Following the war between the Kree and Skrulls, the leading Super Heroes of Earth form a delegation in secret, a unified grouping of heroes and mutants that combine their information to prevent world-wide catastrophes.
Following Earth’s involvement in the interstellar Kree/Skrull war, Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, of the Avengers invited other leading Super Heroes to discuss preventive measures to ensure Earth’s future safety. In response, Wakanda’s King T’Challa, AKA Black Panther, hosts a secret meeting attended by Iron Man, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Stephen Strange, AKA Doctor Strange, the X-Men’s founder Professor Charles Xavier, AKA Professor X, Reed Richards, AKA Mister Fantastic, of the Fantastic Four, the Inhumans’ king Blackagar Boltagon, AKA Black Bolt, and Atlantean ruler Namor MacKenzie, AKA Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
Iron Man proposes that they form an alliance to pool resources and information, and, despite Namor’s initial misgivings, the majority of the group agree. To ensure trust between the members, they decide to keep their pact secret from everyone, including teammates and families. T’Challa is the sole dissenting voice, expressing concern over what might happen if the group ever disagrees on a course of action, and as such he declines to join the alliance. The group then discusses the living island Krakoa before adjourning to go their separate ways.
During a subsequent meeting, the group confronts the Skrulls and warns them not to attempt another invasion of Earth, but the Skrulls then capture, torture, and take cell samples from the heroes. Despite being stripped of his armor, Stark resists the Skrulls’ interrogation efforts and escapes his cell. Freeing the others, together they steal a ship and escape back to Earth.
The secret organization includes the world’s most powerful heroes, Mister Fantastic, leader of the FF; Namor, Ruler of Atlantis; Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans; Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts; the Invincible Iron Man, and Professor Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men. These six men work together to mold and shape the status of the superhuman world, and the world around it, and to ensure trust between group members, the group’s existence is kept secret from everyone, including their families and teammates.
Other members that join the Illuminati include Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, Hank McCoy, Beast, Amadeus Cho, AKA Brawn, Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk, Henry “Hank” Pym, AKA Hank Pym, Brian Braddock, AKA Captain Britain, and Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon, AKA Medusa. After Black Panther witnesses two universes collide, he realizes the importance of the Illuminati and joins their ranks, after having previously denied membership.
Enemies Within and Without
Over the existence of the Illuminati, the group struggles to trust fellow member Namor, who often acts aggressive and bull-headed about protecting his people in Atlantis over everyone and everything else. The Illuminati also find themselves up against the Hulk at first, who mistakenly blames them for the destruction of Sakaar and his bride, but he eventually joins their ranks.
The antithesis of the Illuminati is the Cabal, led by Norman Osborn, AKA Green Goblin, with Namor, Victor von Doom, AKA Doctor Doom, Parker Robbins, AKA the Hood, Loki Laufeyson, AKA Loki, and Emma Frost.
When Namor desires to protect Earth over all others in the Multiverse and at any cost, he reforms the Cabal with Thanos and his Black Order members Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight as well as Yabbat Ummon Turru, AKA Black Swan, Maximus the Mad, and Terrax. His choices with this group are brutal, giving the Illuminati members no choice but to abandon Namor even when he tries to make amends.
The Illuminati ally themselves with as few people as possible to ensure their secret organization is kept quiet, not even sharing their existence with their families. Eventually they need more allies and their secret gets out. Some of their allies include Captain Britain (who later becomes a member) Roberto Da Costa, AKA Sunspot’s Avengers, General Thaddeus Ross, AKA Red Hulk, Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops’ Nation X, Sue Storm Richards, AKA Invisible Woman, Fantastic Four, Secret Avengers, and the X-Men.
After a mass breakout at the maximum security superhuman prison, the Raft, that led to the re-formation of the Avengers, the pact members questioned Stark as to why he had not notified them of these events. This led to discussion regarding the supremely powerful hero Robert Reynolds, AKA Sentry, who had assisted in the Raft crisis and subsequently overcame his evil alter ego, the Void, with aid from the pact partners and many other heroes.
Richards then received the Power Gem, one of the vastly powerful Infinity Gems, from Jennifer Walters, AKA She-Hulk, after she had retrieved it from her nemesis Mary MacPherran, AKA Titania. Resolving to keep the remaining Gems from falling into evil hands again, Reed obtained the Soul Gem, the Space Gem and the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove previously used to unite and wield the Gems. He then told the secret alliance of his project. Working together, they gathered the Mind Gem, the Reality Gem, and the Time Gem. Holding the complete set of Gems, Richards was tempted by the Gauntlet’s ultimate power, but he resisted its allure and distributed the Gems among the group for safekeeping, each member holding one gem in a secret location known only to himself; the Mind, Power, Reality, Soul, Space, and Time Gems were distributed to Professor X, Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, and Namor, respectively.
Xavier next called a meeting to discuss the apparent return of the seemingly omnipotent Beyonder. Sans Iron Man, due to his alcohol problems, and with James Rhodes, AKA War Machine, the group located the Beyonder on the planetoid Ceres in the asteroid belt where he had created a facsimile of Manhattan complete with faux populace and superhumans. Though he tempted them with their life’s desires, the group ultimately denied him and he left the confines of the universe.
The alliance later met to discuss the recent declaration of war against Earth by the Kree soldier Noh-Varr, AKA Marvel Boy, and sought a means to convince him otherwise, confronting him in his cell in the maximum security prison the Cube. After meeting with each member of the group in turn and learning more about humanity and its past dealings with Kree, such as the heroic Mar-Vell, AKA Captain Marvel, Noh-Varr recanted.
