I do fanfic style rewrites or theorizing of various properties every now and again. I’ve done it for the DCEU a couple of times now, and you might be asking why not Marvel? DCEU is such a promising target, since its IP is so good, and the output of its movies so bad. I usually leave Marvel alone, since their movies are usually really good. Like, maybe they misuse taskmaster, but I’ll live. The only one I didn’t enjoy was Eternals. I even rewatched Thor 2 a couple of months ago. It’s not Captain America, but it’s still better than 75% of the DCEU.
You might have guessed from the intro; we are dipping into Marvel today. Not because some past movies were not great, but rather because I’ve seen a bunch of fan speculation that doesn’t really line up with my own. So, from here on out, spoilers abound. Seriously, just everywhere.
If you’re a comic fan who’s seen Dr. Strange, you are probably amped. They introduced one of my favorite teams, which led into one of my favorite stories. The Illuminati and Secret Wars.
Time Runs out is the arc where the Illuminati deal with incursions, which could end all life as we know it. For 50 years they teased the idea that this was it, it changes everything forever, nothing will be the same, this villain will end the world. Will a team up of Earth’s mightiest heroes be enough to stop it? The kicker is this time the answer is actually no. A team of the actual mightiest heroes of Earth won’t be enough, and the universe does end. Kind of. Dr. Doom (not a hero) is able to salvage some small percentage of all multiverses and rebuilds reality to his whim. It turns out a small group of heroes, led by Reed Richards are able to survive, and eventually overthrow Doom and rebuild a new comics universe, leading to Brand New Day. Things more or less re-build to a normal status quo as comics will do, but it took years. More importantly though, they essentially took all the good stuff from all the various universes and kept it and dropped all the bad. It was a refresh and streamlined continuity, condensing 60 years of confusing nonsense into a digestible setting.
So, nerds are amped. Obviously.
A lot of speculation right now is who the Illuminati will be, and what will it all look like. Here is my answer.
Your Illuminati will need to be heroes who aren’t afraid to get dirty. Captain America won’t be around to be a part, but no version of Steve will sign on to blowing up one world to save another. Spiderman has already said as much in no way home. This is going to be your secondary conflict. Primary, obviously, will be the incursions themselves. Presumably, the other worlds will have their own defenders who try to save their world, which is the big one. But for the bulk of the time, your conflict will be forming a team. They are going to recruit people, and be told “No, your idea of blowing up a reality is bad, and I won’t be a part”. People will refuse to join, and I think this is where your Young Avengers, which have been endlessly teased, will form up. My prediction? An Illuminati member will try to recruit from the Avengers. The initial plan is, get everyone you can, but it falls apart quick. They go to the Avengers, who are split. A couple of heavy hitters (Banner, Cap Marvel, Warmachine) join up. A few decide to seek magical/technical answers (The Thors), and a few are told to sit it out. I think the sit-outers (ant-man, Wasp, FalCap, and Hawkeye), secretly form “The New Avengers” said as a joke by Ant Man. They oppose the Illuminati and go recruit, and it quickly puts them into a mentor role for your Young Avengers. I’m torn and think Ant-Man will probably split to the Illuminati once he sees how hopeless it is, because there’s good conflict with Cassie Lang there. Your Young Avengers team will probably even team up and capture that same Illuminati member, giving us a good fight of 6-7 street heroes and a couple of globe heroes battling a cosmic hero. That is a big celebration, but it’s also the time I think Ant-Man switches sides and frees said Illuminati member.
After failing to recruit the Avengers, the Illuminati will go after some more morally grey folks while the New Avengers pull in some semi-magic/divine folks. Hercules, New Black Panther, Sif, and Mordo (maybe even 2). This team is who the MCU Sets up as their primary new protagonists, so I think they “win out” in the end. Even if winning is tough.
Your core Illuminati are gathered by Strange. He and Cleo try and fail, and Strange uses his catalog of dangerous people to reach out to Hank Pym, who else knows more about the quantum realm (which I think will tie into the Dark Realm that Cleo is from). Pym isn’t really a member but will be the one who goes and tries to convince the Avengers, specifically Ant Man and the Wasp to join Strange. Ant Man busts him out, as above and when he breaks free, we have some good conflict with Wasp. Hank can then do a “well I know another guy, Reed Richards, real sanctimonious prick back in the 80’s, but he was very smart” sort of thing. Here Hank, Antman, and Strange, along with Banner, Marvel, and Warmachine can pull up to a broken-down bodega in NYC. Funny looks, and then we reveal a pocket dimension the FF have been trapped in since Pym last heard from them. They are frozen in slow moving time, but you get Reed, Susan, Johnny, Ben, and IMO you bring the kids in too. They think they were trapped for fifteen years, but it turns out it’s actually been closer to forty.
Reed and Pym have history, and at first blush, Reed refuses the Illuminati, and the rest of the FF are outraged to even be asked. Later, Reed can come join, but he does it at night, and is ashamed to be doing it. He caught up on what he missed and sells it to himself as “the voice of reason” for the group.
