What’s Next for the Illuminati, Fantastic Four, and X-Men After ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?’

This is a major spoiler alert for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.“Illuminati” means a lot of things to many people, but the idea remains the same across its myriad uses. Somewhere, some small group of influential people is responsible for determining the outcome of global events, and the rest of us are left to live with their decisions. While this is (likely) false in the real world, that’s not the case in the world of Marvel comics, where the Illuminati is a narrative reality. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the group’s existence is now a critical part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.In Madness, viewers are introduced to what is (likely) just the first version of the Illuminati when Strange travels to an alternate reality in a scene that has several momentous reveals. The group consists of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor, reprising his role from the first Doctor Strange film), Black Bolt (Anson Mount)—and then that’s where things get interesting.This world’s Captain Carter and Captain Marvel are played by Hayley Atwell and Lashana Lynch, reprising roles they played in past MCU films in a totally different context, going from sidekicks to Captain America and Captain Marvel to assuming the mantles themselves. Then there’s Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, played by John Krasinski— our first glimpse at the MCU’s take on the Fantastic Four. A standalone FF film is forthcoming but until now, no casting had been announced. Rounding out the group is Patrick Stewart returning as Professor X from the series of early aughts X-Men films that pre-dated the MCU, in a hoverchair that harkens back to the beloved 90s animated series at that. It’s a lot of Easter Eggs and potentially impactful surprises in one fell swoop.The appearances of the Illuminati, members of the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and the mention of an incursion set up some big arcs for the future of the MCU. Let’s break it all down.Illuminati’s Origin Story. The Illuminati were introduced by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Steve McNiven, making their debut in 2005’s New Avengers #7 before being expanded upon in a dedicated Illuminati mini-series in 2006. Bendis’ story involves Tony Stark secretly bringing together various super-powered leaders all representing different fields, regions, or teams to make proactive decisions to protect Earth. The original group consisted of Namor (ocean), Stark (Avengers), Reed Richards (science), Black Bolt (Inhumans), Doctor Strange (mystical arts), and Professor X (mutants). Bendis retroactively placed the Illuminati at the scene of many key inflection points through Marvel’s history, positioning the group as critically influential behind the scenes of many comic book crossover events.Familiar Faces. After much anticipation, both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men have entered the MCU. The rights to both groups of characters lived at Fox and thus prevented the Disney-owned Marvel from ever incorporating them into the MCU—until Disney’s purchase of Fox in 2019. The idea of the multiverse seemed like a good place to debut these characters but the initial announcement of a Fantastic Four movie made it seem like Marvel would hold off until later.