New Avengers: Illuminati #1
Issue(s): New Avengers: Illuminati #1
Despite what was implied in Avengers #97, it seems the Skrull Emperor Dorrek isn't dead...
...and he's already planning a new invasion of Earth.
The Illuminati show up on the Skrull homeworld to demand no further attacks on Earth.
When that doesn't work, Black Bolt screams, causing a major explosion of the Skrull's mothership. However, when they try to escape the planet they are captured.
Tony Stark escapes, using fighting techniques taught to him by Captain America...
...and frees the others (that means that all of the other Illuminati members know his secret ID).
The team escapes, but Dorrek indicates at the end that he has acquired what he wanted of them.
We'll learn during Secret Invasion that the Skrulls used the opportunity of the group's capture to collect genetic material that will be the basis of a new Super-Skrull program.
Bendis is a divisive creator. He was generally acknowledged as a good indie writer whose focus on crime sagas made him a natural fit for Daredevil when he first came to Marvel. His Ultimate Spider-Man was generally well received as well. But when he moved on to being Marvel's top writer, starting with a reboot of the Avengers, the online reaction got ugly.
Just to put my cards on the table, i'll admit that i like the guy. I think his Avengers run has been one of the best; certainly it was a major breath of fresh air and the best to come along since the end of Kurt Busiek's somewhat disappointing run, and his changes brought the Avengers to the forefront of the Marvel Universe, where they belong. But we'll get to that much later.
As for the Illuminati concept, i really like it. The idea that the super-groups would try to coordinate with each other makes a lot of sense, and the idea that they would keep it secret from the rest of the heroes (including the Invisible Girl and Captain America) fits broadly with the characterization of these particular characters. Professor X (the whole Z'Nox invasion set-up, for example) and Mr. Fantastic were always keeping secrets from the rest of their group, and Iron Man is the most likely candidate to represent the Avengers (certainly it's not something Cap would go for). This issue in particular adds a nice coda to the Kree-Skrull War; the idea that the Earth doesn't just move on to the next thing so soon after the big Kree-Skrull event makes sense.
Bendis' greatest strength is tempered by one of his flaws. He writes enjoyable, natural dialogue. Unfortunately, he's not great at using dialogue to develop characterization; a lot of the time it really doesn't matter who is saying what because all of the dialogue is written in the same voice. I don't really have that complaint about this issue, and in fact in this series in general Bendis writes a fantastic Namor that plays up his nasty Golden Age side.
Generally speaking, i think this is an interesting issue, with nice art by Cheung.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place shortly after the Kree-Skrull War. The Skrulls are no longer frozen, and Iron Man has had time to return to Earth and pick up the other Illuminati.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
The Illuminati DO call themselves the Illuminati in Iron Man Legacy 6-11 (and claim that it was Tony's idea) but those issues have a lot of problems when it comes to continuity.
Posted by: Michael | January 10, 2012 9:31 PM
i would have no problem with the Illuminati as a NEW story that takes place in the present. Making it a continuity insert ruins much of the awesome factor for me, and turns me into a grumbling fanboy. This is such a huge change, it makes so many stories subsequent in continuity make a lot less sense if this group is already in existence.
Posted by: Chris | June 23, 2013 11:05 PM
My opinion may change after i get to Iron Man Legacy, but from this series their impact is actually kind of minimal. The next issue doesn't happen until Secret Wars II, for example (that issue is a disaster for unrelated reasons). When this was first announced i was cringing like you, but after reading through this stuff i haven't felt like there were major problems. It sometimes even adds an extra level; i imagine they wink at each other when they are with a larger group (like when Xavier suggests that Mr. Fantastic be their leader in Secret Wars).
Posted by: fnord12 | June 24, 2013 12:00 AM
The only "Illuminati" issue I read was the "Secret Wars II" retcon and my opinion is basically the same as Chris'. Yeah, it makes perfect sense that these superheroes would be collaborating behind-the-scenes. It's like asking where the Avengers or Spider-Man were when Galactus showed up. But deciding 45 years after these stories were published that the characters had been collaborating all along makes no sense whatsoever.
Reading this synopsis, the best I can say is it puts an amusing spin on the panel from a later issue of "Secret Wars" where Reed Richards is fixing James Rhodes' armor, and Rhodey asks if Reed is surprised to find a black man under the armor. This issue makes Reed's awkward response a lot more interesting, but improving a single panel of "Secret Wars I" is not a good enough reason for this concept to exist.
Hey, do you have the "Secret Wars II" retcon on the site? Yay!!!
Posted by: ChrisW | July 9, 2014 8:52 PM
This book helped bring me back to reading Marvel "in general" after a long hiatus. Definitely a case of an 'event' book rekindling interest in a fictional universe, though by the time I was halfway through Secret Invasion I felt like I was being milked (the fact that it seemed like a rehash of DC's Millennium didn't help).
