Characters Appearing: Beyonder, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, Sub-Mariner
New Avengers: Illuminati #3
Issue(s): New Avengers: Illuminati #3
The first change offered to us is the idea that the Beyonder is not really an all-powerful cosmic god. He's really a mutant Inhuman who got super-charged when he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists.
We already had the Kosmos retcon, so i'm not sure what this really adds.
The second change is larger in scope. It seems to suggest that the entirety of Secret Wars II actually took place on the asteroid Ceres.
The Illuminati arrive there during the scene where the Beyonder has turned a building to gold.
Superficially, the Beyonder has the wrong hair and clothing style at this time; his body was an unmodified clone of Steve Rogers when this scene originally occurred.
More critically, it's pretty much impossible to suggest that all of Secret Wars II was actually an illusionary play set up by the Beyonder on an asteroid. There's too many actual and permanent affects that came out of the Beyonder's visit; Rick Jones' cancer cure comes to mind and smaller things like Spider-Man's dilemma regarding the gold notebook, or the rescue of Talisman from Shaman's medicine bag, would at least have to be explained somehow, not to mention the fact that many events that must have occurred happened in the same issues (i.e., something non-Secret Wars II related that happened in a Secret Wars II tie-in issue) that are being wiped out with this. It's one thing to say that the Beyonder wasn't truly ominipotent, or that the events might not have occurred exactly as we remembered them, but to write the whole thing off as an imaginary story that most characters didn't actually participate in would be destructive to a lot of stories.
This is really a bewildering issue. I'm on board with the Illuminati concept, and would have loved to see, for example, a clandestine meeting between Professor X and Mr. Fantastic during Secret Wars I. But i really don't get the point of this.
On the plus side, i am a fan of Bendis' dialogue and his handling of Namor in this series, and i'm not disappointed here (i know that some people don't like the idea that Richards and Stark are not 100% altruistic, but i actually approve of that).
Cheung's art is great at depicting wild pin-up scenes, like the depiction of the asteroid or the Secret Wars I flashback...
...but less so with the "people standing around talking stuff" which is unfortunately a lot of what this series is about. And i guess he was told to just draw whatever he wanted regardless of how it would have fit into the (fake) SWII continuity, so we get a Hulk attack even though he was in another dimension at the time, and a scene with Galactus wandering around in the background prior to the Beyonder having faced off against Galactus in the series.
During this issue, the Beyonder offers the Illuminati "all you desire", just like his offer at the beginning of the first Secret Wars. Reed is reacting to the Sub-Mariner's fantasy in the second Namor image above, and for Dr. Strange, we see him in bed with both Clea and the Scarlet Witch.
If Strange had an attraction to Wanda, he's shown remarkable restraint, because there's really no support for that in any comics prior to this.
I've seen complaints online (see Wikipedia, for example) that there's reference to Tony Stark having been involved in Secret Wars I during this issue, but i don't actually see it. There's enough wrong about this issue already; no need to make up more stuff!
My take on this, in order to make it as harmless as possible, is to assume that it takes place during Secret Wars II, after a time when the Beyonder has removed everyone's memories that he existed (so that Mr. Fantastic and Xavier can react to seeing him for the first time since Secret Wars I even though by the time depicted in this issue they had both already encountered him). And all the stuff with the Beyonder as a mutant Inhuman is just the Beyonder's way of experimenting with the Illuminati. The scene on the asteroid is just the Beyonder replaying some scenes that were of particular interest or were difficult for him to grok or whatever. And just to clean things up, we'll assume that the Beyonder resets the Illuminati's memories back to whatever they were prior to this issue. This interpretation pretty much makes this issue pointless, but i don't really know what else to do with it.
For what it's worth, my Quality and Historical Significance ratings are even more random than usual. As i mentioned, i actually like Cheung's art and the character interactions in this issue, but that can't possibly make up for such a weird and poorly thought out attempt at a retcon. And based on my interpretation of events, any Historical Significance for this issue is essentially negated.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: By design, we don't have to take any of the Beyonder's new origin at face value; it's based entirely upon a suspicious mindflash that Professor X receives, and Blackbolt is unable to confirm it. The Beyonder is wearing his Michael Jackson hair, theoretically placing this after Secret Wars II #3, and also after he turned the building to gold in Secret Wars II #2, which actually happened prior to his hair style change. Since he is the Beyonder, it's really not impossible for things to take place out of chronological order; this whole issue could really take place prior to Secret Wars II #1, with the Beyonder having traveled back in time. That would be an alternate explanation for why the Illuminati don't remember having interacted with him yet. But to avoid time travel, we use the event where the Beyonder wipes the memories of the entire planet at the end of SWII #3, after taking over and then releasing control of the world, and say that the memory wipe affected the recent memories of the Illuminati beyond just the world conquest. It's said that Mr. Fantastic hasn't spoken to Tony Stark for a while now; presumably since Stark's second battle with alcoholism. Based on my placement, Stark would have been recovered by now (in fact, by Secret Wars II #1 he was recovered) but that wouldn't necessarily mean he'd have reached out to Reed or the Illuminati right away.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
I can't believe that you didn't mention that Xavier was in a wheelchair. Have you finally accepted that it has nothing to do with Uncanny X-Men 192?