Next, we need heavy hitters. Strange can pull Ikarus from the sun with magic, and basically explain that the thing he wanted to do just the other day, actually needs to happen now. There’s obvious conflict with Namor here (I assume the hatching celestial screwed up Atlantis) but it gives Namor someone to be a dick to, and begrudgingly cooperate with. Ikarus sees this as a chance to redeem himself, and we get to do the “I should be beloved by the people, and this will let me do it” sort of thing, and he can kind of take a Sentry role for the team. Namor is a hard get, but there can be a “we need an army” line that leads them to seek him out. I think he needs to be on the team, but I will want to see Black Panther 2 where he will probably be introduced for the How. This is also the part where Strange pulls Kang in. He knows of Kang but doesn’t really know Kang. He has tagged him as a potential threat, but at the bottom of the list, but during his travels with Cleo, she can show him he could be a much bigger deal. They pull him in, and I like to think he’s 12, and they take protector roles for him. I also think they store him with the FF for safe keeping, where he can become great friends with everyone throughout the movie. Maybe he is even an orphan and they adopt him.
Your big set piece battles for this will be
- Young Avengers vs Pym – Hes a wiley old man, and has an old school suit of his own, swarms of ants, and piles of gadgets. They aren’t expecting a fight, but just confront him and say he must stop. He initially laughs them off but is the one to escalate to violence when they suit up.
- New Avengers vs Illuminati – Neither side wants to kill, but the Illuminati are playing for keeps. The New Avengers go down, but it’s because they played fair.
- Illuminati vs Counter Illuminati – The first incursion is a mirror match style, and its hard won, but the Illuminati win. Unfortunately, as soon as they catch their breath, the next one starts. This one is a weirder mismatch. This scene is shorter, and after it ends, a third incursion starts. Strange will break away saying something like “We need the kid” and run to go get Kang. Reed will tag along, and its implied he knows Strange’s plan with a “We swore we wouldn’t do this” sort of thing. The team continues battles against earths, getting increasingly worn down. We flash back to them periodically with all sorts of awesome cameos.
Strange can use Kang as some sort of universal constant (he leads every other version of the Illuminati as a fully formed Kang the Conqueror) to channel a spell of “fix it” but Reed realizes this will also condemn the kid to some interdimensional super death or something, and he just can’t do it (even after having destroyed universes, he can’t bring himself to kill a single kid, especially one his family has adopted at this point). Reed interrupts Strange’s spell (like spiderman did) and it starts to go awry. We realize it didn’t save “The World” it saved “A World”. We pan around and Marvel uses this as a chance to clean up the MCU and essentially this is the world, if Marvel had written it all A-Z knowing that when they made Incredible Hulk it would turn into what it is today. For example, we get flashes of Xaviers institute, because the x-men have always been around, and maybe we redo Taskmaster.
- Cassie Lang Stature – Big conflict with her father. Bonds with Wasp.
- Kate Bishop Hawkeye
- Elijah Bradley Patriot (who got some of his granddad’s strength)
- America Chavez – heartbroken “I thought you were different” to strange.
- Kamala Kahn Ms Marvel
- Spiderman – If possible. We potentially do a mantle pass here to Miles
- I also think introducing Viv and Vin if possible somehow.
- Banner – Reluctant, not happy to join.
- Dr. Strange
- Cleo – Conflict here she is more hardcore than strange about their plan. Shes “a bad influence” type on him. Her and Wong do not get along.
- Kang – Child/noncombatant
- Cap Marvel – Honestly, just here because I wanted to pull some power hitters from avengers, and she is always on the “jerk side” in super hero conflicts in comics. Also “A soldier”.
- War Machine – “A soldier” who does what needs to be done.
- Hank Pym
- Reed Richards
- Odinson – Both Odinson and Thor will try to lead this team, in a funny rivalry.
- Thor – Will have to see how she plays in the movie.
- Sif – Should probably be the real leader
- Shang-Chi – Defects from Illuminati when Wong brings him in. Won’t be a part of it.
- Hawkeye – defects to young avengers. This is also his bow out of future conflicts, we maybe even imply some of the Old Man Hawkeye stuff.
- The Wasp – defects to young avengers
- FalCap – Defects to young avengers
- Winter Soldier – Stays with avengers, because its what he thinks Cap would have done.
- Antman – defects to Illuminati
- New Black Panther
- Mordo – Our Mordo, or the one from 838, both hate strange, are magic, and probably know about incursions. You may even bring both in.
There are tons of other Marvel heroes at this point? Where are they? If you want, you probably can have Daredevil or someone pop in during a final battle against incursions to help out. Otherwise, the answer is that a lot of these folks are hard to reach, unknown, or “busy”. Some of these folks can also show up to counsel their related heroes against whatever team they join. She-Hulk for example probably tells Bruce not to do it.