Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could be preparing audiences for the introduction of a more comic-accurate version of Marvel Comics’ Illuminati.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Namor the Sub-Mariner makes his MCU debut as Atlantis goes to war with Wakanda, effectively laying the foundation for the formation of a new Illuminati in Earth-616. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Illuminati appearance, though short-lived, was the first time for the MCU to tackle the concept of a superhuman/mutant council governing the world. Earth-838’s Illuminati is actually inspired by a much older and clandestine super team.
Making their first Marvel Comics appearance in 2005’s New Avengers #7, the original Illuminati was comprised of Iron Man, Namor, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Professor Charles Xavier, and Black Panther. Following the Kree-Skrull War, Tony Stark realizes that each of these heroes had information about the alien races prior to the war spilling onto Earth. Given their collective resources, they could have prevented the crisis before it happened, so Iron Man proposes to form a superhuman government for this express purpose. Everyone refuses, stating their own reasons for why it’s a bad idea. However, they also agree to regularly meet in secret, leading to the creation of Marvel Comics’ Illuminati. Only T’Challa refuses to participate, insisting that it won’t end well. Indeed, the Illuminati end up enabling the Skrull invasion of Earth, pushing for the Superhuman Registration Act (which inspired the Sokovia Accords), and even banishing Hulk to space. As Namor tells the Illuminati after he almost drowns Stark for thinking that it’s a good idea to banish his fellow Avenger, Black Panther was right. That said, despite its faults, the Illuminati eventually becomes crucial to preventing Earth and even the entire Marvel Universe from being destroyed.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could redeem the disappointing portrayal of the Illuminati in Doctor Strange 2 by introducing a more nuanced and authentic adaptation of the original Marvel Comics super team – starting with Namor. As the Wakanda-Atlantis war in Black Panther is bound to results in thousands of casualties and will likely affect Earth’s civilian population, the aftermath of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could push the new Black Panther, Namor, Doctor Strange, and other MCU heroes to form their own Illuminati in Earth-616. After learning about how Earth-838’s Illuminati was able to stop the power-hungry Stephen Strange variant, Doctor Strange could be convinced to form a similar council to watch over superhuman affairs. Just like how the Avengers’ actions led to the Sokovia Accords, the war between the two most powerful nations on Earth will lead to the creation of Earth-616 Illuminati.
Who Will Be In The MCU’s Illuminati?
If Black Panther: Wakanda Forever leads to the creation of Earth-616 Illuminati, then it would be led by the new Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Namor, with the goal of preventing another devastating war or similar crisis. Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner are likely to become founding members as well. Even Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, aka Val, could join the Illuminati to represent the underworld. In any case, the MCU has everything it needs to develop a more worthy adaptation of the Illuminati, and it could be the perfect way to kick off MCU Phase 5.
While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the last film in MCU Phase 4, the first series in MCU Phase 5 is Secret Invasion, which takes its title from a Marvel Comics crossover series about the Skrulls invading Earth. In the comics, Skrulls infiltrate Earth by posing as superheroes, turning the Illuminati and the rest of Earth’s heroes against each other. Apart from Secret Invasion potentially revealing that the MCU’s Skrulls are actually as bad as the Kree, the upcoming series also lays the groundwork for the Illuminati to face a challenge worthy of its collective power and influence. At this point in the MCU, a more comics-accurate version of the Illuminati, with a much more nuanced take on superhero dynamics, could reflect the MCU’s 14-year history better than any new formation of the Avengers. After Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the new Illuminati could even evolve to become the villains in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.
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