Following the Hulk’s latest rampage through Las Vegas, the alliance decided to send him to a distant uninhabited planet where he might find peace. Namor violently opposed this plan and quit the alliance in disgust. Iron Man later called the group—including Namor—to another meeting to discuss the Superhuman Registration Act. Stark urged them to come out in favor of the Act, but only Richards sided with him while the rest refused, leaving the alliance fractured.
Meanwhile, the Hulk’s spacecraft was thrown off-course and crash-landed on the planet Sakaar, where he helped its inhabitants overthrow their tyrannical emperor and became their new ruler; however, the warp core of his ship subsequently exploded, killing most of the world’s inhabitants, including the Hulk’s new bride, Caiera, who was carrying his unborn child. Furious, the Hulk led the survivors to Earth to seek revenge.
Arriving on the moon, the Hulk beat Black Bolt into submission, then warned Earth of his return and the truth behind his banishment. The Hulk next targeted Xavier, but was opposed by the various X-teams until he was convinced to depart peacefully by Mercury. Moving onto Manhattan, the Hulk bested Iron Man, Richards, and Strange and planned to force the heroes to kill each other in a gladiator-arena-style fight. When the Hulk learned Miek was the one that caused the devastation on Sakaar, he became enraged, causing his powers to surge beyond his control; but he allowed Stark to target him with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s weapons and neutralize him before he destroyed the Earth.
After it was discovered that a Skrull invasion was taking place, Iron Man called the Illuminati together once again and during the meeting it was revealed that Black Bolt had been impersonated by a Skrull, though at what point the substitution occurred is unrevealed. After battling a group of Skrulls, they found the impersonation of Black Bolt only increased the distrust amongst the group and they parted ways. While the Illuminati were disbanded, Namor joined the Cabal, Norman Osborn’s Dark Illuminati, alongside several villains.
When Parker Robbins, AKA the Hood, sought out the hidden Infinity Gems, the Illuminati reunited with Medusa, who joined the team in place of her seemingly deceased husband Black Bolt. After the Hood found a few gems, Red Hulk helped defeat the Hood and the gems ended up in Iron Man’s hands. Once the Hood was defeated and locked up, the gems were re-divided amongst the Illuminati members with Rogers joining the secret organization.
The next occasion that brought the Illuminati together was during the Avengers and X-Men conflict, called by Rogers since their Illuminati member Namor had been possessed by the Phoenix Force along with four other Mutants. They attempted to remake the world in their image so the Avengers stepped in to stop them. At the meeting, the Illuminati couldn’t agree that the meeting was necessary, and Charles departed after telepathically hearing his colleagues blame him for the mess. After the majority of them departed, Namor appeared to Rogers who begged him to stop what he was doing. Namor refused and chose not to slay him right then and there because they were brothers in arms. The battle between the two Avengers and the X-Men came to a head when X-Men Cyclops took all of the Phoenix Force into himself and killed Illuminati member Professor X, but was ultimately defeated by the combined efforts of Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, and Hope Summers.
Sometime later, after having witnessed the end of his people in a colliding of universes, Black Panther realized the importance of the Illuminati. He reformed them to prevent the collision of their universe with another, and privately warned Namor, who had recently killed many Wakandans, that once the present issue was brought to a close, that he would kill him. Black Panther also had caught Black Swan, who tried to destroy Earth-616, and interrogated her about the Incursions that were coming for their world.
The Mutant Beast also joined the secret organization to represent mutantkind after the death of Professor X who entrusted the Infinity Gem to him. When all the gems were restored to the Infinity Gauntlet, Captain America used it to attempt to push the world back from their own, but the action shattered all the gems, except the Time gem which disappeared. Cap then apologized and worried that they would take drastic measures to destroy the other world to save theirs. Having anticipated his reaction, Stark cued Doctor Strange to wipe his memory of the meeting.
After Uatu the Watcher was murdered, Captain America’s memory was restored since he had been exposed to Uatu’s eye. This clarity led him to betray the Illuminati’s secret to the Avengers in the hopes that he could prevent them from destroying other worlds. Meanwhile, Black Panther intended to destroy a planet protected by a team of heroes known as the Great Society but changed his mind. Namor stepped in and destroyed the planet and the Illuminati expelled him for it. He then formed his own Cabal with the mad Titan Thanos to destroy parallel worlds before theirs was threatened in an incursion.
In the opening Namor left, the Illuminati allowed new members Hank Pym, Brawn, and Captain Britain to join. Namor’s Cabal protected Earth using brutal tactics, choices that Namor ultimately regretted so he coordinated with the Illuminati to leave them behind on an Earth that was about to be destroyed in the next incursion. But Black Bolt and Black Panther could not bring themselves to forgive Namor for his former actions, and left him with the Cabal to die. Though, the Cabal with Namor escaped to the Ultimate Universe, and Hank Pym meanwhile discovered the Beyonders were responsible for the incursions.
It turned out that the end of everything was unavoidable and all realities collapsed with the final incursion as their earth, Earth-616, collided with Earth-1610. Mister Fantastic had built a life raft which he and Black Panther used to survive. Doctor Strange survived along with Doctor Doom, and assisted him as his second in command over a patchwork planet Battleworld that was created from several realties. Namor, his Cabal, and Ultimate Reed Richards, AKA Maker, also survived, and they ended up on Battleworld as well.
When Strange sacrificed himself to protect the heroes, Black Panther and Namor decided to reconcile and oppose Doom. As Earth-616’s Reed looked for a way to control the source of Doom’s power with the Maker, which was Owen Reece, AKA Molecule Man, Namor and Black Panther attempted to reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet. Once they had all the gems, Black Panther fought Doom while Richards was able to reform the multiverse.