Everything that we’ve speculated on for the past few months has finally been confirmed with the final trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – the Illuminati will make their MCU debut as a group in the movie. Over the years in the comics, the Illuminati have joined, disbanded, and changed members, despite having some constants there.
One thing is for sure, though – their existence had major implications on Marvel Comics and will certainly have the same effect on the MCU. If you want to learn more about the secret superhero group, don’t worry – we got you covered. Here are the 15 best Illuminati comics to read after (or before) Doctor Strange 2. The list is not ranked but chronologically ordered.
New Avengers #7 (July 2005)
I’m opening the list with the most obvious choice – the first comic book issue where the Illuminati ever appeared. The New Avengers #7 came out in July 2005 and brought us back to a secret meeting between the Illuminati members – Iron Man, Namor the Submariner, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Professor X, and Doctor Strange, respectively.
Although the group was revealed in the comics for the first time here, the idea was that they have actually operated in secrecy for years. This particular meeting happened when the super-intelligent group discussed the emergence of the Sentry, aka Richard Reynolds – one of the most powerful humanoid characters ever in the Marvel Universe.
As time went by, in later issues and Illuminati appearances, we learned more and more about the group, and how Tony Stark founded it, as well as why they kept it a secret. Still, it was the first time that we’ve seen them all together, and it was an epic comic book issue, in my opinion.
Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #91 (January 2006)
Not long after we’ve first seen the Illuminati in the comics, we saw how powerful and influential such a group can be. In Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #91, issued in January 2006, they aren’t necessarily the primary characters, but their actions had huge consequences later in Marvel Comics.
The Hulk was in a space shuttle, battling Godseye. However, instead of returning to Earth, he receives a message from the Illuminati – who have arbitrarily decided to banish Bruce Banner from Earth for the safety of the planet.
The shuttle’s engines turned on, sending Banner into deep space. An enraged Hulk ended up on Sakaar, a distant planet where he became a champion and a legend and even started a family. His time on Sakaar is encapsulated in the Planet Hulk storyline, probably the best Hulk storyline ever created.
The Illuminati’s decision to banish Hulk also had major consequences when he got back to Earth, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (December 2006)
The New Avengers: Illuminati #1 came out in December 2006 as a part of an awesome six-issue storyline revolving around the secret superhero group. Many call this issue the best Illuminati comic book ever. In my opinion, it’s not THE best, but certainly in the top three.
We learn more about the Illuminati group’s origins and background, as well as the way they operate. We also learn that Black Panther was offered a seat at the Illuminati table, but T’Challa refused to be a part of the group – at least at that moment – because he believed that such a group could only lead to a disaster.
Black Panther thought that they would not take long to overstep their intended duties, and eventually, many things he warned them about turned out to be true.
Civil War #6 (January 2007)
The Civil War event was as epic of a storyline as any other that Marvel Comics had created so far. However, it was one of the first times where we saw how dangerous a group as powerful as the Illuminati could be. It was the first time we’ve seen them take different sides, disagree, or simply not get involved in a situation that they could’ve ended before it really started.
Doctor Strange chose not to get involved in the conflict, even though he had the power to end it with a single spell – a decision he later expressed regret about. At the same time, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic led the pro-registration group and worked closely with S.H.I.E.L.D., whereas Black Bolt and his Inhumans didn’t take sides in the Civil War but waged their Cold War upon the US.
Namor the Submariner eventually helped Captain America’s team in the final battle. Although the MCU’s Civil War is behind us, some of the actions the Illuminati members have made here could certainly be used as an inspiration for how the conflict between the Illuminati members in the MCU could go.
New Avengers: Illuminati #2 (February 2007)
New Avengers: Illuminati #2 came out in February 2007 and is still my favorite Illuminati issue to this date. It showed all the implications of having such a powerful, super-intelligent group on Earth and how their actions can be more than they have bargained for.
In this issue, Mr. Fantastic reveals that he had found and collected the entire Infinity Gauntlet after discovering that the Stones (or Gems, as they are called in the comics) actually talk to one another in some way, regardless of how far apart in the universe they are.
However, the power of all six Stones was just too much for Reed to handle, especially considering that his goal was to destroy the Infinity Stones by using the Infinity Stones. Richards believed it was better if they never existed rather than to have to worry about somebody trying to misuse them again.