Posted by: Michael | May 23, 2012 10:36 PM
I've decided to not pursue my wheelchair agenda for the time being. ;-)
For Xavier's appearance, i guess he recovered enough to appear here (perhaps his troubled mind was temporarily soothed by the Beyonder's mindwipe), but not so much that he could go without the chair.
As for asking for a cure, the Illuminati were pretty adamant about refusing help from the Beyonder. The Beyonder offered to help Black Bolt control the volume of his voice, and they responded by shouting about not disturbing the natural order of things. I would have loved to have seen Black Bolt's thought bubbles during that scene: "Uh, guys, maybe that would be ok...?".
Posted by: fnord12 | May 24, 2012 3:15 PM
In Dr Strange's defense,who wouldn't include the scarlet witch in their threesome fantasies.
this series just looks like what's wrong with modern comics. Some modern writer decides that he didnt like some series that most of us had forgotten about. rather than just not refer to it, he goes out and tries to "fix" it by retconning it out of existence. of course, shoddy research results in the story creating more problems than if they had never bothered to begin with.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | May 25, 2012 7:35 AM
I considered buying this book at the time. Glad I didn't.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 24, 2012 2:06 AM
Interestingly, when Robert Shea and Robert Anthony Wilson did their Illuminatus trilogy in the early 1970s, it contained several disguised Marvel characters.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 31, 2013 5:34 PM
I suffered through Avengrrs Disassembled and the opening of New Avengers, but this was the issue that completely convinced me that Bendis should be kept away from 616 with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 4, 2014 6:28 PM
Just putting this out there:
I haven't read (the latest) New Avengers #32, but the part about not reading this issue carefully enough is somewhere between interesting and frustrating. I feel like i've been over this issue as much as my little brain can handle, and no one else has come along to say "Wait a minute, you've got it all wrong!" either.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 28, 2015 1:25 PM
Fnord, the point is that in New Avengers 30, Pym is explaining the relationship between the Beyonder and the Beyonders and he says that the Beyonder was a "child unit". That would seem to contradict the "mutant Inhuman" retcon this issue.
Posted by: Michael | March 28, 2015 1:55 PM
Yeah, i picked up on that from the this and other questioners. But it's Brevoort's response that is interesting/weird. He's saying that there isn't a contradiction (i think). The only thing i can think is basically what i'd already decided here; that we should just assume that the Beyonder wasn't telling the truth in this issue.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 28, 2015 3:29 PM
So ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA has been declared outside of continuity because of a couple of minor contradictions (really just additions) to Captain America's origin and this piece of shit gets a pass? There are enough contradictions in just three panels to write this off as a petty WHAT IF...? story.
Posted by: JP | May 31, 2015 1:34 PM
fnord, I know you never want to talk about the grades again but you put them out there so you're going to get comments on them (and if your defense is just "They're arbitrary anyway." then what's the point of doing them?). This lazy, ridiculous, petty, and incredibly self-indulgent jab at past creators, which invents character connections that are not only unsupported but flat-out contradicted by past stories ("Hee hee! Doctor Strange wants to nail Scarlet Witch! It makes sense 'cause she's uhh... magic!"), and completely shits on continuity (the preservation of which this entire site is dedicated to) gets the same grade as the first ten issues of FANTASTIC FOUR? Belabored, faux-"hip" dialogue is enough to make this of equal merit to the work of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee?
Posted by: JP | May 31, 2015 2:02 PM
JP, not sure if you actually wanted a response or if you just wanted to get this off your chest. :-)
You don't like the criteria for my grades and you don't like how i applied them here. That's fine and between the comments and the Reader Rating gadget you have the ability to disagree.
