<b>***Entry No. 2 on this list contains an <i>Avengers vs. X-Men #11</i> spoiler.***</b> <p><i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/albertxii>Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer</a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/LucasSiegel>Lucas Siegel, Newsarama Editor</a></i> <p>Inconspicuously, an upcoming <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album_view.php?gid=4506&page=3><b>New Avengers</b> "baby variant" cover</a> by Skottie Young appeared on the Diamond retailer site, before subsequently being removed. <p>Now, sure, it's just a variant cover meant to be humorous and adorable. But it's worth pointing out that Skottie Young has done similar upcoming covers that reflected the actual lineups of Marvel NOW! books like <i>Uncanny Avengers</i> and <i>All-New X-Men</i>. So it seems possible perhaps even probable that Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Panther and Black Bolt have something to do with the January-debuting <b>New Avengers</b> series, by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting and with an as-yet unrevealed cast and concept. <p>Seeing those four characters bring at least two things to mind with the exception of Iron Man, they're all ones that Hickman explored in his soon-to-wrap <i>Fantastic Four</i>/<i>FF</i> run, and all four have an association with the "Illuminati," a clandestine group of powerful characters from different spheres for the Marvel Universe introduced during Brian Michael Bendis's <b>New Avengers</b> run. <p>Black Bolt is the ruler of the Inhumans; Iron Man represents the Avengers and technology; Mr. Fantastic is the leader of the Fantastic Four and an all-around super-genius; and Black Panther encompasses the intersection of science and mysticism as king of Wakanda. <p>If indeed the cover represents part of the Marvel NOW! <b>New Avengers</b> team and if in fact it's indicating an Illuminati-like bend to the lineup which, we certainly acknowledge, are two major ifs here are our guesses for what the rest of the team might look like, and what niches they could be filling. <p>(And, yes, we might be off-base on this whole thing. But guessing is part of the fun of monthly superhero comics, right?) <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>
<b>Niche filled</b>: Ruler of Hell. <p>If you're going to have all of your bases covered on one superteam, that'll inevitably include some less-than-savory bases. <p>Hellstrom tends to alternate from superhero to supervillain status, fitting his complicated nature as the rebellious Son of Satan. But he's superpowerful and often depicted as the ruler of Hell or at least part of it which definitely seems like the kind of place you'd want to keep an eye on. <p>One thing working against him is that he's been more of a villain lately (and thus an awkward fit for Avengers membership) just ask Flash Thompson, who's currently being terrorized by Hellstrom and the Monsters of Evil in the pages of <i>Venom</i>.
<b>Niche filled</b>: God stuff. <p>He's the father of the gods... well, of one set of them, at least. In the Greek Pantheon, Zeus is big daddy god, and he wasn't happy just being up on Olympus ruling his subjects. Instead, Zeus has constantly interfered with the affairs of man, fathering many a demigod like the mighty Hercules. <p>But why is Zeus a good candidate for an Illuminati-based <b>New Avengers</b>? Well, if we expand out from the original concept and include a godly representative, Zeus is an ideal candidate. Unlike most Marvel gods, he is based firmly on Earth. He has been a member of a group of likeminded high-level rulers before in the Council of Godheads. And in his current state, it would be pretty fun to have the recently-humbled (by his brother Hades/Pluto) Zeus butting heads with Tony Stark and Reed Richards. <p>Of course, it also doesn't hurt that he has super strength, speed, agility, reflexes, stamina, is nigh-invulnerable, immortal, and can summon friggin lightning bolts. If you want a true powerhouse for your team, why keep going to the <i>sons</i> of the father gods when you can recruit the father himself?
<b>Niche filled</b>: The Savage Land. <p>You don't think "Ka-Zar" without thinking "Savage Land" Marvel's land that time forgot, filled with dinosaurs and other not-so-extinct prehistoric creatures. <p>So if the New Avengers are indeed looking to be well-represented from every corner of the Marvel Universe, the Savage Land has certainly historically been an important venue, playing a role in major stories for decades (and it's the location of an upcoming <i>Wolverine and the X-Men</i> arc). <p>Also: They'd get to hang out with dinosaurs; always a bonus.
<b>Niche filled</b>: America, duh. <p>Captain America has something very important in common with the other characters on that <b>New Avengers</b> variant cover: He's also a part of the Illuminati. A latecomer, sure, but he like the other current members is in possession of an Infinity Gem, and even called the latest meeting of the group, in <i>New Avengers #29</i>. <p>Plus, it's Captain America. He's a likely candidate for any Avengers team, except maybe for Young Avengers or an all-female squad (though if he wanted to attempt a <i>Never Been Kissed</i>/"Bosom Buddies"-type situation, he could probably pull it off).
