The last issue of “Mighty Avengers” felt far more like a missing issue of “New Avengers”, so it’s fitting that this issue of “New Avengers” feels more like the missing issue in the “New Avengers: Illuminati” miniseries, not least because it’s reuniting (two-thirds of) the creative team, as Bendis writes with Cheung handling art.
With the next issue of the “Secret Invasion” miniseries still some way off, it’s good that the two Avengers titles are doing the heavy lifting in terms of moving the plot along. Even so, it’s almost bizarre that we’ve now had two issues of "Avengers" that don’t go anywhere near the teams themselves -- this time, the Fantastic Four get more page-time than any of the book’s actual cast (well, sort of) and the only Avenger who shows up isn’t even on the “New” team anymore! The story is set in the past, showing Skrull history from the events of “New Avengers: Illuminati” (even replicating and expanding a scene from that book) through the destruction of their homeworld by Galactus, right up to the recent past and the launch of their invasion.
It’s a big issue in terms of explaining both how and why the invasion came about, as well as throwing probably the biggest curveball possible at the end of the issue by revealing the identity of one of the potential Skrulls. There’s no confirmation of whether the suggested replacement went ahead as planned or if it simply might be yet to happen, but if it did it suggests that there are more strings being pulled here than anyone realizes. It is an inspired, if incredibly dangerous choice.
Ongoing story aside, it’s nice to see Bendis doing his best to bring back the single-issue story. As one of the architects of “decompression,” it’s a welcome change to see him focusing on shorter chapters, even if the focus is on the wider arc. If you weren’t a reader of “Secret Invasion” or “Illuminati”, this issue would be fairly important as a story in its own right given the backdrop of the last year or so in “New Avengers”.
Likewise, "New Avengers"' rotating guest artist trend hits yet another high with Cheung’s work. Drawing this many Skrulls could send an artist round the bend, but Cheung actually manages to make each one distinct and full of personality. He’s one of Marvel’s finest artists at the moment, and it’s just a shame he turns up so irregularly.
“Secret Invasion” has only recently begun in earnest, but issues like this make it feel like it’s been unfolding for years. An essential read for anyone following that story, even if you’re not following this specific Avengers team.