These two issues finish “The Crossing Line,” a storyline that began in issue #319, with the Avengers joining with the People’s Protectorate (from Russia) and Alpha Flight (from Canada) to face terrorists who hijacked a British nuclear submarine… a situation that, as of the end of the last issue, definitely went south, as shown on the first cover above. (Does anyone else suspect that this cover—which erroneously says “part 4 of six” rather than “part 5″—is an homage to All-Star Squadron #20 from April 1983?)
The opening page to issue #323—the layout again invoking the classic JLA/JSA team-ups, as noted in the last post—once again introduces the cast, whose headshots frame the nuclear detonation (without reacting to it, which is somewhat disconcerting).
Did anyone survive? Let’s roll back the tape a bit to Cap’s initial reaction, which is appropriately negative. (It’s a fine page, courtesy of Rik Levins, Tom Palmer, and Nelson Yomtov.)
Nonetheless they did survive, and the conscious heroes come together to wonder how.
It’s a long story, but Sersi, Fantasma, and Shaman worked together to capture the explosion, negate its worst effects, and transport it to another dimension, where the rest of the issue takes place. Once reunited, Cap asks Sersi how she is, which he often neglects to do after asking her to do the impossible, hence her expression of gratitude (perhaps a little facetious).
That doesn’t stop him from asking her to do the impossible again on the next page…
…and her response is perfect.
(I liked the Eternals film more than most people, from what I’ve gathered online, but how I wish its Sersi would have been written with some of the personality of the version we see in this run of Avengers.)
Shaman helps the first batch of people cross back into their home dimension, but with unanticipated tragic results, due to the nuclear blast they were trapped inside.
The collected heroes express their shock (echoing the issue’s cover), which is too much for Sersi, but the fun really starts when the two terrorists who causing the explosion appear, hoping to take advantage of the situation.
In issue #324, Cap points out the obvious…
…before calling out Vision for doing the same.
Way to contribute, Puck—but he does better as he starts to collect the unconscious heroes, inspiring Cap to instruct the other “low-powered” heroes to do the same, while the others fight the Combine.
But it’s Cap who thinks of a way to get the civilians to safety…
…which he guides his colleagues into implementing.
Cap realizes that the Combine is the greater danger to their home world…
…but he doesn’t anticipate getting help from the least likely source: the Combine’s fellow terrorists, who do not share the extreme ideology of their former partners. (Puck helpfully points out the irony of the situation; he seems to have more in common with his Shakespearean counterpart than I knew, if less troublesome.)
The helpful Peace Corpse members explain how Cap and the other heroes inspired them to renounce their ways, but there’s still a hitch… and guess who they need to solve it.
“Someone pushed her too far already,” Cap says, innocently. But Fantasma steps in, linking them all telepathically…
…allowing Cap to inform the others about the new plan. After the rebel Peace Corpse members manage to co-opt the Combine and drain enough of the radiation away from the heroes and civilians, Shaman lets Cap know he’s ready. At this point, the Atlanteans offer themselves as test subjects for the journey, which Cap accepts while denying their devaluation of their own lives.
Shaman initially brings people back over water, so the Atlanteans, who arrive first, are able to help the humans who are too weak to swim. (That worked out nicely!)
After shuttling all the people and physical wreckage back in their home dimension, Shaman stays conscious just long enough to bring back the three team leaders, who were naturally the last to leave.
When all is said and done, the teams all part as friends—even the Atlanteans—although Puck gets to make the speech that Cap would normally make. (I’m sure he’s saying much the same thing on the Quinjet.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #323, late September 1990, “One World’s Not Enough for All of Us”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Nelson Yomtov (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #324, early October 1990, “Imaginary Borders”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Paul Ryan (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Max Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #321-322 (August-September 1990)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #376-378 (September-October 1990), Marvel Super-Heroes #3 (September 1990), Uncanny X-Men #268 (September 1990), Captain America Annual #9, West Coast Avengers Annual #5, and Avengers Annual #19 (September 1990), Spectacular Spider-Man #168-169 (September-October 1990), and Marvel Comics Presents #60 (October 1990)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #325 (October 1990)