In the comics, that doesn’t work. The Illuminati realize that keeping all the Stones together is too great of a risk, so they divide the Stones among themselves, giving one to every Illuminati member.
Now, the Infinity Stones are behind us in the MCU, but the Loki series showed that the Stones are very much active in other universes. Seeing that the multiverse is opened, perhaps the MCU Illuminati will again try to collect them to prevent another Thanos from repeating the Mad Titan’s actions.
World War Hulk Vol. 1 #1 (June 2007)
Remember when the Illuminati banished the Hulk to Sakaar, where he became a legend, exponentially grew in power and fighting skills and started a family. Well, when the Crown City on Sakaar was destroyed, the Hulk’s family was killed, and all his rage was directed towards the Illuminati, as he believed they were responsible for his wife’s death.
This version of the Hulk, which was never more powerful, returned to Earth to seek revenge against the Illuminati. He gave 24 hours for the city to evacuate and the Illuminati to show their faces, or else he’d destroy the entire city. They tried their best to calm him down, but World War Hulk only had one thing on his mind – and that’s revenge.
I won’t spoil how the beef ended, but it required the help of other notable characters, such as the Sentry, Ghost Rider, and others. It was an epic storyline that once again showed how dangerous it is to have six people – the Illuminati – make decisions that can eventually come right around to bite them and the entire planet they ought to defend.
New Avengers: Illuminati #5 (November 2007)
The Secret Invasion is an event from Marvel Comics where the Skrulls – the green shape-shifting aliens appearing in the Captain Marvel movie – invade the Earth by pretending to be her heroes. The series Secret Invasion is arriving into the MCU soon, and seeing that the Illuminati are also about to appear, it could mean the storylines will connect.
After all, the Illuminati played a major role in the Secret Invasion in the comics, as you can read in New Avengers: Illuminati #5 that came out in November 2007. In this particular issue, we see the Illuminati inspect a dead Skrull’s body, who was impersonating Earth’s hero, Elektra.
It showed that the Illuminati might be responsible for the entire Secret Invasion in the first place, as they traveled to the Skrull homeworld back in the 1970s to try to make peace between the Kree and the Skrulls, who were at war during that time.
It was also revealed that Black Bolt, one of the Illuminati members, was a Skrull imposter for quite some time, casting doubt on everything the group had been doing and all the decisions they’ve made so far.
New Avengers Vol. 1 #44 (August 2008)
This particular issue was awesome to me because it was revealed exactly how the Illuminati were responsible for the successful Secret Invasion. When they visited the Skrull homeworld, they were imprisoned, studied, and analyzed before Iron Man led the escape back to Earth.
Despite knowing the Skrulls would likely return to Earth, the Illuminati didn’t realize what they had done. First, Black Bolt was actually an imposter – a Skrull. Second, the analysis gathered by the Skrulls allowed them to conduct numerous experiments and eventually find a way to invade Earth without being detected by the Illuminati or other superheroes on Earth.
The cover of this issue is also epic, giving homage to the New Avengers: Illuminati #1 issue, where we first learned more about the secret council/group.
Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 (May 2009)
I’m moving away from the main Marvel Comics continuity and universe here, but the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 left such an impression on me that I had to include it on the list. The name of the comic book serves it right, as it’s dark, twisted, and awesome.
So, we follow an alternative version of the Illuminati from Earth-231. Well, at least one of their members, Reed Richards. This version of Mister Fantastic realized that the team became too power-hungry and too ambitious – so he killed them all.
It was a brutal take on the Illuminati. Still, it showed that as much good that they have done over the years, there’s a huge potential danger with having such a powerful group of individuals operating in secret.
Avengers Vol. 4 #8 (December 2010)
Again, this issue follows up on some actions and decisions that the Illuminati had done, which turned right around to bite them. Remember how I told you they divided the Infinity Stones amongst themselves and hid them without telling the other members where? Well, I guess that wasn’t the best idea.
The Illuminate are reassembled after a while when Medusa – the Queen of the Inhumans – arrives and reveals that her husband, Black Bolt, is (presumably) dead and that someone is trying to find all the Infinity Stones to reassemble the Gauntlet. They’ve already found Black Bolt’s Stone, as well as the one that Reed Richards has hidden.
