Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hidden Agenda


Whenever the gentlemen you see here make an appearance as a group, I make it a point to pick up the issue(s) they're featured in. In the story I last read in which they appeared, it was in the current run of The Avengers, kicking off an arc where Parker Robbins (The Hood, a villain I like a lot) was seeking out the Infinity Gems, which the Illuminati--a secret cabal made up of Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Charles Xavier, Sub-Mariner, and Black Bolt--had separated and hidden.

The Illuminati, formed by Iron Man after the Kree-Skrull War as a clandestine group that occasionally would meet to compare notes in order to prevent catastrophies (yeah, how'd that work out?), walks a slippery slope that would be irresistible to any writer. First of all, Tony Stark forms the group--Tony Stark, the same guy who seems to have tunnel vision as to how the world is supposed to be and what laws should be in place for its citizens. The guy who has the best of intentions, yet whose judgment and decisions have been questionable, to say the least. Secondly, the group's existence is a secret to all but its core members. And you know the first question to be asked when a secret is being kept: "Why keep a secret unless you have something to hide?"

Now, combine these two factors, and look what you have: a group whose membership represents all aspects of the superhuman community (in addition to including two kingdoms and the brain behind most of the U.S.'s military tech) that meets in secret to conduct proactive operations. The wall between altruism and control becomes a very thin one.

Consequently, the Illuminati's record isn't exactly a spotless one. Soon after the end of the Kree-Skrull War, the group confronts the Skrulls on their homeworld and warns them never again to attack Earth:



The Skrulls back down, sobbing and apologetic, and agree to every one of the Illuminati's demands...

Yeah, right. Not in this universe. The Skrulls, a warrior race who have nothing but contempt for Earthlings, are going to back down in front of six Earth men who are pretty much slapping a gauntlet in their face? They attack, of course--and the Illuminati are captured and undergo intensive study in captivity, which gives the Skrulls an immeasurable tactical advantage in Secret Invasion. Brilliant first step out of the gate, guys.

In a later story, Reed Richards--whose thirst for knowledge has more than once gotten the better of him--begins collecting the Infinity Gems. His intent is to dispose of them--and while the other members are apprehensive about participating in such a plan, they nevertheless agree to pursue it. But once the gems are assembled, Richards is unable to will them out of existence as planned--so he gives a gem to each group member, who now has the responsibility of making sure their gem is never seen again. And that should work, no? I mean, not only would any of them ever be tempted to use their gem--but no one is ever going to come looking for the gems again, right? Again, an impeccable judgment call.

And do I really need to recap the decision by this group that led to the events in World War Hulk?

When Iron Man initially approached the Black Panther into joining the group, T'Challa wisely declined, with these words of warning:
"I'm telling you now: end this. Walk away from this table and go home. There is a reason the Skrulls had such an easy time trying to turn the world against its heroes. Because deep down everyone knows that this could happen. And now it has.

"You just decided all by yourselves that you are the Earth's protectors. And that you, and only you, not your teammates or family, are trustworthy enough to include in the process. What happens when you disagree? When one of these Earth-changing moments finds you all at odds with each other, here in a secret meeting? What happens then?

"Walk away now."

This little secret group probably wouldn't have stepped in it so often if it had just stuck to its charter purpose: a venue for an exchange of information when necessary or appropriate. Unfortunately, that didn't require covert meetings to accomplish--and I think its members damn well knew it. Ever hear of a conference call? It could all have been very above-board--even tying in with S.H.I.E.L.D. or other government intelligence agencies. Secrecy is all well and good, as far as making sure that all roads lead back to yourselves--until, that is, you're infiltrated by a Skrull posing as one of your own. Or, for that matter, one of your own is taken over by, say, Zom, or Maximus, or the Over-Mind, or Onslaught--or even a simple bottle of whiskey.

So with the Avengers storyline exposing the activities of the Illuminati to Steve Rogers, who as you might imagine is none too pleased with yet another lapse in judgment by Tony Stark, my interest was piqued. It begins in Avengers #8, when the group is alerted to the theft of two of the Infinity Gems. But do also check out the New Avengers: Illuminati #0 from May, 2006, which shows Iron Man making his pitch to the group--it's excellent reading.


1 comment:

Warren JB said...

""You just decided all by yourselves that you are the Earth's protectors. And that you, and only you, not your teammates or family, are trustworthy enough to include in the process. What happens when you disagree? When one of these Earth-changing moments finds you all at odds with each other, here in a secret meeting? What happens then?"

So with the Avengers storyline exposing the activities of the Illuminati to Steve Rogers, who as you might imagine is none too pleased with yet another lapse in judgment by Tony Stark, my interest was piqued."

Ironically, I think T'Challa's words sum up Cap's judgement, and the consequences, in the Captain America: Civil War film.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...