Illuminati #3

The New Avengers’ Illuminati is shaping up much better than I had figured. Kudos to the excellent team of Bendis, Reed, Cheung and Morales are making this a stand-out book for 2007.

First off, this issue — and every previous issue — has an excellent hook: Remember the Beyonder from Marvel’s Secret Wars back in the 1980s? Well, it turns out he was a mutant Inhuman. His mutated genes reacted with the Terrigen Mists to give him godlike powers. Great hook.

Second, it’s got phenomenal structure. It’s a team primarily made up of the leaders of Marvel’s most powerful teams. Namor’s not a team leader, but he and Black Bolt are leaders of entire civilizations. Plus, they’re excellent ingredients to the team dynamics. Bottom line, this is one of those phenomenal concepts that provide the framework for unforgettable storytelling.

Plus, Cheung and Morales are throwing in some truly inspired visuals to make the experiencereally tasty for guys like me. Take the cover to issue 3. Compositionally, it’s a direct call-back to the cover of Secret Wars #1. You don’t really get it until your well into the Beyonder storyline… but then it hits you — “Hey! That’s what was so familiar about that cover!” Pulling something like that off is (1) challenging for the creative team and (2) rewarding for the readers.

Not enough? How about this? The Beyonder insists he can make the fondest wishes of the Illuminati members come true, and he demonstrates his power using Dr. Strange as a guinea pig. Doc wakes up in bed with two shapely lasses (one of which has the silvery locks of old flame Clea). He looks up to assess this situation in the mirror hanging over his bed. Doc Strange with a mirror on the bedroom ceiling! Makes ya wonder if that “Strange” moniker has any double meanings.

[EDIT] It has been pointed out that I was wrong about the mirror-on-the-ceiling bit. It was actually a reflection in the famous circular window of Doc’s Sanctum. Same effect, though.

And if the cover to issue #4 is any clue, this series is just going to get better.