reed was the ‘science’ side of the heroes; Black Bolt represented the Inhumans; Dr. Strange spoke for the mystical side, and Professor Xavier was there for the mutants. They all brought with them a unique viewpoint and perspective that wasn’t shared by the others.
The group formed at some time in the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull War, and probably after the Avengers/Defenders war. Iron Man realized that each of the individual members had information about these alien races beforehand, and they could have collectively stopped it. He brought together the Illuminati with the Black Panther in Wakanda, and proposed that they form a government of superhumans similar to the United Nations. However, Namor refused, on the grounds that too many superheroes were violent outsiders (such as Hawkeye and Quicksilver, both former criminals). Xavier refused on the grounds that mutants were already feared and hated, and if Iron Man thought he could fight this with iconic superheroes, it would result in heroes being feared and hated as much as mutants. Dr. Strange refused on the grounds that too many heroes were anti-establishment and that the group Iron Man had assembled to form a governing body would not be 'anti-establishment', but rather a form of 'counter-establishment'. The group did, however, agree to meet to exchange information regularly. The only individual present who refused was the Black Panther, who took issue with their self-righteous attitudes and feared the association would end in less than altruistic actions. He also predicted that the group would one day find themselves in the middle of the kind of event they had formed to prevent, and would be entirely at odds with each other.
The Illuminati traveled to the homeworld of the Skrulls, who were still reeling from their defeat during the Kree-Skrull War on Earth. The group warned the Empire not to attack Earth again, but were unable to escape afterwards. The Skrulls analyzed their captives (physiology, genetics, technology, etc) and gleaned information from their behavior, until Iron Man was able to lead an escape. The Illuminati recognized that another attack was inevitable, while the Skrull Empire began to make use of the data they compiled.  By using a clone of Reed Richards, the Skrulls were able to be undetected by superheroes. 
Mr. Fantastic revealed to the group that he had been collecting the Infinity Gems, and hoped to collect them all with the help of the Illuminati. Despite a general apprehension, the group managed to acquire all six gems. Upon doing so, Mr. Fantastic attempted to will the Gems out of existence, but he was unable to do so. Faced with this failure, and a reprimand from Uatu, the Watcher, he made the controversial decision to give each Illuminati member one gem to hide so that they would never be combined and used again.
The Illuminati, minus Tony Stark, whose role as Iron Man was being filled by Jim Rhodes, confronted the Beyonder. The Beyonder was an Inhuman who was a mutant before he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Black Bolt, under the guise as the Beyonder's "king", convinced him to go into another dimension in exile. 
The Illuminati approached Noh-Varr, a Kree warrior who tried to take over the Earth, in his prison. They demonstrated the Kree connection to the Inhumans, and their desire to protect Earth. They demonstrated the primitive nature of humanity, but also the potential of the race to evolve and better itself. Ultimately, using Captain Marvel (a deceased, Kree-born superhero), they tried to convince Noh-Varr to use his powers to protect the Earth and guide humans to better themselves.
Iron Man informed the Illuminati of the formation of a new Avengers team in light of the breakout from the Raft. All but Namor wished him well in his endeavour, and Iron Man moved on to the issue of the Sentry. Although none of the Illuminati had any recollection of him, Mr. Fantastic discovered that he had files on the Sentry and Professor Xavier discovered that his mind had been tampered with. Mr. Fantastic was able to use the files to get through to Robert Reynolds, aka the Sentry, and help him reverse what has been done to him. Iron Man told the group that the Avengers took full responsibility for the Sentry, should he ever lose control, but dodged their questions about other recent Avengers inquiries. 
Maria Hill, Director of SHIELD, approached Iron Man concerning the Hulk, who had recently destroyed Las Vegas. Iron Man presented a solution to the problem of the Hulk to the Illuminati (excluding an absent Professor Xavier), suggesting that they shoot him into space, sending him to an uninhabited planet where he could live out the rest of his days alone. Namor, alone, dissented to the plan. He believed that they had no right to banish their ally from Earth and accused them of not helping to cure Bruce Banner to the best of their abilities. The other four members voted in favour of the plan, and Namor departed. While leaving, he said that the Black Panther was correct, and predicted that the Hulk would return to seek justified revenge.
Despite deciding not to meet again, Iron Man called together the Illuminati (excluding Professor Xavier, who is in exile in Scotland after the M-Day) to introduce them to the Superhuman Registration Act. He illustrated the fact that recent events had raised suspicion of all super-powered individuals and groups, and that one wrong move on the part of a hero would trigger disaster.
