The Illuminati is a secret group of superheroes of Marvel Comics. But, other than the name and that they work as a secret society, it has no relation with the real Illuminati (or the allegedly real, or whatever).
Many years ago, Earth was almost destroyed during The Kree/Skrull War. Several heroes met in Wakanda to talk about this: Black Panther, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, Black Bolt, Namor, and Doctor Strange.note They realized that they all knew details about those alien races, and if they had compared notes they would have been able to prevent the war. With the exception of Black Panther, they created a secret society, to discuss this and other grave threats and silently deal with them.
The group was later restarted and are the protagonists of the third New Avengers series. The series was the lead-up to the Secret Wars (2015) event and ended with issue 33. A New Illuminati ongoing began as part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative, but this time featured villains uniting to protect other villains.
The group made their live-action debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with a roster comprised of Karl Mordo (replacing 838's deceased Dr. Strange), Peggy Carter / Captain Carter, Charles Xavier / Professor X, Maria Rambeau / Captain Marvel, Blackagar Boltagon / Black Bolt, and Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic.
For the trope, see The Illuminati
The Illuminati contains examples of:
- All the Other Reindeer: When Tony brings up the concept of all the superheroes uniting, Professor X brings up how the recent anti-Avengers feeling the Skrulls created is every single day for the X-Men, and suggests that trying to force mutants into the limelight will just make that feeling worse.
- Aristocrat Team: The Illuminati is composed of high-ranking members or the Marvel Hero community with far-reaching resources, either being incredibly wealthy (Tony Stark/Iron Man, Professor X, Mister Fantastic and Doctor Strange) or members of royalty (Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner and Blackagar Boltagon).
- Big Damn Heroes: Subverted, when the group are captured by the Skrulls. As Tony's sitting in his cell, a group of Avengers appear to rescue him. Tony knows the Avengers don't know they're there, something the Skrulls quickly peg on to.
- Censor Shadow: The Skrulls capture Iron Man and take his armor. In his cell, he's nude until he gets a pair of pants.
- The Comically Serious: Namor begins to harass Iron Man for not informing the group about the reunion of the Avengers... which had only happened the day before. So, Iron Man asks "Does someone know how to say 'It happened yesterday' in Atlantean?". Reed Richards provides the translation... completely missing the point.
- Continuity Nod: When the subject of banishing the Hulk comes up, Reed and Doctor Strange mention some of the variety of things they've done to try and help Bruce, including sending him to the Crossroads.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Tony figures the events of the Kree-Skrull War could have been avoided, or just lessened, if all the heroes worked together in one vast organization. Pretty much everyone else thinks he's nuts.
- The Dog Bites Back: After the Hulk's rampage in Las Vegas, the Illuminati organize a trap for him, sending him to a distant planet. Xavier was not present, and Namor warned them: that was a massively bad idea.
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: Reed Richards and Iron Man are making a fortune from the technologies they get from the stolen Skrull ship. Perhaps a small break from their usual uselessness.
- Evil Counterpart: The Cabal developed after Secret Invasion is this to the Illuminati. Led by Norman Osborn, the group consists of Doctor Doom, Loki, The Hood, Emma Frost, and Namor who try to secretly manipulate the superhero political atmosphere for their own benefits.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Most of the time. If it is about a past story, the Illuminati cannot change its outcome. If it is a modern crisis crossover, it has to be played by all the characters involved, it can't be ruined by a swift covert attack of a secret team.
- Handwave: Eternity had ruled that the Infinity Stones may not be used all at once. It was mentioned and ignored. To be entirely fair, it is possible that the Living Tribunal simply did not re-enforce this (despite Eternity's claims) after the events of the infinity war.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: They try to do this to the Skrulls, but failed. They appeared in the throne world, tell them to stay away from Earth, Black Bolt destroys their city when they refuse, and they teleport back to their ship, to return home. But the Skrulls destroy their ship and capture them.
