Earth's defenders have regrouped and are preparing to go on the offensive. Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors interrupted the Skrull executions in Times Square; Agent Brand has infiltrated the Skrull capital ship where Mr. Fantastic is being held; and the Avengers in the Savage Land are coming in from the jungle.
Let's hope it's not too late!
Picking up a plot thread dangling since Secret Invasion #1, we see Norman Osborn try to talk down the fake Captain Marvel that has broken into Thunderbolts HQ. It seems this Skrull impersonator was a deep cover Skrull, unaware of who he really was, and the revelation has left him disoriented. Osborn is able to take advantage of that disorientation to persuade "Captain Marvel" to live the ideals that the original had embraced, and the ersatz superhero abandons his assault on the T-Bolts and streaks into the sky.
The Young Avengers have tagged along with the Secret Warriors to Nick Fury's secret base, and are geeking out at meeting him for the first time. There's no time for hero worship, though, because the Skrulls are continuing their psychological warfare against the Earth: broadcasting on every channel, Skrulls spokesaliens, having taken the guise of notable celebrities and politicians, preach their love for humans and how Earth's incorporation into the Skrull Empire is not only accomplished, but will ultimately be to Earth's benefit.
Up in space, Agent Brand shows off her superspy chops. Surprised by Skrull guards, she brazenly orders them—in Skrullese, of course—to stand down, then takes advantage of their uncertainty to steal a firearm and kill them all. One deliberately-breached airlock later, the ship is devoid of Skrulls and Mr. Fantastic is free! He's disoriented at first, but after regaining his composure he's ready to give the Skrulls some payback. He and Agent Brand steer the ship toward the Savage Land. The rest of the Skrull armada is unable to stop them, as they're too busy fending off the fake Captain Marvel, who is proving his heroic worth by destroying the invaders' ships.
Back on Earth, Deputy Director Hill is outnumbered and outgunned by Skrull invaders, but fortunately for her she took Nick Fury's advice, given months previously, and allowed a Life Model Decoy to stand in for her. The real Hill activates the Helicarrier's self-destruct and flies away on a jet pack, leaving Skrull-Jarvis and his fellows to burn, or drown. So much for Skrull-Jarvis... I liked him.
Down in the Savage Land, the New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Skrull ship refugees have finally regrouped. None of them trust any other, though. They talk a lot of smack to each other, and to Ka-Zar and Shanna, who have also turned up. The smack-talk is interrupted by Mr. Fantastic, who comes screaming out of the sky in his Skrull spaceship, armed with a BFG. That BFG shoots a special kind of ray, though, a ray that forces Skrulls to revert to their true forms.
The truth finally comes out. All of the refugees are in fact Skrull deep-cover agents, whose forced transformation bewilders and frightens them. The revelation disgusts some of the Avengers and enrages others, who unleash quick and deadly force against the impostors. Down goes the fake Invisible Woman; down goes the fake Jewel, as Luke Cage averts his eyes; and down goes the fake Mockingbird, shot to pieces by distraught Ronin. The Avengers prepare to fly to New York in the Skrull ship as Ronin, overcome with rage and grief, declares that "this doesn't end until every last one of them dies!"
This is a great issue. Dangling plot threads are being tied up, new ones are being introduced—I bet that Skrull broadcast will have interesting repercussions—and there are some great reveals. The Hill LMD is interesting, certainly, but the real payoff here is the Mockingbird-is-a-Skrull outcome. That surprised me a great deal, as bringing Mockingbird back seemed like a good idea with a lot of potential. But taking her back again, with the terrible effect it has on Clint "Ronin" Barton, has a lot of potential too.
For new readers, this sort of anger gives Clint Barton a new direction to travel in: recently he's only had two roles to play, one being a wisecracker in the Spider-Man mold and the other being the 'true' heir of Captain America. Both of these are pretty shallow. Now, as a man pushed way too far by the Skrulls, there should be lots of opportunity to take him down new, interesting, and dark paths.
For old readers, of course, the path is even darker. Those of us who read the Avengers titles back in the 1980s recall that Barton's greatest rift with Mockingbird came after she was sexually assaulted, a crime she repayed with deadly force. Barton was horrified, and insisted that Avengers never kill, regardless of the provocation, and not even to save their own lives. Readers who remember this will find Barton's murder of a defenseless Skrull, one who believed herself to be his wife, to be particularly disturbing, and his desire to kill all the Skrulls equally so.
We're racing toward a climax now, I think. No more "who [sic] do you trust" uncertainty, just straight-up action, Avengers versus Skrulls. Should be good.
Action, surprises, fantastic art by Leinel Yu, and a truly affecting climax by Brian Bendis. As good as any summer-crossover issue can get, I think.