The Tyranny of Good
The greatest minds in the Marvel Universe are complete morons.
In 2005, Marvel ran a series of issues featuring the Illuminati, an elite group of superheroes who had banded together following an intergalactic war. They were to stay in the background, using their combined intellect and altruism to guide the world in the name of good. The problem was, unfortunately, that every one of these greatest minds was an immoral douchebag.
The Illuminati consisted of Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Mr. Fantastic, and Professor X. Let’s take a moment to review their respective accomplishments in the Marvel Universe.
Black Bolt: Probably the most sane and capable of the group, Black Bolt is the leader of the Inhumans. His problem? Besides the fact that he lives on the moon and thus has no real stake in the affairs of Earth (as demonstrated by the Inhumans’ repeated neutrality in major Earthly events), he just happened to declare war against the United States when some mutagenic crystals went missing. Still, that’s small fries compared to the other guys.
Dr. Strange: So you’re looking for a group of superheroes to protect the Earth. Naturally, one of the first guys you go to a guy who regularly traffics with otherworldly forces and uses black magic. Among other things, Dr. Strange’s use of black magic became addictive, driving him temporarily insane. Alongside the Defenders, he went temporarily insane and teamed with the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and Namor to take over Earth, actually succeeding for a brief period of time. Also, for a guy who purports to have once been one of the most skilled surgeons in the world, he hasn’t even gone to one Grand Rounds.
Iron Man: Yay alcohol! First of all, Tony Stark is a guy who has had repeated problems with substance abuse. How often do you want to hand over the keys to running the world to a guy who is fairly likely to fall of the wagon and in a drunken stupor build a device that will crash the Earth into the sun? (For those who say, “But Tony’s been off the juice for years,” he came dangerously close to drinking again as recently as Marvel’s Civil War.) The best bit for Tony Stark, though, was during the Civil War event. Siding with the government in demanding superhumans to register their identities, he wound up creating an extraplanar prison devoted to essentially brainwashing the noncompliants. He also used nanite technology to control the Green Goblin into inciting a war with Atlantis – all with good intentions, of course. Ultimately, Iron Man was tossed out as head of SHIELD and replaced by the Green Goblin – because that Norman Osborn guy, he’s way less dangerous than Tony Stark.
Namor: Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest superheroes, debuting way back in 1939. In that time, the King of Atlantis has repeatedly tried to conquer the surface world, including an incident when he nearly destroyed New York City in an attack against the Fantastic Four. Namor has been known to repeatedly flip the bird to those who suggest he might not be entirely right, and demonstrated that later in the Illuminati’s existence when he tried to drown Iron Man over a disagreement about what to do with the Hulk. In addition to temporarily taking over the world alongside Doctor Strange, Namor has been hitting on Sue Richards for years, so it’s a real wonder why Mr. Fantastic was okay with him being in the group in the first place.
Mr. Fantastic: Reed Richards is quite possibly the biggest douchebag in the Marvel Universe. In addition to being compliant with everything Tony Stark did during Civil War and even helping on the finer points by creating a murderous clone of Thor, Mr. Fantastic is the worst family man in history. He browbeat his friends and family into going into space in an experimental rocket, resulting in them being bombarded by cosmic radiation. When his superpowered son became unruly, he invented psychic inhibitors to keep him from being able to use his powers. When those didn’t work, he whipped up a raygun to put his son in a coma. That’s just the kind of family man I want to have running the world against my will.
Professor X: I’m currently re-reading the first volume of Uncanny X-Men. Professor X manages to last exactly one issue without being a dick. By issue 2, his solution to dealing with the teleporting thief known as the Vanisher is to erase his brain. By issue 3, he invites the Blob to join the X-Men, only to try to erase his brain when the Blob refuses. When the Blob manages to escape, his first course of action is to create a machine capable of erasing dozens of people’s brains. At the end of issue 4, he pretends to lose his mutant powers so his X-Men – still teenagers of 16-18 years old, mind you – can embark upon a dangerous mission into space against a band of evil mutants without his assistance. Throughout these issues, he’s also secretly lusting after Jean Grey, who again is a teenager. He thinks the only thing keeping him from having a meaningful relationship with her is the wheelchair, not the fact that he could be her grandfather. In a way, I guess that’s true – I mean, if she refused him, he could just erase her brain. He’s a big fan of amnesia therapy. All that, of course, just begins to scratch the surface of how much of a scheming manipulative dick Professor Xavier is.
So now we have a crack team of manipulative, inconsiderate jerks who have on their own repeatedly tried to conquer the world. So let’s see what the Illuminati accomplished during their time together:
- They travel to the Skrull homeworld to tell the alien shapshifters not to attack Earth. The result? The skrulls capture the Illuminati and use the information gleaned from the resulting studies to invade Earth, killing dozens of people.
- They gather together the Infinity Gauntlet, a device capable of remaking existence, in hopes of destroying it. The result? The gauntlet can’t be destroyed, so each Illuminati member takes a piece of it for themselves. Because, you know, they’ve proven so responsible in the past. By the by, this also leaves the Infinity Gauntlet in one convenient area for the next big bad villain to collect and use in a massive cosmic event.
- They find a way to bring back the Sentry, who is a being with god-like powers and a schizophrenic personality. The result? The Sentry goes on the be a frikkin’ psychopath and alternately either kills people or threatens their existence by his inability to handle his own powers. He fails to make a meaningful impact on any major Marvel events save for two occasions: when he almost destroys New York City during World War Hulk and when he teams with Norman Osborn in Dark Reign and Siege, ultimately destroying Asgard and becoming such a danger to the world that he has to be killed.
- My personal favorite: they decide that the Hulk is too dangerous to remain on Earth, so they shoot him into space. Their timing is hideous on this one. First, Bruce Banner is living in Alaska at the time, deliberately avoiding people so he can’t hurt anybody. Second, the way they trick the Hulk into space is by sending him on a mission to save the world. So after the Hulk has saved the world, he’s then hurled off into another galaxy while a videotape of Reed Richards explaining what’s going on plays. Naturally, this makes the Hulk angry, which causes him to smash the ship and send it off course, which puts in motion a whole series of events. In the end, the Hulk becomes the king of an alien planet, but the Illuminati’s ship gets sabotaged and winds up blowing up the planet, killing millions. Supremely furious, the Hulk leads the survivors to Earth and proceeds to destroy New York City and pound the shit out of the heroes. The Illuminati’s solution to the problem? Send the Sentry out to stop him. Not only does the Sentry fail, but he nearly kills everyone in the process. Oh yeah…and the Hulk ultimately allowed himself to be taken down by one of Iron Man’s satellites in order to prevent the destruction of the entire east coast. But yeah…he’s the bad guy.
So yeah…that’s the Illuminati, a group of guys who thought that, despite their own tendency to be borderline villains, they were the people who needed to be secretly in control of the world. This tyranny of good wound up nearly destroying the world multiple times. I think it gives new meaning to Dark Helmet’s famous words, “Evil will always win because good is dumb.”