In this reality, the Skrulls managed to keep their plans secret from everyone. Everyone except Norman Osborn.
Norman Osborn sits in his office inside of Thunderbolts Mountain. He is one of the few people to actually benefit from the Superhuman Registration Act. As acting director of the Thunderbolts, he has found continued success capturing unregistered superhumans. He has done well and knows it, complimenting himself on a job well done. He then plans his next move in which he will replace Iron Man and dismantle SHIELD, renaming it HAMMER. This plan has been derailed by an unexpected outbreak of peace.
He checks the news and sees various inexplicable sights. Captain America shaking hands with the Red Skull to celebrate an international peace treaty. Spider-Man chatting with J. Jonah Jameson outside the Daily Bugle. All media are reporting this as the new status quo. Osborn in annoyed that this is happening and he was not responsible for it.
Several hours later, he is have a teleconference with Tony Stark. Osborn warns Stark that something is wrong; spontaneous peace is impossible. Stark is unconcerned with this development, but decides to give Osborn a special mission to the Savage Land. Before the "Great Peace" occurred some event virtually destroyed all life there.
Osborn gathers his team: Venom III, Radioactive Man, Bullseye, Swordsman, Moonstone, and Songbird. Taskmaster accompanies them; he is on loan from Stark's Initiative Program. They head to the Antarctic and land near ground zero.
Radioactive Man sweeps the area and detects trace radiation. They follow this radiation to its source, which proves to be a secret cave guarded by Rhino and Colossus. Osborn is convinced that Stark has set him up, but vows to succeed in this suicide mission. As they defeat the guards, they proceed inside and find a large group of herores and villains.
Their presence is quickly detected and they are attacked. When it becomes clear that his team will lose, Osborn executes his contingency plan which sacrifices his team to ensure his survival. He is captured by Thor and Sentry and brought before Spider-Woman I (Drew).
At this point, Spider-Woman informs Osborn that the war would have been lost without his assistance. Osborn has no idea what she's talking about. Spider-Woman then clarifies that she is the Skrull Queen Veranke. The day that she chose to replace Spider-Woman it was he - a Skrull priest - who convinced her to alter her strategy. If they want to conquer Earth, they can never reveal themselves, even in death. If they are revealed at any point, their plans will go astray and she will be killed by the Earthling Norman Osborn.
Taking the priest's warning seriously they resumed the experiments with the Reed Richards clones and uncovered the way to remain in human form after they die. Their invasion strategy was changed so that the Skrulls would never reveal themselves under any circumstances. They will replace the humans one by one until they have secured the entire planet. Veranke the explains that the priest volunteered to be transformed into Norman Osborn. He is that Skrull, their prophet.
This causes Osborn to lose his grip on sanity and tries to kill Veranke in front of her army. She offers no resistance except reciting the word "remember". This causes the Skrull prophet to revert to his true form. The stress becomes too much for the prophet and he turns his gun on himself.
Veranke states that this marks the sixth attempt to deprogram their prophet. They will continue to clone him from the remains and try again to deprogram him as many times as it takes. A new Osborn clone steps forward to to absorb the old one to begin the cycle again.
This was a nice twist on the Skrull invasion. If Norman Osborn was a Skrull, it would provide a better explanation for his mysterious resurrection than the healing-factor-slash-I-went-to-Europe angle.
Once again, Osborn reminds us how much he thinks of himself. Throwing his team to the wolves (Skrull army) is another low point for him.
3.5 webs. The story was sound, although I wish that they would have given it a few more pages. The ending came across as a bit rushed. Given that they had four additional pages of filler in this issue, they would have been better off giving those pages to the second story.
Veranke began impersonating Spider-Woman in New Avengers #40.