- I Warned You: After the Hulk's Vegas rampage, Namor sees where the conversation is going, and asks if Tony's about to say they should've listened to him about a united front years ago. Tony just replies "yes".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When they're not entirely ineffectual, their attempts to preempt crises make them worse. Their attempt to prevent the Skrulls from messing with Earth provided the means for Secret Invasion. Gathering the Infinity Stones was pointless since they can't get rid of them, they're too dangerous to use and brought them all Earth-side for villains like the Hood to more easily seek out. The one successful thing they do, tricking the Hulk into space so they can keep him off world, is still botched because he doesn't go where they intended him to and circumstances lead him to return with a vengeance.
- Nonindicative Name: The group never refers to itself, in-story, as the "illuminati". They do not refer to themselves by any group name.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: For their high and mighty intentions, the Illuminati do not have a good record of successes. Their threat to the Skrulls was not just useless, it gave them the means to start the Secret Invasion. They collected the Infinity Stones but could not banish them from existence, and the Hood got most of them a short time later. They tried to talk the Beyonder to leave the universe, and he ignored them. They advised Noh-Varr to be a hero, and he laughed at them (he became a hero later, but for other reasons). And before Civil War and Secret Invasion, they simply met to decide that there was nothing they could do about the crisis only for two of their members to help spearhead Registration enforcement and end up opening the door for Osborn to nearly Take Over the World.
- Origins Episode: In the crossover with Civil War. The group appeared first in the New Avengers, without any kind of explanation for the reader.
- Properly Paranoid: Iron Man brings the corpse of a Skrull that was pretending to be Elektra, and who was completely undetectable before being killed and reverting to her real form. He thinks that this Skrull is the tip of the iceberg of a whole alien infiltration at all levels. Namor and Xavier disagree, thinking the Skrull may be just a single operative and nothing more. And then Black Bolt reveals himself to be a Skrull, and tries to kill them.
- Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Reed Richards tried to get all the Infinity Stones to try to banish them from existence, to prevent anyone else from abusing them. The Reality Gem very nearly disintegrates Tony on touch, and the Time Gem futzes with everyone's ages, turning Namor into a teenager and Black Bolt into a baby.
- Retcon: In-universe, the Illuminati were created after the Kree-Skrull war, in the 1970s. In the real world, they were introduced in the New Avengers, and their origin detailed before Civil War. Since the group receives a lot of What the Hell, Hero? moments, it arguably ends up retroactively tainting the history of all its members.
- Super Registration Act: The Super-Human Registration Act gets brought up in the original one-shot, as Tony shows an advanced copy he's been slipped to the group. Tony and Reed agree with it, Doctor Strange thinks it's disgusting, and Namor points out it doesn't matter to him, since he's an Atlantean, not American.
- Superman Stays Out of Gotham: More blatant than ever: the Thing and the Human Torch stay out of the adventure that takes place in the other room. But it is not a FF comic, so they stay watching TV while the building seems about to explode.
- Token Evil Teammate: Namor, again. Half his role in the original one-shot is being a contrary bastard, the other half is picking a fight with everyone and then outright trying to kill Iron Man (and nearly succeeding). During their encounter with Noh-Varr, Namor spends most of it just punching him in the face every few seconds.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Black Panther to the others, when they created the group.
- Namor to the other members (except Xavier, who was not present) when they decided to exile Hulk. While not present, when confronted on the subject, Professor Xavier said he was for a temporary exile to allow Banner to cure himself, but not the permanent one Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange opted to go with.
- During the World War Hulk event, the Hulk basically holds an open mic night for a literal stream of civilians who were either endangered, hurt or lost loved ones due to the groups machinations to deliver these.
- The Watcher to Reed Richards, for reuniting the Infinity Gaunlet.
- The others to Namor, when the Beyonder revealed by accident that he still desires to conquer the surface world. ("Only sometimes. Not today").
- The Worf Effect: The Illuminati met before Civil War and Secret Invasion, and could not find a way to prevent what was about to happen. The only purpose of those stories was to set up how much complicated things were.