Earth's guardians are done playing defense. Mr. Fantastic, bearing a tool that can force Skrulls to reveal their true identities, is on his way to New York in a Skrull dropship. With him are all the Avengers, who have finally shaken loose from the distractions placed for them in the Savage Land. (Agent Brand and Ka-Zar are along for the ride.) Now that they know whom to trust, repelling the Skrull invasion should be easy... shouldn't it?
Writer Brian Bendis, eager to clear the decks so he can get on with the main story, checks in with the various Secret Invasion tie-in stories appearing in other titles. Across the world, superheroes are facing down the Skrulls: the X-Men in San Francisco, the Inhumans on the Moon, the Black Panther in Wakanda, Shanna in the Savage Land, all are doing their part. The Captain Marvel impersonator has done his part too, having disrupted the Skrull invasion fleet, although at cost to himself: he expires in the arms of Noh-Varr, reverting to his true Skrull form as he does so. Elsewhere, the Skrulls continue their broadcasts over the world's communications network, assuring the human race they do not intend to plunder Earth, but to improve it, and offer as a token of their sincerity that they have not acted aggressively against Earth's governments or armed forces. Only SHIELD, SWORD, and Earth's superhumans have received such treatment, because "they have defiantly stood in the way of [human] progress and society." Cute propaganda, which naturally passes over in silence just what New York City did to deserve the Skrulls to land without warning and start killing everybody.
Housekeeping done, we're on with the show. At Camp Hammond, the terrestrial command post for the Skrull invasion force, the Yellowjacket imposter cedes his authority back to the Spider-Woman imposter, a.k.a. the Skrull Empress, who has just arrived from the Savage Land. She informs her legions that the Avengers, plus Reed Richards, are on their way, and to prepare for their arrival.
The Avengers themselves, having put aside the animosity between Luke Cage's and Tony Stark's teams, steel themselves for the battle to come. Arriving in Manhattan, they are aghast at the damage the Skrulls have inflicted in such a short period of time. Quickly and conveniently, the combined Avengers squad makes a rendezvous in Central Park with Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors, the Young Avengers, the Thunderbolts, the new Captain America (i.e. Bucky Barnes), and Thor, all of whom are also in the city.
Equally conveniently, what appears to be the entire super-Skrull invasion force arrives in Manhattan to engage them. The obligatory smack-talk is exchanged:
"He loves you."
"Uh... he who?"
"Yeah? Well, my god has a hammer! Avengers! Assemble!"
And we close with two beautiful double-page spreads: the first of the assembled superheroes posed for battle, and the second of those superheroes mixing it up with the super-Skrulls.
I said the issue began with setup... really, the whole issue is setup, for the massive battle royale that breaks out in the final two spreads. Every element here aims at establishing the conditions for that battle: moving the players across the board and putting them all in Central Park for a rumble. Important as that is to the overall plot, it doesn't make for a spectacular issue in its own right.
Actually, there is one element that serves a purpose other than arranging chess pieces. That element is the scene in the middle where a bunch of New York teens take the Skrull propaganda seriously and decide that, courtesy of the shapechangers from the stars, Earth has just been inducted into Utopia, and go out to welcome the alien mid-wives of the brave new world. It seems pretty clear that the Skrull warriors they meet are about to give the kids a lesson in just how peaceful the Skrull Empire is, but the arrival of the Avengers prevents them from doing so and ends the scene.
I'm not sure what to make of this, or of the house ads Marvel has been running in its books that show Skrull children playing with human children, all under the rubric of "Embrace Change." I suppose some people may believe the Skrulls actually are saviours of a sort, though it's hard to believe any New Yorkers would fall for that, given that the Skrulls just landed in the city without warning and started murdering people.
In any case, if this is the last we hear of people responding to Skrull propaganda, I'll have to question what a short, underdeveloped scene is doing in the story. Alternatively, if Bendis is going to run with this, I wonder when he's going to find the time: he's only got two issues left to tie up all the outstanding plot threads (where the missing heroes are, cleaning up the messes the infiltrators made, etc.) as well as deliver the super action we all know is coming.
This issue, neo-hippie kids aside, is the vegetable dish you have to eat before you can have your big-finish dessert. Thus, I'll give it three-and-a-half webs, the extra half-web an award for Leinel Yu's great artwork.