I try to separate out my geek continuity concerns when i think about the Quality Rating. I generally like Bendis' dialogue and think sometimes it reads very natural and it's often very amusing, and sometimes it falls flat and everyone has the same snarky voice, but of course it's just my opinion. Generally speaking, i think a modern reader, and even a reader 10 years from now, will find this a lot more accessible and natural than the Silver Age stuff. Stan Lee and his collaborators were still fighting to elevate comics out of kiddie fare; it really wasn't possible for them to write natural adult dialogue given the market circumstances and the grades aren't a reflection of their abilities so much as where we were at that point in time. The point of the Quality Rating, which is actually a minor part of my project, is to track the way comics "grow to adulthood" as much as it is anything else. It's a path that Stan Lee (among others) is responsible for putting us down, but he couldn't take us there all in one step. Another interesting thing is how often there's an inverse relationship between readability/accessibility and good use of continuity. You seem familiar with all this criteria and i'm rehashing things i've already said on the sidebar and elsewhere, and i don't really want to get into it any further. And i gave this issue a C-; it's not like i gave it an A. I agree with the gist of your criticism of this issue quite a bit.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 31, 2015 3:18 PM
@ JP: "a script for the new STAR TREK film, a commentary on an older story concocted by people who have never seen that story, but only heard jokes about it."
I hope you don't mind if I steal that line for a future review of both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 1, 2015 2:54 PM
Feel free, Erik! :-)
Posted by: JP | June 1, 2015 3:14 PM
Fnord, Hickman discusses this issue in an interview:
Posted by: Michael | June 21, 2015 9:02 AM
Thanks, Michael. This is basically what we've had to rule for this issue anyway, so it's good that Marvel isn't trying to go with a different interpretation. It does really make you wonder what the point of the story was, though. "Here's a bunch of stuff that's wrong!"
Posted by: fnord12 | June 21, 2015 11:15 AM
So a retcon of a retcon then?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | June 21, 2015 11:24 AM
Whatever your thoughts on this issue, it seems like there's a fundamental flaw in the Illuminati concept that no story can escape: it requires both that all these characters are doing clandestine stuff, but also means that none of their clandestine work can actually make much of a difference in the end. This is a group that seems to fundamentally fail at its core goal without ever noticing that they constantly fail.
Hickman pretty much devoted his New Avengers series to pointing out how self-destriuctively arrogant the Illuminati were; not only do all their "tough decisions" and the sacrifice of their personal moralities have absolutely no effect, it's made fairly clear that by keeping the crisis secret from the rest of the world "for its own good" for so long they ensured that no one else could come up with something in time to make a real difference.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 13, 2015 5:09 PM
That, and they aren't very good at the clandestine stuff to begin with. If they just shared information with each other and passed it on to their respective teams, how many 'misunderstanding fights' would have been avoided which waste time, waste energy, put people in danger (not to mention the people doing the fighting) and usually gives the villain more time to implement his scheme? "Has Spider-Man ever actually committed a crime outside of the vigilantism, assault and property destruction all the rest of us commit? Then why do we keep assuming he's with the bad guys? I'll tell all the X-Men, Tony, you put it out to all the Avengers..."
And that's just the basic concept of clandestine collaboration. Xavier, Reed, Tony and Namor have all either served in the military or have a great deal of familiarity with military commands, where multiple organizations have similar or overlapping missions with varying levels of secrecy - a 'need to know' - and multiple organizations have completely unrelated missions, again with varying levels of secrecy. All of these organizations have be coordinated by the highest leaders so that they function effectively to accomplish the mission, and isn't that what these guys are doing in the first place?
Stark can start producing miniature versions of many gadgets Reed invented, they can both incorporate Atlantean technology and whatever the Inhumans have to offer, and see if they can start incorporating magic, since Dr. Strange is living proof that magic exists into any of their new inventions. These inventions could be exclusively for the Illuminati, or for certain members on their teams, given to every superhero that passes their judgment [Spider-Man, again] mass-produced for law-enforcement officers...
Then there's the obvious personal connections. With all the spells he's cast over his long career, is there really any reason to think Dr. Strange couldn't cure the Hulk, or at least make Banner's transformation purely voluntary? Wouldn't somebody at least ask?
The X-Men plotlines alone suggest tons of options. Stark giving Xavier the Image Inducer. Storm losing her powers. Kitty broke into the Baxter Building to steal stuff and damaged the robot guard. At the very least that deserves an apology, never mind the chance of connecting her to other geniuses. And then there's Illyana. "Stephen, I know I keep asking this, but can you please talk to her, work with her, see if anything is going on which might turn the Earth into a living hell any time in the future?"
Obviously this would have all changed the Marvel Universe radically, but I could accept the concept if it had been in place all along and only after it was revealed did we look back and see 'oh yeah, they were working together in secret.'
Posted by: ChrisW | October 14, 2015 6:47 PM
Regarding Illyana, we got a lame attempt at explanation as to why Strange couldn't help in X-Men 191- Strange claimed that what Illyana really needed was enlightenment and growth of spirit to prevent her darkside from taking over, not some quick magical cure.
