Continuing the plot recap of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers runs leading up to the new Secret Wars, if for no other reason than to please Jimmy.
As before, SPOILERS behind the cut.
Infinity epilogue for the Illuminati
Following the defeat of both Thanos and the Builders, there are a few consequences for the Illuminati.
Black Panther’s sister Suri comes to the Necropolis demanding answers, specifically on why Wakandan enemy Namor has been seen in T’Challa’s company and what he’s been doing there. When T’Challa refuses to answer, he is exiled from the rest of Wakanda.
Maximus is now hanging around with his brother Black Bolt.
Dr. Strange is starting to feel as if he isn’t pulling his weight amongst all the scientists, and considering what Ebony Maw did to him, he’s going to go out and seek more power.
And Black Swan is outright giddy when she hears about the Builders’ defeat, because to her, the Builders just aren’t that impressive. She wonders what the Illuminati will do when confronted by the Black Priests, the Mapmakers, or the Mapmakers’ masters, the Ivory Kings. The Builders may be multi-dimensional, but they’re a minor threat. While Reed Richards insists there is always a solution, she laughs and repeats the New Avenger series tagline: “Everything dies.”
To learn more about the other threats, the Illuminati build something Reed had built once before. He called it a bridge. It will allow them to view other Earths at the time of an Incursion and see other threats that have or will occur.
Meanwhile, the main Avengers team meets an Iron Man from the future. This time-traveler tells them there’s a rogue planet sent from the future through time and space on a collision course with the Earth. The long and the short of it is the Avengers manage to cause the rogue planet to merge with the Earth on the same space-time location. It’s complicated. What’s important for our purposes is Tony, once alone with the future Iron Man, learns future Iron Man is actually a woman named Rhodey Stark, and she calls him grandfather.
Rhodey tells Tony that the merged planet will be a much needed power source for what he has to do, and the Illuminati will not be moving in secret much longer.
Other Incursion Threats
With the new bridge, most of the Illuminati are witnesses to the destruction of other Earths.
On Earth-23099, the Illuminati of that world are two Black Panthers, T’Challa and Suri, Captain Mar-vell, Black Bolt, Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor X, and Magneto. Reed is giving the “Everything dies” speech. There’s an Incursion on their Attilan, under the rule of Maximus. The Illuminati go to investigate and meet the Black Priests. The Priests prove to be largely immune to Black Bolt’s voice and the Power Cosmic. They have a hive mind that makes them resistant to Xavier’s telepathy. And then they utter a word and wipe the Illuminati out completely before destroying the Earth. They also sense they’re being watched from Earth-616 but do nothing about that.
On Earth-2319, the Illuminati are two Captain Britains, Brian and Betsy, Emma Frost, Yellowjacket, Black Panther, Iron Man, Reed Richards, and Dr. Doom. That Reed again gives the “Everything dies” speech. An Incursion occurs on Magneto’s mutant kingdom. This time it’s Mapmakers. Seeing as they’ll have plenty of mutant back-up, the Illuminati move in to help out. The battle initially goes well against the Mapmaker drones, but then the leaders show up and do…something…that causes every mutant in the battle to instantly fall away dead. They then mop up the rest of the Illuminati. Doom alone defeats one before dying. The Mapmakers then destroy that Earth and move on, having “mapped” it for their lords the Ivory Kings.
The 616 Illuminati observe all this, with one noteworthy exception. Dr. Strange is missing. He’s gone to a demonic soul market in an attempt to sell his soul for more power. He is rejected since apparently his soul is too ugly a thing for the demons to want to buy. He doesn’t really own a whole soul, it seems. He gets nothing, though technically readers didn’t learn that for a few more months.
The Original Avengers Return?
Meanwhile, AIM has been experimenting in the space between dead universes. They grab a team that looks like the original Avengers line-up, plus Captain America, in their original looks. This team came from a world that had just been destroyed by an Incursion. These Avengers seem…wrong. How wrong?
Their Thor is actually named “Thorr”. He’s rather violent, and his hammer says you must be UNWORTHY to weld that power. Their Cap goes by the name General Rogers. Their Iron Man is actually a Jarvis who killed Tony and Howard Stark to get the suit. His Tony was still a kid. Their Hulk is a lobotomized sociopath the other Avengers basically work by remote control. I don’t know what was up with their Wasp and Ant-Man, but it probably wasn’t good. These Avengers don’t see enough kneeling going on in Manhattan and attack the crowd. Their Ant-Man is then killed by…well, it seems AIM took all that DNA they took from the downed Avengers that lost to the bio-pod robot and injected it into some explorer Super-Adaptoids. Six of them attack the other Avengers. Two are destroyed. One kills their Ant-Man and their Hulk’s remote gets destroyed. That Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner and wanders off to Avengers Tower, where he finds the 616 Banner in his hiding place.
Meanwhile, the 616 Avengers get called in by S.H.I.E.L.D. to deal with their bad counterparts. It seems to be going well, what with Thorr losing his hammer to Thor and Hyperion, when the whole group gets attacked by the Hulk, presumably the bad Avengers’ Hulk. The militant bad-Avengers hustle back to AIM island where the AIM scientists have found a new Earth for these Avengers, who all leave…as we are told later by 616 Bruce Banner.
See, Banner’s double got to talking and told Bruce he couldn’t get angry without the remote, but he really was an awful person anyway who will deserve whatever happens to him in the next sentence. Unable to Hulk out on his own, 616 Banner easily knocked him out and impersonated him on the battlefield. He then followed those Avengers back to AIM Island and learned about the destruction of the multiverse going on. After the bad Avengers left for their new Earth, 616 Banner Hulked out and wrecked AIM Island, then went straight to Tony Stark, injecting himself with tranquilizers as Bruce learns the Illuminati reformed, and about the whole Incursions thing. Banner and the Hulk generally both agree that the Illuminati are kind of bad, what with their attempt to exile the Hulk into space that one time, but for something this big, Banner (and the Hulk) will join the Illuminati. They then conveniently frame the other dimensional Hulk for the last rampage and Banner disappears.
Black Swan’s Secrets
The Illuminati, meanwhile, have gotten their Bridge focused on the past of the Black Swan whose been guiding them. It turns out–big shocker–she isn’t that trustworthy! Reed Richards finds some traces of her past. Her world was destroyed by the Black Priests. She found her way to the World Library. One of the Priests finds a key, but they can’t come in. She joins the Black Swan order. And then, most tellingly, they see her with another, elderly Tony Stark and Reed Richards, where she’s basically been manipulating them into doing awful things to destroy Earths. Once they are at the end of their usefulness, she kills them.
Black Swan never intended to save the multiverse. Everything she’s done has been to manipulate the Illuminati into destroying other worlds for the greater glory of her mysterious master Rabum Alal. The Illuminati decide to stop trusting her.
Meanwhile, she points out to fellow-captive Terrax, that in Thanos’ suspended animation cube, the skeletal remains of Corvus Glaive are starting to come back to life.
And the Super-Adaptoids…
And on AIM Island, the Super-Adaptoids that got all that Avenger DNA morph into more nondescript shapes and head into the void of dead universes, to explore as they were built and programmed to do. There they find a floating city full of others of their kind. What was really going on?
Well, it turns out the Mapmakers, destroyers of worlds, servants to the mysterious Ivory Kings, are in fact explorer Super-Adaptoids from various realities. The 616 group joins up.
Next week: Cap remembers, and the Illuminati deal with the Great Society.