Every once in a while someone needs to set us all facing in the same direction, that is why reference "saga" comics like these are so good, as they put in sequential order major (and minor) events from the Marvel Universe down in such a way so that we are clear as to what happened when.
Normally, we don't review "saga" books but as this one tends to straighten out some very twisted continuity we are moving forward.
Uatu, the immortal watcher, comes on and tells us of recent events from the Marvel Universe. He tells us how — a year or so back — while Doom was out of power, his Prime Minster, Lucia von Bardas, subsidized several U.S. supervillains with souped-up tech. Colonel Nick Fury, then head of SHIELD gathered together a group of heroes (including Captain America, Wolverine, Black Widow, Daredevil, and Spider-Man) to Latveria then erased their memories of the event. A year later it all came back to bit him on the backside, even as the resulting conflagration spilled over onto the streets of New York City.
The resulting fallout caused the already embattled Fury to take a power and abandon his post as America's top cop and go underground. It was shortly after this Thor and his Asgardian brethren all fought off Ragnarok, but at the cost of their very lives. While this was happening, those dirty, nasty, shape-shifting Skrulls were using DNA gleaned from Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Prof. X, Namor, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt were ramping up to replace superheroes so as to annex the Earth.
One of the heroes they managed to replace was Spider Woman (Jessica Drew). Back on Earth, without benefit of the recently-disbanded Avengers, it was a new group of heroes that gathered to aid in a breakout from The Raft, a super-powered detention center in NY harbor. One of those heroes who assisted in that action was the mysterious Sentry, who himself was incarcerated there. After his release Sentry mastered his dark side, dubbed The Void.
Shortly after that, the New Avengers confronted Wanda Maximov, the Scarlet Witch, who, in her fragile state of mind engineered House of M, where Mutants ruled the world, and humans were second-class citizens. Needless to say, the Avengers and other non-mutant heroes eventually banded together to put an end to this corruption of the order of the world, when Wanda reversed herself and declared "no more mutants" and reduced the population of the World's mutants to 198.
It was then (in a growing climate of distrust of super-powered population) that the Illuminati (Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Prof. X, Namor, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt) tricked Bruce Banner into a space ship and shot him off into space, to rid themselves forever of the menace of the Hulk. Unfortunately, his ship was inadvertently diverted to the planet of Sakaar. There Hulk seemed to find a sort of peace, but even there tragedy followed him as an explosion killed his wife.
Quicksilver attempted to restore order to the world by stealing the Inhuman's Terrigen Mist crystals so as to bring the mutant population back to what it was. As this was going on Earth Nova and a number of off-world heroes were attempting to stop the terrible Annihilation Wave from encompassing the galaxy. Back on Earth, the New Warriors attempted to capture some criminals in Stamford, CT on-camera for their reality show, when Nitro exploded himself killing most of the heroes and several hundred civilians, including children. This precipitated the government forcing through the Superhero Registration Act, and causing a Civil War within the community of Superheroes. With Iron Man on one side and Captain America on the other, the heroes lined up to defend their beliefs.
At first Spider-Man joined up with Iron Man, but then saw the error of his beliefs, and switched over to team with Cap. However, in a final battle in the middle of New York Cap realized this was unwinnable, and surrendered, causing many heroes on his team to go underground. Part of the blowback from M-Day was the revival of Vulcan, Scott and Alex Summer's younger brother, who killed their Father, Corsair, which has repercussions for the Shi'ar Empire.
As Captain America is being brought in by SHIELD, he is assassinated, to which Iron Man begins his 50-State initiative, unfortunately, numerous high-ranking, and hidden Skrulls are making sure that there is a secret Skrull on each team. One of those teams is the Thunderbolts, which has been stocked up with "reformed" villains and is being controlled by the government and run by Norman Osborn.
The New Avengers go to Japan to help out Echo only to run up against the Hand and Ekektra, only to discover (upon her death) that she is a Skrull. Others disobeying the SRA include the Young Avengers and the Runaways, Daredevil (who continues to defend Hell's Kitchen), the increasingly unstable Moon Knight, Iron Fist, and the ever-violent Punisher (who briefly attempted to fill the shoes of Captain America. As could be expected, that role eventually falls to Buck Barnes, the former Winter Solder, and one-time partner of Captain America.
Thor returns to Earth, but rejects overtures from Iron Man due to Stark's use of a clone of Thor during Civil War. Nova also returns to Earth, and is equally as unwilling to hook up with Stark, and heads back out into space. One of the new teams of heroes that Stark forms is the Mighty Avengers, consisting of a hand-pick team of heroes. In their first battle they go up against Ultron, who, after his defeat at the hands of the new team, winds up in space rescued by the Phalanx.
This new threat to the universe is stopped by Nova, Adam Warlock and a handful of other heroes. Now Nova and his team of Guardians of the Galaxy seek to defend the universe. Attempting to make sense of their world Reed and Sue Storm they take a brief sabbatical from the FF while The Black Panther and Storm fill in for them.
Peter's Aunt, May is accidentally shot in an assassination attempt on Peter's life, sending her into a coma and Peter back into his black duds, as he tracks down the man who ordered the hit. Ghost Rider is still engaged in his own struggle with Lucifer as the newly-widowed Hulk is planning to return to Earth to extract his revenge on the Earth heroes that he believes have done him wrong.
He returns to Earth and captures many of the NY heroes, trashing most of the city during his siege of Earth. Only he is eventually defeated when the truth of what happened is revealed. Little does he know that his son, still lives on Sakaar, while on Earth there is news of a new Red Hulk. Desperate to save May, Peter finds himself making a Faustian deal with Mephisto to save her life, but at the cost of his marriage to Mary Jane.
In order to recover their Terrigen Mist crystals the Inhumans wind up in a war with the US government. Here, Maximus the Mad, Black Bolt's brother chooses this moment to stage a coup. Spider Woman brings Iron Man the corpse of Elektra revealing to him that there is a Skrull plot in the works. Twelve heroes from the Golden Age, long thought lost, come to light and they attempt to adjust to these new times, as the X-Men attempt to come to grips with the birth of the first new mutant since Wanda uttered those fateful words.
With the Skrull plot come to light, most of both teams of Avengers along with replicants of themselves from an earlier era all find themselves in The Savage Land battling each other as no one truly knows who is a Skrull and whom to trust. Back in the Big Apple the Skrull invasion has begun in earnest as every hero who isn't in Antarctica pours into the City in an attempt to protect Earth from the green invaders.
Into the midst of all of this comes Nick Fury (not another LMD) with a new team of young, super powered heroes in an attempt to form up Earth's last line of defense. Now we move forward into the future.
As far as setting things into cannon, this giveaway comic certainly does the trick. So if you haven't scored your copy yet, I strongly suggest that you do so soon.
Knowing what happened when and what follows what sure helps out a lot especially when so many "epic" events follow on the heels of other "epic" events. As far as establishing on continuity within the Marvel Universe this book is well worth having.
This story is followed by several pages taken from the various Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.