I hadn't realized you'd reviewed this already and I'm pleased to see your generally positive assessment. I also was not fond of the 'Secret Wars' attempted retcon, but in general I enjoyed this and a lot of Bendis's work over the past decade.
Posted by: Cullen | July 10, 2014 12:22 AM
ChrisW, if you haven't found it yet, the Secret Wars II issue is here.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 10, 2014 7:59 AM
I found it, that's why I said "Yay!" Dear God, if there's anything that could make "Secret Wars II" look like a comic-book masterpiece, it's trying to retcon it decades later.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 12, 2014 8:47 PM
Busiek's run, disappointing? Well, I guess we are SERIOUSLY going to have to agree to disagree on that; Busiek's is my all-time favorite Avengers run, and is in my top ten of all comic runs, perios; while Bendis was bad enough to make me abandon Marvel completely.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 2, 2014 9:11 AM
I also love Busiek and hate Bendis.
Posted by: Steven Printz | September 3, 2014 2:18 AM
My only fanboy continuity complaint with this issue is that it's clearly established in Iron Man 125 that Tony Stark only received hand to hand combat training from Captain America after his armor was confiscated for the assassination of the Carnelian ambassador in issue 124, and this takes place much earlier.
Posted by: Andrew | January 10, 2015 6:54 AM
Before he came to Marvel, how good where Bendis' books again? Because if they're anything like his Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man runs, I'm not going to try them.
Posted by: D09 | January 15, 2016 7:06 PM
I was a fan of his crime comics before he went to Marvel. I'd still recommend his Fire/Jinx/Goldfish books. His Sam & Twitch was also good, and Torso (featuring Eliot Ness of Untouchables fame) was interesting.
The caveat is that what i liked about all of those books had a lot to do with his scripting. And if you soured on Bendis because of his more recent stuff (as i did) you'll already be familiar with the dialogue tics that at the time seemed really innovative in his pre-Marvel stuff, and you might have a negative reaction to it.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 16, 2016 12:57 PM
"Enjoyable, natural dialogue"? More like stiff, repetitive, and something you'd find only in tryouts for theaters. Just one of the reasons I never could "get" Ultimate Spider-Man (among others), even though it's supposedly the best of all his Marvel works.
Posted by: D09 | May 21, 2016 7:19 PM
The only people who talk anything like Bendis characters are the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in bad fanfics.
Posted by: AF | May 21, 2016 7:21 PM
Bendis is utter garbage, and like Thanos6 above, the reason I finally stopped reading Marvel. (The Clone Saga killed Spidey for me, and Cable and general X-Crap had driven me out of that corner of the 'Verse, but I was still hanging in there with post-Return mainline Heroes books.)
He has no character voicing at all; I remember reading someone else's copy of Secret Invasion where a character is narrating (in flashback) the death of the Wasp, and I literally couldn't tell who it was supposed to be. (I think it turned out to be Luke Cage.)
He has no respect for characterization; kill-crazy Hawkeye? Are you Fucking Kidding me???
And he pisses all over continuity any chance he gets. This one retcon alone makes for about 100 continuity errors before 1975, I'd guess. I mean, the whole Avengers/Defenders War is a joke if Tony and Strange are secret buddies, and how would the X-Men be allowed to drop off the grid for the Secret Empire stories, and Namor is going to muck about in Reed's marriage exactly why and so on and so forth…
Just incredibly offensive and stupid. Right up there with Cap being an utter asshole while "recruiting" Spidey for the Avengers, but about 1000x worse. If Bendis got run over by a truck I would mourn the damage to the wheels. (And yes, I know Quesada bears possibly even more responsibility, but still.)
Posted by: Dan Spector | September 3, 2016 7:01 PM
Bendis and Brubaker's Daredevil, Cap, Illuminati, etc. are what brought me back to Marvel after a long hiatus. I jumped off again after Secret Invasion (which I thought was both super-derivative and super-exploitative as an "event") and have gotten back in again the past few years. Bendis has a worse quality-ratio these days, but I still read a few of his titles.
In a way, Illuminati and such were designed for fans like me... who knew lots of little intricate details about decades-old continuity, but also far-enough removed to accept flashbacks and retcons that put past stories in broad strokes, while updating and modernizing the characters' timelines. I'm mostly fine with that - not everyone can be Mark Waid. I was drawn in by the concepts and dialogue.
Posted by: cullen | September 3, 2016 9:43 PM
Were the Skrulls ever this religious before Bendis came along?
Posted by: D09 | December 16, 2016 4:32 PM
@DO9: I believe that the only pre-Bendis reference to any Skrull religion occurred in the 1991 Fantastic Four Annual #24 when a troubled Super-Skrull visited the temple of the Skrull war-god, Sl'gur't. The giant statue of Sl'gur't, with its seven arms and three heads, was impressively non-humanoid.
Posted by: Don Campbell | December 16, 2016 7:21 PM
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