New Avengers: Illuminati #1 kicks off a mini-series that does some serious retconning of the Avengers’ history. Normally, I despise retconning of this fashion. If writers want to make their impact on a title then stick with the present and the future and craft something new like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did. Don’t stomp all over what other creators did before you came to the scene. Having said that, the Illuminati was a mildly interesting concept and I figured, if nothing else, it should provide me with some quality action. Let’s hit the review for New Avengers: Illuminati #1 which covers the Kree/Skrull war.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Skrull King on his throne ship chastising his officers for losing the war. The King finds it unacceptable that a single earthman could destroy their forces. The King’s assistant informs him that Earth boasts an unusual amount of super powered humans and mutants.
Suddenly, the Illuminati (Reed Richards, Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, Black Bolt, and Dr. Strange) teleporting aboard a Skrull throne ship. They tell the Skrull King to leave Earth and never come back. The Skrull King says Earth will be his. The Illuminati say they are sorry to hear that. Iron Man then asks Black Bolt if he has anything to say. Black Bolt opens his mouth and the entire throne ship explodes.
We see Dr. Strange teleport the Illuminati back to their ship. Namor takes great glee in watching the Skulls burn in the explosion. The rest of the Illuminati do not take joy in the carnage so Namor says that he will enjoy it enough for all of them.
Suddenly, the Illuminati’s ship is attacked by a ton of Skrull warships. The Illuminati’s ship gets blown up and all of the Illuminati are captured by the Skrulls.
We cut to the two Skrull scientists observing the horrific testing on Reed Richards to try and fully learn the origins of his powers. We then see the two Skrull scientists checking in on Namor in a heated room. They mention that Namor isn’t really a part of an underwater species so much as he is actually a mutant. The two Skrull scientists check in on the testing to the Black Bolt to figure out his powers.
They then check in on the testing on Professor X to break down his mutant genome. They then check in on Dr. Strange. They are having problems figuring out his mystical powers. Lastly, they check in on Tony Stark who is nothing more than a pathetic regular human. Even his armor is nothing compared to their advanced Skrull technology.
We shift to Tony sitting naked in a cell. Tony is trying to focus on his breathing. His armor is the only thing that keeps his heart valves working. Without it, Tony is already having heart problems. Suddenly, there is a loud explosion and the Avengers are on the scene and free Tony. Tony looks at the Avengers and asks them just how dumb do they think he is? The Avengers are just Skrulls in disguise. The Skrulls then realize that Tony didn’t tell anyone else about their little mission. That nobody will be coming to rescue them.
Tony then suddenly attacks the Skrulls and we gets treated to some serious panel time of ass-kicking Tony Stark action. Tony takes down all of the Skrulls thanks to his training with Captain America. Tony grabs a gun and goes and kills Skrulls guarding Professor X and then frees Professor X. Professor X tells Tony that his heart isn’t going to last much longer. No big deal. Stark ain’t scared.
Tony then frees Namor and Dr. Strange while blasting Skrulls left and right. Tony then collapses in pain due to his heart. Dr. Strange then casts a spell that temporarily keeps Tony’s heart pumping until they can get back to Earth. The gang then free Black Bolt and Reed Richards. They then steal a ship and blast off. The Illuminati are chased by thousands of Skrull war ships.
The Illuminati realize they have no chance of outracing all the warships. So, Professor X and Dr. Strange combine their powers to create a giant vision of Galactus in front of the Skrull warships. This causes the Skrulls to turn yellow and retreat.
The Illuminati fly on home. During the flight Namor says that the Skrulls will come for them. Tony responds that at least they made it clear that if the Skrulls do come then the fight will be a real fight and maybe the Skrulls will look for someone else to pick on. The rest of the Illuminati stare at Tony in disbelief. Tony responds, that at least the Skrulls now know that it will be a good fight.
We cut to the King Skrull being informed that the Skrull scientists got all the information they needed concerning the super powers of each earthman. The Skrull King orders his scientists to begin work immediately. End of issue.
The Good: New Avengers: Illuminati #1 was a fun read! Bendis treated the reader to a nice “popcorn” issue. By “popcorn”, I mean any issue that doesn’t require any real thought or mental effort at all in order to enjoy the issue. New Avengers: Illuminati delivered exciting action scenes along with some humorous dialogue to create an enjoyable issue. And many times, it is nice to turn off your brain and just enjoy a little bit of mindless entertainment. Not everything has to be like X-Factor.
Bendis wasted no time getting this story underway literally with a bang. Since Bendis only gets one issue per big event in Marvel history, it is nice to see him waste no panel space in moving the story along at a brisk pace.
Bendis also serves up plenty of his trademark entertaining dialogue. There was plenty of funny lines zinging around between the various characters. The best is certainly Namor’s joyous reaction at watching the Skrull’s burn. And when his teammates failed to join in on the revelry, Namor decides to enjoy it for all of them. Classic! Of course, Tony getting blank disbelieving stares from his teammates when he says that maybe the Skrulls will pick on someone else was great. Bendis has a great sense of humor and it definitely shows through in this issue.
Bendis also delivered spot on external voices for each of the Illuminati. Each man acted like they are supposed to. Bendis also generates some nice chemistry between these characters. Each one is a pivotal player in the Marvel Universe and even though they may not always agree, there is little doubt that each one clearly respects the others.
The action kicked ass. I loved the scene where Black Bolt destroys the entire throne ship. The look in Black Bolt’s eyes is wicked just before he opens his mouth. Black Bolt is definitely a monster powerhouse in the Marvel Universe who has never gotten enough attention. I have always like Black Bolt and it is great to see him in action. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of his character in the next four issues.
Of course, the star of this issue is none other than the man, the myth, the legend: Tony Stark. And I’m actually shocked by that considering how Bendis has been brutally bashing Tony’s character over in the Civil War tie-in issues. In New Avengers: Illuminati #1, we get to see the Tony Stark that I know and love.
Tony is a true hero and an absolute warrior. No armor? Bad heart about to stop ticking? Alone on a ship full of Skrulls? No problem. Having Tony deal with his bad heart while trying to battle to escape and free his comrades was a cool touch. It accentuated what a valiant hero Tony is and how he will freely risk his own life to save his teammates and will never stop fighting no matter how injured he may be. Plus, Tony is the one member of the Illuminati that the Skrulls completely discounted since he was just a human. Too bad the Skrulls didn’t realize that super powers don’t make a hero.
Jim Cheung’s artwork is above average, but nothing I find to be particularly interesting or eye-catching.
The Bad: No complaints with this issue.
Overall: New Avengers: Illuminati was an entertaining read. Bendis gives us a fast paced and exciting action filled story. I don’t find the retconning that Bendis is engaging in to be too terribly invasive so I’m pretty much okay with it. This mini-series is doing a nice job retro-actively establishing the Illuminati in the Marvel Universe’s history. I’d say that this is definitely a mini-series worth checking out.