<b>Niche filled</b>: The seas. <p>Unlike the rest of his fellow Phoenix Five, Namor has not been seen in post-<i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i> promotional materials. He's also not going to be appearing in <i>Defenders</i> anymore, as that book is ending in November. <p>So what's next for Namor? Well, he fits a lot of the characteristics of the characters on that <b>New Avengers</b> cover: He's the master of his own domain (water), and he's already an Illuminati member. <p>Plus, if the "invisible fence" between X-Men and Avengers is disappearing in the Marvel NOW! era, it'd be another example of a mutant moving over to Earth's Mightiest Heroes though having Namor and Black Panther on the same team would certainly make for some heightened tension given the Sub-Mariner's invasion of Wakanda in <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>.
<b>Niche filled</b>: Britain... and also the entire Multi-verse. <p>Now, Captain Britain may not be on quite the same level as some of these other candidates at first glance. Most people likely think of him simply as the premier hero of Great Britain. Super strong, durable, and solid in a fight, Brian Braddock is nice to have around on a team, but is "Europe needs a representative" really enough to put him on this super-squad? <p>No, no, it's not. Luckily, Captain Britain also happens to have a second position: protector of the entire damn multi-verse. The common "616" designation for the main Marvel Universe actually came from an Alan Moore-written Captain Britain story. The character, along with the Captain Britains from other parallel Earths, is charged with making sure no <i>uni</i>versal disaster ever becomes a <i>multi</i>versal disaster. With his knowledge of parallel worlds, his jurisdiction of "all possible realities," mystic connections as well as governmental ones, Captain Britain isn't just a good fit for an Illuminati-based Avengers team, he is an essential player.
<b>Niche filled</b>: Outer space. <p>With a <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> live-action film coming from Marvel Studios in 2014, it's not a secret that the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe is a major priority for the company. <p>So if you're going to assemble a New Avengers team that keeps tab on the entire Marvel Universe, outer space is likely on the agenda. As commanding officer of S.W.O.R.D., there may be no character more well-versed on the subject than Abigail Brand, who is dedicated to dealing with extraterrestrial threats. <p>Besides, have you noticed between our nominations so far and the cover we're basing our speculation on, a certain element has been lacking?
<b>Niche filled</b>: Magic and the mystic arts. <p>Doctor Strange fits the bill for a couple of solid reasons: He's already an Illuminati member and a New Avenger, plus with <i>Defenders</i> ending in November, he won't have a series to call home in the very near future. And, when it comes to the world of magic, though he may no longer be Sorcerer Supreme, he's still the Marvel Universe's go-to guy. <p>If anything, he might be <i>too</i> obvious of a candidate, and an argument can be made that alone could work against him. But time will tell.
<b>***This entry contains an <i>Avengers vs. X-Men #11</i> spoiler.***</b> <p><b>Niche filled</b>: Mutant population. <p>As of this week's <i>Avengers vs. X-Men #11</i>, Professor Charles Xavier, the former mutant representative of the Illuminati, is dead. <p>And Cyclops, the current (albeit disputed) leader of the mutant world, <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/avx-consequences-1-cover-full.html>certainly doesn't look like he'll be in a position to lead anyone</a> once <i>AvX</i> is over. <p>So despite his supervillainous past, Magneto just might be the de facto mutant elder statesman at this point. He's taken up the work of Charles Xavier before notably in the Age of Apocalypse alternate timeline and has generally been a lot more reasonable in X-Men comics as of late, even opposing the actions of the Phoenix Five. <p>In the very near future, it's a distinct possibility that Magneto could be in a similar position of authority as Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther and Black Bolt.
<b>Niche filled</b>: Espionage, national security. <p>As the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daisy Johnson also known as Quake wields a lot of power. She's essentially the new Nick Fury of the Marvel Universe, even more than the actual new Nick Fury, who isn't in the same type of position of power (yet). <p>More than any character at Marvel right now, Quake represents the espionage/intelligence side of Marvel. She's also got Avengers experience, and is a character Hickman is very familiar with from his <i>Secret Warriors</i> run and he's using Eden Fesi in the main <i>Avengers</i> title, so it looks like he's still got something to say about at least one of those characters. <p>Like Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther and Black Bolt, Quake fits the pattern of both being a character that embodies a position of unique expertise in the Marvel Universe, plus is one that Hickman has written extensively in the past. So if <b>New Avengers</b> is anything like what we think it might be, she's as good of a candidate as any.