Posted by: Michael | October 16, 2015 8:00 AM
In any event, it's Dr. Strange himself who's the Hulk's long-time teammate. The Illuminati concept doesn't even come into play.
The paragraph about Illuminati members' military experience made me chuckle, though. Why, these guys should be great at coordination and avoiding stupid fights, they have the military of the Marvel universe as their example!
Posted by: Mortificator | October 16, 2015 1:54 PM
A military which is capable of creating gamma bombs, super-soldier serum, a helicarrier... You don't get that level of organization without some sort of competence at leadership.
Michael, that's my point. The idea that Xavier and Strange have been working together secretly all along undermines one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite X-Men stories, that Xavier cared enough about his students enough to grab a random opportunity to ask Stephen for help with her problems, even when it really didn't have anything to do with the story. Illyana's a New Mutant, why are they talking about her at the end of an "X-Men" story which stars the Avengers, Dr. Strange and Spider-Man? Because Xavier cares, dammit!
But if they work together on a regular basis, if they're anything like the 'heroes' they're supposed to be, Illyana would have been a topic of conversation early on. "Her thoughts are protected by an extraordinarily powerful psionic shield, which only appeared after she was held prisoner by Belasco for seven years. Stephen, you ever heard of that guy?" Yeah, I'm pretty sure Stephen's heard of that guy.
Or Doc asking "Charles, how's Illyana? Still getting that enlightenment and growth from the ones who love her?" And if they're working together regularly, they would talk about it every so often. At least "X-Men" #191 was just a chance meeting between the two, at the time. Now it just shows how incompetent the Illuminati really are.
As for curing Banner, I know the usual explanation, but look at all the other spells Dr. Strange has cast (including "X-Men" #191, turning back time itself) and look at all the other forms of mind-wiping Xavier and other telepaths have committed. Ridding the world of the menace of the Hulk would be a very good thing, so why not put some effort into it?
I like your point about curing everybody's 'daddy' issues, but at least that can be filed under 'why doesn't Reed Richards cure cancer?' as something that even superhero comics can't do. Banner himself, and the Hulk, are a serious problem that they could at least try to solve once and for all. Or just pen him up in a prison dimension (like Superman's Phantom Zone) that would do nothing but piss him off so that when they need a rampaging monster to send against the Skrulls or HYDRA or whoever, aim him, release him and be ready to exploit the results. If they're heroes who care about every individual life, they'd work to help Banner. If they're the Illuminati who run things, they won't care about every individual life.
As an aside, that's one of the things I liked most about "Avengers 2," that not only did they do everything they could to save each individual life (unlike the first movie) but Banner himself worked with Stark to create a defense against a rampaging Hulk, which turned out to be needed.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 16, 2015 6:48 PM
Heck, what did the X-Men do almost immediately after #191? Invade NORAD to save Banshee. If only one of them knew someone who could, you know, help them get entry to a military installation. Or just put them in a position where an Image Inducer would be useful. Heck, who on the Illuminati couldn't have benefited from an Image Inducer at one time or another? How many other superheroes could have benefited from an Image Inducer? It would sure help secret identities and costume changes, not to mention sneaking around, confusing the villains...
Posted by: ChrisW | October 17, 2015 8:11 PM
fnord, I don't know if this affects how you do things, but the SECRET WARS Handbook by Marvel says this happens quite a bit earlier; in fact, it says it happens *before* Beyonder turns the building to gold! It says Beyonder was looking into his future a little bit.
I don't think that makes sense, because at that point he was still in his "look exactly like Steve Rogers phase," but in this story he's clearly in his iconic dark-haired look.
Also, it says Beyonder pulled the whole "mutant Inhuman" idea from Black Bolt's mind and went along with it, just to get the Illuminati out of his hair (whatever color it was). Again, this causes problems for me, because at this point in his growth it seems like he barely even comprehended the concept of lying and falsehoods.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 16, 2016 9:20 PM
Thanks Thanos6. I did mention a similar possibility in the Considerations as an alternate. You note some problems with that idea, though, and i think ultimately it doesn't matter much because no matter what we're saying that what was revealed here wasn't true and that the characters have to have been mind-wiped before and/or after this encounter, and basically the whole thing is a wash. So i might as well leave it where i've got it. But it is telling that even the Marvel handbook basically had to hand-wave the story.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 17, 2016 3:34 PM
Also, I was wondering about the significance of the very last page, when the Beyonder returns to (Time Square?) New York, after he wipes out the simulacra in the asteroid field.
That suggested to me that the retcon was not really a retcon, but the Beyonder trolling the illuminati. But that might be giving the character too much credit. :-P
Posted by: Oroboros | August 8, 2016 11:59 PM
Comments are now closed.
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