If the Act passed, a war amongst heroes would result and cause untold damage. In order to avoid it, Iron Man reiterated his idea of a representative body of superheroes, and urged the group to come out in favor of registration prior to a disaster. Namor dismissed the issue as none of Atlantis’ business, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt disagreed on principle, but Mr. Fantastic agreed with Tony. The damage was done, however, and the Illuminati dissolved. 
Although the Illuminati never met or operated as a group during Civil War, their actions in the conflict reflected their reactions at the last meeting. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic became two of the leading members of the pro-registration side, and worked closely with the United States government and SHIELD. Dr. Strange stayed out of the conflict, meditating and fasting , though he later admitted, after joining the New Avengers and finding new love, that he regretted his lack of involvement. Afterwards, he joined the New Avengers, who continued to operate underground without registering. Black Bolt and the Inhumans stayed out of the conflict, but began their own Cold War with the United States. Namor was involved only so far as it served his interests. This included avenging the death of his cousin in the Stamford tragedy, and coming to the aid of his friend Captain America’s forces in the final battle . Professor Xavier was not on Earth during the conflict.
World War Hulk
During Civil War, Reed was contacted by Amadeus Cho, who informed him that Hulk did not land on the intended planet. When the Hulk ultimately returned to Earth, he sought revenge on the Illuminati as Namor had warned. His first act was to attack and defeat the Skrull Black Bolt at the Inhuman settlement on the Moon. After providing New York with a twenty-four-hour time limit to hand the other three Illuminati over to him, the Hulk approached Xavier at his mansion to determine whether he would have supported the Illuminati plan had he been present. He battled the X-Men, easily defeating them. Xavier told Hulk that had he been there, he would have voted yes, and offered himself to the Hulk in exchange for the safety of the X-Men, but after learning of the mutant population's recent severe losses as a result of M-Day, and the deaths of several of Xaviers students, the Hulk decided that the X-Men had suffered enough and departed.
Having then taken over Manhattan Island, the Hulk was attacked by Iron Man in a new 'Hulkbuster' armor, only for him to be defeated and Stark Tower to be destroyed. Despite the aid of the other members of the Fantastic Four, including temporary members the Black Panther and Storm, the same fate befell Mr. Fantastic. Dr. Strange tried to enter the Hulk’s mind, but Hulk tricked Strange into presenting himself in a physical form that he attacked upon appearance. Strange later invoked and is possessed by the demon spirit of Zom, hoping that he could stop the Hulk before it was too late. However he lost control of his new found power, and he almost caused some civilians to die during his battle with the Hulk. Although the Hulk saved them, this action made Strange lose his confidence in his powers and made him weak enough for the Hulk to defeat him.
Hulk then implanted the Illuminati members with obedience discs and forced them to fight each other in his makeshift gladiatorial ring in Madison Square Garden. However the Hulk spared them from killing each other, showing them that he proved his point to the world. They survived the encounter by Hulk's mercy and the timely intervention of the Sentry, who weakened Hulk enough for Stark to use prototype defense satellites to negate the Hulk's powers. The Illuminati was also cleared from the responsibility of Sakaar's destruction when Miek admitted he saw the Red King's forces breach the ship's warp core and kept quiet to initiate what Miek felt was Hulk's destiny as the "Worldbreaker". Namor, being the only Illuminati member opposed to shooting Hulk into space from the beginning, was spared by Hulk for that reason, and remained uninvolved throughout the conflict.
Iron Man called the Illuminati together one more time to show them the body of the Skrull that was posing as Elektra. He felt that the Skrull represented a secret invasion of Earth, and that the group was responsible (after traveling to the Skrull home-world years before). His suspicions were proved correct when Black Bolt revealed himself to be a disguised Skrull. The five remaining members were able to barely defeat it, and its two compatriots, and began making plans to detect and defeat the remaining Skrulls. They soon realized, however, that this was pointless, as they couldn't trust each other. 
