Marvel could be building toward the introduction of the Illuminati in Phase 4. In the comic books, the Illuminati were a group of well-known Marvel heroes who arranged secret meetings with each other to discuss preemptive measures against possible threats. For a long time, most of the Avengers, the X-Men, and more were oblivious to their existence.
Based on the concept of a group of powerful people secretly shaping the world’s future, Marvel’s Illuminati was comprised of characters from various corners of the Marvel Universe. Among the characters who have served as Illuminati members are Iron Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Professor X, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Black Panther, and Mr. Fantastic. A retcon in the mid-2000s revealed that they were acting behind the scenes during some of Marvel’s biggest conflicts. They’re also the ones who launched “World War Hulk” when they shot Hulk into space.
The MCU lost someone who could have been one of the Illuminati’s central figures when it killed off Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, but that doesn’t take them off the table for Phase 4. In fact, Marvel is reportedly developing an Illuminati project. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the Illuminati do feel like a team Marvel is working up to in Phase 4. Marvel has some of the characters they would need to make it happen, and more could soon be introduced. Not only that, but events that have already occurred (and will occur in the future) give these heroes plenty of reasons to form the MCU’s Illuminati. If the team is founded in an upcoming movie or show, here’s what their lineup could look like after Phase 4 ends.
Nick Fury wasn’t in the Illuminati in the comics, but his MCU counterpart could end up having a leading role in bringing the group together, especially since Iron Man isn’t in the picture anymore. It could be that Samuel L. Jackson’s character will start reaching out to other prominent MCU figures ahead of his Secret Invasion show on Disney+. If Fury really is aware of a Skrull plot to infiltrate (and take over the Earth) it would make perfect sense for Fury to go further than just using SWORD to root them out. His best bet is to make contact with other people in positions of power and influence and get them to take an active interest in preventing a Skrull invasion. Once that’s over, Fury and the other Illuminati members may elect to meet regularly, since other threats could follow it.
The MCU and comic book versions of the Illuminati could share Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a character whose status as the Master of the Mystic Arts would make him an obvious candidate for the roster. With everything they’ve already faced (and with both Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness coming up), it would be a good idea for him to be recruited. People like Nick Fury should understand by now that the Earth has to be prepared for magical and interdimensional threats, not just aliens. That’s why it seems important that the Sorcerer Supreme be included in their inner circle.
An Illuminati team in the MCU needs an experienced scientist with a genius intellect. As previously mentioned, Tony Stark is unavailable, but they may not necessarily be a problem. An equally good – if not better – choice to provide much-needed scientific input is Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). As the inventor of Pym Particles, he’s easily one of the brightest minds in the MCU, and certainly someone who would have a lot to contribute, due to his wealth of scientific knowledge, experience with SHIELD, and past career as a superhero. He could appear in Secret Invasion as an ally to Nick Fury, and have his role in the Illuminati expanded on in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
It’s possible that he would be picked over Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), especially if there are any lingering concerns about the Hulk. Banner also may not be the type who would want to keep such a big secret from his fellow superheroes, but Hank Pym could have fewer reservations about that. And, Marvel may simply not want Banner to be involved with the Illuminati; doing so could interfere with any potential plans for the Illuminati to send him into space for a “World War Hulk” story.
Namor the Sub-Mariner is heavily rumored to be the main villain of Black Panther 2. Even if that’s the case, the King of Atlantis may not be portrayed as a truly evil character. Like the character from the comics, the MCU’s Namor could be more of an anti-hero, whose main goal is to protect Atlantis. If he does appear in Black Panther 2 (and survives the movie), he could be recruited by the Illuminati in a post-credits scene or in a future project with the promise of being able to advance Atlantean interests. In Marvel Comics, Namor was willing to work alongside humans in the Illuminati because he was wise enough to understand that despite their differences, there would be times when cooperation would be essential to their survival. Namor joining the Illuminati at the end of Black Panther 2 could open the door for him to become an ally in future battles, such as the one that may be coming with Kang the Conqueror.
The Inhumans could be represented in the Illuminati by their king, Black Bolt. Since ABC’s Inhumans TV show was a colossal failure, fans shouldn’t look for Marvel to revisit its story, but the multiverse makes it possible for Marvel to reboot them and ignore the show. After all, it could be that Inhumans took place in an alternate reality. Marvel could introduce new versions of the Inhuman Royal Family. That may be the plan anyway, considering that Inhumans are about to be used in a Disney+ show. Ms. Marvel’s main protagonist is a member of the Inhumans in MCU. It may be that in the show, she’ll discover the existence of the Inhuman Royal Family and seek them out. This development could set up Black Bolt being revealed as an Illuminati member.
The Illuminati could pick up an additional member after Marvel releases its Fantastic Four movie, which could be its final Phase 4 film. Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic was a driving force behind a lot of the decision-making that went on during the Illuminati’s meetings in the comics, and given how important Marvel’s First Family are in the Marvel Universe, it should be expected for the MCU to look for ways to insert them into its own wide-reaching narratives as well. Plus, it may be that one of the threats the Illuminati will face will come directly from the Fantastic Four’s own rogues’ gallery. Doctor Doom and Annihilus are both villains who could be responsible for a future MCU crossover. If so, the Fantastic Four could be integral to the story. Marvel putting one of its four team members in the Illuminati would be one way of creating a connection between them and the other major MCU players ahead of a massive team-up.