These two issues continue “The Crossing Line,” a large-scale adventure featuring the Avengers and their Russian counterparts, the People’s Protectorate, battling terrorists called (groan) the Peace Corpse who have hijacked a British nuclear submarine, and also involves the Atlanteans and, as of the final page of the last issue, Alpha Flight as well.
The layout of opening page to issue #321 recalls the great JLA/JSA crossovers of my youth, which often pulled in a third group such as the Freedom Fighters, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the All-Star Squadron, with covers laid out like below, such as Justice League of America #207 from October 1982, drawn by George Pérez. (The floating heads were always alarmed in those cover, though, not calm like the heroes below!)
After Captain America gets updated on a colleague’s new name, the three teams have a discussion over jurisdiction, with Cap endorsing Alpha Flight to a skeptical Red Guardian…
…although I doubt it’s their abilities the Russians are most concerned about.
After Guardian (the Canadian one) takes charge of the situation, Cap is impressed with her performance and grateful for her team, while bemoaning the lack of cooperation between heroes and nations around the world. (All set against very dramatic framing!)
Nonetheless, the heroes do work together to formulate a plan to break into the submarine and rescue the hostages, while the Red Guardian asks a deeper question.
Quasar brings up the issue of the safety of the citizens on land in case of a nuclear denotation, which launches a debate about an “acceptable” loss of life. Vision and Vostok predictably take the side widely considered rational or “logical,” leaving Shaman to point out the absurdity of this question-begging (because their approach is “logical” only if you choose to define logic that way).
Naturally, Cap agrees with Shaman, refusing to explicitly accept any loss of life (while, of course, implicitly acknowledging the possibility), and suggesting a plan to minimize its chances.
Red Guardian insists on joining the infiltration team, for nationalistic and personal reasons, which don’t sway many of the collected heroes, but Cap accepts it for his own reason (which, unfortunately, expands his own responsibilities during this already multifaceted mission).
As he works with Vostok and Vision to board the vessel, Cap is reminded of Vision’s recent colder demeanor since his “reconstitution” in West Coast Avengers #45.
After the rest of the team goes inside the sub, Cap finally realizes the one factor he hadn’t considered. (Everyone forgets something now and then, right?)
And they couldn’t figure out to make a toy out of him?
At least the choice of Puck for this team makes up for Cap’s oversight regarding Box.
Once they defeat most of the terrorists, it is Vizh… sorry, Vision… Mr. Vision, sir… who delivers the bad news regarding the last two.
As promised above, the story continues in issue #322, with the heroes in the sub confronting this new wrinkle, while those outside fight the returned Atlanteans. Most important, Red Guardian finally gets to ask his question from before (with Cap’s support).
When the terrorists, both former Soviet military, tell Red Guardian that they intend to launch an new world war for the good of Russia, Cap presses them more, and they reveal that their concern is for poverty, hunger, and economic inequality in general, which they hope to address with the old standby of wartime economic stimulus.
Red Guardian questions the terrorists’ “broken window fallacy,” and gets the weakest response possible: “We hafta do somethin’!”
Vision suggests a more direct response to the situation, which Cap questions (sincerely) before helping refine it.
After Vision gives the signal, Cap and Red Guardian implement a carefully designed and very delicate distraction technique, and Vision and Vostak disconnect the terrorists from the bomb…
…but to no avail. The nuclear weapons onboard the submarine detonate, creating a mushroom cloud on the final page of the story, which we will pick up in the next issue. (That alone should be a good sign, no?)
Finally, each of the six issues of “The Crossing Line” features a part of a back-up story about “the Avengers Crew,” leading to its conclusion in issue #325. While Captain America never appears in these, I want to show some panels from issue #322’s back-up, focusing on Peggy Carter, who, like her colleagues in other installments, is being tortured by memories from her past.
As she tries to reach Cap in Newfoundland, she instead sees Sharon—still regarded here as her sister, later retconned as her niece—who apparently died a fiery death in Captain America #237. (Cap has confronted visions of Sharon on occasion, thanks to the Red Skull and/or Doctor Faustus, but this appears to be a first for Peggy.)
She’s not just on the monitor, though…
…and she “explains” her return from the dead before blaming Peggy for surviving, as evil torturous visions are wont to do.
“Peggy-Poo”? In the immortal words of Sweet, she’s more evil then anyone here ever thought—and that’s before she lures Peggy to her own “death.”
As I said, we’ll see how this story finishes in Avengers #325.
Avengers (vol. 1) #321, late August 1990, “Missing Links”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Christopher Ivy (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
“Bombs Away!”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Paul Ryan (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Renée Witterstaeter (colors), John Morelli (letters).
“Into the Fire”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Jim Reddington (pencils), Mickey Ritter (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Both collected in Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #319-320 and New Warriors #1 (July-August 1990)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #374 (August 1990), Daredevil #283 (August 1990), Captain America #375 (August 1990), Thor #420-421 (August 1990), Captain America #376-377 (September 1990), Marvel Super-Heroes #3 (September 1990), Uncanny X-Men #268 (September 1990), Spectacular Spider-Man #168 (September 1990), and Captain America Annual #9, West Coast Avengers Annual #5, and Avengers Annual #19 (September 1990)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #323-324 (September-October 1990)