Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness introduced audiences to a popular Marvel Comics team, the Illuminati, with their defeat of Thanos on Earth-838 completely undermining the fate of the team members. The Illuminati were happened upon by Stephen Strange and America Chavez during their exploration of the multiverse. The group hadn’t been hinted at prior to this point, with their inclusion being made possible due to the multiversal aspect of MCU’s Phase 4, which also ties into their defeat of Thanos and their unfortunate fates.
During Doctor Strange 2, Chavez and Strange are stranded in an alternate universe and decide to find that universe’s Doctor Strange to help them return home and defeat Wanda. In doing so, the duo comes across a different version of the MCU’s Karl Mordo, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-838. Mordo, believing Strange and Chavez are a threat to the multiverse, captures the two and brings them before the Doctor Strange 2 Illuminati.
In Marvel comics, the Illuminati is a secret society of superheroes, consisting of some of the world’s most integral figures. The Illuminati of Earth-838 consists of Karl Mordo, Captain Peggy Carter, Captain Marvel (Maria Rambeau), Black Bolt, Reed Richards, and Professor Charles Xavier. This team is introduced as the main superhero team of Earth-838, presenting a notable difference from the MCU’s prime universe, Earth-616. It is revealed during a flashback of the Illuminati’s adventures before Doctor Strange 2 that they were the ones to defeat Thanos on Earth-838, not the Avengers like in Avengers: Endgame on Earth-616. This defeat of Thanos is no small feat – though, unfortunately, it is later undermined by the fate of the group.
What Happened To Earth-838’s Thanos Explained
Stephen Strange of Earth-838 founded the Illuminati shown in Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness in order to protect the world from major universal threats, and make necessary decisions that others may not have been able to make, either due to government legislation or personal limitations. After doing this, Thanos began his conquest of the galaxy, attempting to round up the Infinity Stones like Thanos of Earth-616. The Illuminati then opposed Thanos, and Doctor Strange began using the Darkhold to search for ways to defeat Thanos using dream-walking. In doing so, Strange caused an incursion with another universe, destroying the entire reality. The rest of the Illuminati, however, found another way to defeat the Mad Titan. The Illuminati searched for the Book of Vishanti, a book that bestows its user with whatever ability they require to defeat their enemies. Upon finding the book, the Illuminati used its power to defeat Thanos once and for all. Following this, the Strange of Earth-838 was willingly sacrificed due to his corruption at the hands of the Darkhold and his incursion on other realities, with Black Bolt killing Strange. With Thanos defeated and Strange dead, Mordo became the next Sorcerer Supreme and member of the Illuminati.
Doctor Strange 2 Made The Illuminati Look Too Weak
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, unfortunately, presented this society in a way that made them seem weak despite their defeat of Thanos. As shown in the MCU up to this point, Thanos is the biggest villain the Avengers have ever had to face, causing loss of life on an untold scale both before and during Avengers: Endgame. Because of this, the Illuminati’s defeat of Earth-838’s Thanos is incredibly impressive, combined with the fact there are only six members as opposed to the many Avengers of Earth-616 who worked together to defeat Thanos. Despite this feat, Doctor Strange 2 goes on to show the Illuminati to be weak as a whole when coming up against Wanda. Given Scarlet Witch is confirmed to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe, the Illuminati’s defeat at Wanda’s hands was inevitable. However, given this team’s defeat of Thanos, it would have made more sense to show them putting up a good fight against Wanda. Only Captain Carter and Captain Marvel last very long during the fight, and even then they rarely troubled the Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange 2. It would have made the Illuminati look all the more competent as a team to have them fight Wanda together, with the film instead opting to make them look almost comically weak against Wanda’s power.
Why Both The Avengers And Illuminati Would Make More Sense In 838
The way of avoiding this issue involves including two different teams on Earth-838, both the Illuminati and the Avengers. In the comics, the Illuminati is created to be a secret society, operating behind the scenes of their world. They were formed to be an information-based group, using their intellect and combined information of different facets of the superhero world to overcome threats. Due to this, the Illuminati were never shown to be frontline fighters overall, despite some individual members being incredibly powerful like Iron Man or Black Panther in the comics. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness though, the Illuminati are presented as more of an Avengers-like group due to their defeat of Thanos. It would have been more comic-accurate to have made the Illuminati more of a think-tank group, using their combined intellect to protect the world.
Also, given the Illuminati members, an Earth-838 Avengers would have made sense. The inclusion of Professor X, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt indicate that mutants, the Fantastic Four, and Inhumans all exist on Earth-838, groups that haven’t yet been included on Earth-616. This means that there are likely a lot more superheroes on this Earth-838 as a whole, giving more credence to the idea of an Avengers team as well as the Illuminati team’s members. Both Captain Carter and Captain Marvel are said to be linked to the Avengers, meaning the lack of focus on them is even more illogical.
Earth-838’s Avengers Would Make Illuminati’s Defeat To Wanda More Satisfying
Including both superhero teams would have meant that the defeat of Thanos by the Illuminati wasn’t undermined by their defeat to Wanda. For example, if the Avengers were shown to exist on Earth-838, it would likely have been them who defeated Thanos much like the Avengers of Earth-616. This ties into other points, making the Avengers a more viable defense team and the Illuminati the secret intelligence society of varied superhero members that the comics created. If this was the case in Doctor Strange 2, it would make sense as to why the Illuminati would deal with a less aggressive threat in Doctor Strange and Chavez as opposed to the Avengers, and therefore be unable to deal with the overly-powerful danger of Wanda when she came looking for Chavez. Not only would the Illuminati then be more like their comic-book counterparts, by having the Avengers deal with issues like Thanos, but it would’ve made Wanda’s defeat of them with such ease make more sense.
The way Wanda defeated the Illuminati in the film was made less impactful by showing they had defeated Thanos personally. While Wanda is a much more powerful being than Thanos, it isn’t folly to think they would at least put up a better fight against Wanda than what was shown in the film. However, if the Avengers were shown to be the brawn of Earth-838, and the Illuminati the brain, their overwhelming loss at the hands of the villainous Scarlet Witch would be made all the more satisfying.
Despite this, the Illuminati being included in the MCU, albeit in another universe, is incredibly exciting. With long-anticipated fan castings like John Krasinski as Reed Richards, and the returns of Patrick Stewart and Anson Mount as Professor X and Black Bolt respectively, the Illuminati has provided audiences with a lot of the story-based fan service that was present in Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, if the Illuminati of other universes is going to be explored in the future of the MCU, it would serve Marvel Studios well to avoid the contradictions of the team’s power and intelligence that was shown in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
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