Iron Man and Mister Fantastic were the two chief fighters of the Secret Invasion, taking central roles in the main battles, and key to the ultimate failure of the Invasion, though surviving not unscathed at all. Iron Man brought the Skrull corpse to the world’s top minds, and summoned Criti Noll (in the form of Henry Pym) and Mister Fantastic to examine and dissect the body. Stark was soon, as planned by the Skrulls, called in, along with his Mighty Avengers to the Savage Land, where one of the first and most significant of battles of the invasion took place, starting when a spaceship crashed there, several dozen superheroes came out, and the New Avengers, too, arrived on the scene. Just as Mister Fantastic ingeniously discovered the method of concealment the Skrulls had been utilizing to become virtually undetectable, Criti Noll acted, using a special, Skrull-designed gun to subdue Reed Richards and prevent him from maintaining solidity; the remaining members of the Fantastic Four were also swiftly taken out elsewhere for most of the invasion, though all survived, if but barely. Agent Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. freed Mister Fantastic and took control over the Skrull ship he was held in to the Savage Land, but sadly not before the Skrulls managed to infect Iron Man with an alien virus disabling himself, his armor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. Veranke, disguised as Spider-Woman, also attempted to crush and destabilize what remained of Stark’s morale, will and faith by trying to convince him he was actually a Skrull sleeper agent, but the Black Widow convinced him otherwise. Richards and Brand arrived, with Reed using a self-designed machine to reveal the Skrulls in the midst of the Savage Land battle, which were quickly disposed of by the heroes. Reed and Tony led the other heroes back to the now chaotic New York for the final battle, in which Reed exposed the Skrulls and which he was a prime target in, but Reed survived, and Tony, though his secondhand and relatively crude armor he had quickly constructed suffer enough damage to force him to initially retreat from the battle, used a spare old Iron Man armor to enable him to aid the struggle against the Skrulls, freeing the prisoners, including Pym and Jarvis. The blame for the invasion was placed on Stark, who lost S.H.I.E.L.D., a great deal of public support and popularity, and much of his pride and hope, becoming, essentially, a fugitive from the now-powerful Norman Osborn.
The Fantastic Four were hit hard when Osborn, knowing Reed Richards' intellect well exceeded his own, attacked the Baxter Building when the Four were in another time and another place. Richards was more shaken by his own internal conflicts than any outside threats; nevertheless, Norman Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. agents nearly succeeded in capturing the Four. Richards, after taking a long, hard look at the life, was inspired to construct a machine that was capable of bending reality itself. H.A.M.M.E.R. arrived just as Reed activated the machine, interfacing with the Baxter Building's power supply and resulting in an energy fluctuation that sent Sue, Ben and Johnny back to the prehistoric era. Reed searched for answers which could only be found in alternate timelines as the three found themselves in a super hero Hyborian-age civil war. The Richards children, Franklin and Valeria, were the only ones available to confront the agents Osborn had sent. Richards studied other parallel Earths to see if any found a peaceful solution to the Civil War, which resulted from the Superhuman Registration Act. Reed peered into different worlds, some more bizarre than our own, to see what they did differently. Reed met with the other five Illuminati to handle the problem.
Feeling compromised by his use of dark magic, Doctor Strange left the New Avengers during the late stage of the infiltration and departed to parts unknown. He eventually resurfaced, alive but having lost nearly everything, from his house to his position as Sorcerer Supreme. What he did retain were the enmities of the Hood and Dormammu, both of whom wanted to slay Strange more desperately than ever, and a sense of duty to find the new Sorcerer Supreme and hand over the artifacts of the office. Feeling a desperate lack of power, he fled to the New Avengers for help.
Black Bolt (along with his son Ahura) was captured before World War Hulk and did not even know about the invasion. His voice was intended by the Skrulls to be used as a powerful weapon of mass destruction, but the Inhumans, aided by the renowned Kree, Ronan the Accuser, found their former king, rescued him and returned to Attilan, with Black Bolt and Maximus sharing power, only for the Inhumans and Attilan, shaken by the invasion, angered by the Skrulls, and tiring of humanity’s treatment, themselves to depart from the Sol system, destroy the fleeing Skrull ship along the way, took control over the Kree Empire from Ronan, and realized their ultimate destiny in a conflict shaking the cosmos. 
Namor, along with his new ally Doctor Doom, were struck at least somewhat less hard, though certainly affected. Neither was successfully replaced by Skrulls, and it was unknown whether their forces were assaulted, either covertly or openly. Doom was at first unaware of even the Skrull invasion, before it outright exploded, though Veranke named him one of the “bigger guns” to be taken down. Doom was released from The Raft by the Skrull virus that infected Stark's armor in the Savage Land and rendered StarkTech inoperable (it was unknown whether Doom was considered as part of the release). Namor and Atlantis were affected to an uncertain extent, with Namor, too, one of the “bigger guns” Veranke wanted removed and acknowledged as one of the Illuminati. Both separately arrived to the first Cabal meeting after the invasion, held by Osborn and attended by three others, though it was revealed afterwards they had been concocting secret plans that even Osborn was unaware of. Namor’s allegiance afterwards was unclear, from helping other heroes defend New York from the menace of the Red Hulk and aiding the new Captain America in searching for the first Human Torch’s body, to hunting down Tony Stark and insisting T’challa join the Cabal. However, most recently, when an Atlantean sleeper cell launched a terroist attack on California, Osborn ordered Namor to publicly denounce the rogues and execute them, leaving one alive to parade before the media. Namor vehemently refused and walked out on the Cabal. 