The perpetrator turns out to be the Hood, but there’s much more intrigue and drama that ensued here. It could’ve been catastrophic, but they eventually defeat the Hood. Then, Captain America receives the sixth Infinity Stone while Black Bolt is out of the picture, officially becoming a member of the Illuminati. It was an awesome story you should definitely check out.
Iron Man Legacy #11 (February 2011)
I loved this particular storyline that included the Illuminati because it was one of the rare instances when Iron Man was on the West Coast. Also, they battled the Pride, six influential criminal families that meddled with Stark’s business.
So, Stark left the Illuminati after Obadiah Stane took over his company, and Namor pointed out that the group should leave him alone, as Tony is trying to prove himself worthy of being an Illuminati member. As Iron Man started a new company in LA, it interfered with Pride’s business, eventually leading to an awesome but short fight between the Illuminati and the Pride.
Eventually, the Pride was defeated and imprisoned, but everybody knew they wouldn’t stay there for too long. However, the entire event prompted Tony to leave LA, leading to more awesome storylines with the Illuminati down the line.
New Avengers Vol. 3 #3 (February 2013)
The Illuminati have done many great things for humankind. I mean, a group of such powerful, highly intelligent individuals is certainly valuable. The problem is, their brains may not be as big as their egos. New Avengers Vol. 3 #3 showed that when they set out to do something, they won’t take disagreement and will go to extreme lengths to do what they want.
In this particular case, the universes started to collide, and the Earth-616 universe was at great risk of other universes entering that one. So, the Illuminati wanted to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet and create a cosmic weapon that would protect the Earth from such threats.
Seeing the risk behind assembling such a weapon, Captain America disagreed, and for that, the Illuminati literally erased his mind and memory, letting Doctor Strange cast a spell to do so. They weren’t ready to consider alternatives but would rather erase the memory of their peer.
If the Illuminati are ready to “attack” their peers just because of a disagreement, how far are they willing to go?
New Avengers Vol. 3 #14 (February 2014)
I chose to include this particular issue for two reasons. One, it’s epic, and I loved the story behind it. Two, it could actually have major implications on how the MCU situation with the Illuminati will pan out.
In New Avengers Vol. 3 #14, the Marvel Comics multiverse begins to crumble – just like things began to develop in the MCU. So, a new, alternative version of the Illuminati council emerges and includes Emma Frost, Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Yellowjacket, Black Panther, and two Captain Britains, Betsy and Brian Braddock.
I’m not saying the situation in the MCU will be the same, but there are some striking storyline similarities. Like, the Illuminati assembling as the multiverse crashes. Perhaps we’ll see Peggy Carter’s Captain Britain (from the What if…? series) as a member of the Illuminati? It would be an epic way to expand the MCU with characters we already know and love.
Doctor Strange #1-10 (2015/2016)
Now, this isn’t really a storyline where the Illuminati appear for a significant role, but I chose to include it on the list because another important character appears here. Wanda Maximoff plays a huge role in MCU’s Doctor Strange 2, and this particular Doctor Strange comics series from 2015/2016 shows the relationship she had with Stephen Strange in the comics.
Here, they are buddies who hang out relatively frequently, seeing that they are both sorcerers and have somewhat similar interests. They help each other out, so maybe they’ll eventually do the same in the MCU. One can only hope.
Regardless of what happens on the big screen, it was cool to see Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch interact in a non-formal way in the comics, although it wasn’t really a significant plot point of the storyline.
Avengers Vol. 5 #43 (April 2015)
Last but not least, we have Avengers Vol. 5 #43, issued in April 2015. Again, the comic book is filled with implications of the multiverse and depicts an evil, alternative version of the Illuminati, known as the Cabal. However, there are a few particular details that seem to be an inspiration for Doctor Strange 2.
For instance, Superior Iron Man (seen in Doctor Strange 2 trailers, too) is locked in a glass cube by the Cabal, and the Illuminati set him free. Not only does Superior Iron Man appear, but in the trailers, it seems that the Illuminati held a version of Doctor Strange and a new character America Chavez, in similar glass cube cages or cells.
Now, the comic book and MCU storylines probably won’t match, but it’s interesting to see such similarities between the two, even in the trailer. I just hope the movie will be as epic as this particular issue.