Even the Black Panther, T’Challa, after successfully fighting off a Skrull fleet attacking Wakanda with his wife Storm, forewarned by the discovery of the Brother Voodoo Skrull, was taken down, due to the cunning and might of Doctor Doom, an amushing force of Doombots, and the Cabal, with a new female Black Panther (his sister) active, and Wakanda’s spirit shaken.
The Illuminati were technically no more, with its members so scarred and divided, along with the problem of working together during crises: Black Bolt was worlds (and galaxies) away; Doctor Strange’s strength was significantly reduced without the role of Sorcerer Supreme and the Sanctum Sanctorum; Tony Stark was blamed and heavily mistrusted as a fugitive and a failure; Xavier was no longer in charge of the X-Men but still in constant peril; Namor was working for sinister purposes once again as the Illuminati’s opposite, the Cabal, emerged in the shadow world that was rising; and Richards was occupied with the Fantastic Four and his own troubles with Osborn. Even the Black Panther was in severely critical condition. The Illuminati continued to exist in alternate realities.
To handle the problem of alternate-reality versions of the Civil War, Reed reassembled the Illuminati. It was unclear where Namor's loyalties were and if the Illuminati would continue to unite against the threat of the Cabal.
The Hood's search for the Infinity Gems
Parker Robbins, aka The Hood, escaped prison and started a search for the Infinity Gauntlet. While at the Raft, he had received a tip from an imprisoned Inhuman which led him to the Reality Gem at Attilan. Then he teleported himself to the Baxter Building, where he used the first Gem's power to bypass security and take the Power Gem. The two Gems sent him unwittingly to the desert, where he found Red Hulk and defeated him. Red Hulk managed to get to Avengers Tower and bring news of what had happened. Realizing that the Gems were back in circulation, Iron Man quickly gathered the Illuminati, with Medusa in the place of her then-deceased husband Black Bolt.
The team went to Atillan to investigate but were discovered by three teams of Avengers, revealing the continued existence of the Illuminati to the superhero world. Their teammates were visibly hurt that these men had been operating secretly and considered it a breach of trust -- the wound between Iron Man and Steve Rogers was particularly deep. However, the Avengers teams united to search for the Gems before Robbins could obtain them. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk recovered the Time Gem at the bottom of the sea. Xavier, along with the Secret Avengers, Wolverine, Spider-Woman and Maria Hill went to the ruins of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, where the Mind Gem was guarded by the Danger Room. The Space Gem was hidden at Area 51 in New Mexico, but when Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange, and some of the New Avengers arrived, Robbins already had it in his possession. The Space Gem brought Hood to the Time Gem, which was being protected by the Red Hulk, Thor, and Namor. Red Hulk managed to take the Power Gem from Hood when he was distracted by the presence of Uatu, the Watcher. The combatants were teleported to New Mexico again, where Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers woke up from being knocked out by Robbins previously.
Faced with a calvary charge of angry Avengers, Robbins escaped to Professor Xavier's school and obtained the Mind Gem, with which he defeated Xavier in a telepatic fight. After knocking him out along the rest of the heroes there, Robbins teleported to the location of the Soul Gem on the Astral Plane; there, Strange met Robbins under the illusion of the mad titan Thanos. He attempted to talk Robbins into giving over the other Gems, but when that failed he took them both out of the Astral Plane and into the middle of a group of other heroes. Red Hulk attacked Robbins with the Power Gem, allowing Namor and Ms. Marvel to take the Mind and the Space Gems. Parker was unaware of these losses until Reality Gem was taken from him by the other Gems, which were in the Infinity Gauntlet held by Iron Man, making him the first human to wield this artifact.
Iron Man used the Gauntlet to send Robbins back to prison and then apparently willed it out of existence. In reality he sent it to a secret location, to which he regathered the Illuminati. Now counting Steve Rogers among their number, they divided the Infinity Gems again and took them to new hiding places. The re-formation of the group appears to remain a secret.
When the Phoenix Force returned to Earth and created a war between the Avengers and the X-Men, Captain America re-convened the Illuminati to convince Namor, who was possessed by the Phoenix, to cease his activities and convince the rest of the Phoenix Five to do the same. The meeting proved to be unproductive as most of the members were split in opinions on the conflict, and all of them left, thinking Namor wouldn't come. Namor arrived in the room after the others had left and Captain America asked him to stand down, but Namor refused, although he acknowledged that he still respected Captain America as a friend, an ally and even a brother, which was why he wouldn't capture him or reveal any of their secrets to the other Phoenixes.
After a mysterious portal to an alternate universe opened in the middle of Wakanda, Black Panther had an encounter with a mysterious figure claiming to be a "Black Swan". She asks T'Challa if he would stop her if she told him she had come to kill a world. T'Challa said he would and narrowly escaped with his life. To face this new threat, T'Challa re-convened the Illuminati.
- The Black Panther was offered membership, but he declined, thinking that working behind other super-heroes' backs was a bad idea to him.
- While their involvement in Hulk's exile from Earth has been revealed, the true nature and history of the group still remains a secret to most of the world.
- Though all the Illuminati members have separately appeared in other parallel universes, the Illuminati as a group has never appeared in any form in any alternate reality or dimension, except for the What If reality of "What If Scarlet Witch Ended the House of M event by saying No More Powers?" in which Iron Man calls together the depowered Illuminati members to discuss this disastrous incident, and the What If? Planet Hulk issue, where the Caeira slays the scattered Illuminati members upon her husband's death, and a somewhat modified version of the Illuminati in Marvel Apes: featuring the greatest minds and leaders of the Ape reality, the Prime Eight, Black Bolt, King of the Inhominids, the invincible Iron Mandrill, Bruce Bananner, the Incredible Hulk, Professor Xapier, leader of the X-Simians, Cleook, Sorceress Supreme, Dr. Doom, master of Latvookia, Silverback Surfer, Simian of the Spaceways, Nick Fury 2099, time traveling secret agent to battle a fate worse than death. However, new information gathered by Mister Fantastic using the reality-scanning machine dubbed the Bridge during the Dark Reign of the planet Earth reveals that in far more realities than previously known has the Illuminati existed and functioned, though to generally even less favorable results than the ones shown in the main continuity. For example, in a reality where the Earth characters have become pirates, the pirate Sue Storm reports to a "High Council" consisting of the original Illuminati, on Earth-976, where Reed convinced Tony Stark that they should have the larger interests of the planet in mind and that they should include members who could protect Earth best (even those as ambitious as Magneto and Doctor Doom), deemed a primary catalyst affecting everyone, and on Earth-5521, where the Illuminati's first act was choosing to unleash the Phoenix Force (inhabiting Jean Grey's body) on the Skrull Homeworld. Reed was forced to kill Grey to avoid her further descent into madness, and this also caused an even greater alien invasion by the Shi'ar, though no more alien invasions occurred afterwards.
- An interesting point discovered by Reed Richards during the Dark Reign with the Bridge is that only sixty-seven Earths in other dimensions have succeeded in attaining peace after suffering through the creation of the Illuminati and the Civil War.
- The Illuminati's existence and collaboration has at least been partially revealed by the events of World War Hulk, though little else is known other than they have worked together to banish the Hulk; Namor's affiliation is still unknown. When questioned about Namor's role in the Cabal, Marvel has noted that he is the "only one" aware of the existence of both the former Illuminati and the current Cabal. The Skrull Empire knows of both the existence, the general objectives, and the identities of the Illuminati, yet Veranke has been brutally murdered and the empire is decimated; the Beyonder, though apparently gone from Earth-616, possesses the same knowledge, as does Noh-Varr (currently working for the Dark Avengers) and Uatu (who, though having recorded the Illuminati, is unlikely to reveal any confidential information).
- It is revealed that though Iron Man indeed has referred to this group as the “Illuminati” (from the time of the Civil War, from his files, and almost certainly further back), he says, after briefly corresponding with Maria Hill in his transmission, “at least that’s what I self-deprecatingly call our little world-saving group,” indicating the other members do not call it so.
- No trivia.
- 23 Illuminati (Earth-616) Members
- 62 Appearances of Illuminati (Earth-616)
- 10 Images that include Illuminati (Earth-616)
- Team Gallery: Illuminati (Earth-616)
- Fan-Art Gallery: Illuminati (Earth-616)
Links and References
- PopCultureShock:New Avengers: Illuminati - 7 page preview
- Newsarama:Illuminating the Illuminati with Brian Bendis
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati One-Shot
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati #1
- ↑ New Avengers #44
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati #2
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati #3
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati #4
- ↑ New Avengers #7-10
- ↑ one-shot
- ↑ Civil War #6
- ↑ Civil War #7
- ↑ World War Hulk #5
- ↑ New Avengers: Illuminati #5
- ↑ War of Kings
- ↑ Dark Avengers #6
- ↑ Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2