Avengers (1st series) #324

Issue Date: 
October 1990
Story Title: 
The Crossing Line, part 6: Imaginary Borders (First story)

First story: Fabian Nicieza (Writer), Paul Ryan (Penciler), Tom Palmer (Inker), Bill Oakley (Letterer), Max Scheele (Colorist), Howard Mackie (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

The heroes that are capable engage the Combine in battle, all the while knowing that the Combine are their only means of rescue - and destruction. Captain America, Guardian and Red Guardian dish out the orders to their teammates, while Cap leads the ground force to protect the civilians and near-dead Atlanteans, Guardian leads the strike force against the Combine, and Red Guardian protects Fantasma, who is communicating with Shaman back in the real world. Eventually, the remaining members of the Peace Corpse approach Captain America informing him that they realize what they were doing was wrong, and have a plan - that they integrate their consciousness’ into the Combine, and overtake Prokvitch and Strokov. Fantasma puts the plan into motion by linking her mind with the unconscious Sersi and Captain America, while Guardian and the Vision set about the getting the Combine ready for the intruders. While this is going on, the Combine absorb some of the radiation to keep their waning strength up, enabling Shaman to transport some of the inanimate objects from his medicine pouch and back to Earth - followed by the desperate Atlanteans, who act as test subjects to see if the radiation is completely gone from their bodies - which it has. The thankful Atlanteans begin to show their gratitude by helping the civilians who have emerged from the pouch. The remaining members of the Peace Corpse are merged into the Combine, and begin to overthrow Prokvitch and Strokov. Eventually, the Combine admit their actions were wrong, and transform into a being composed of many components, left to explore the Multiverse. The vortex in Shaman’s pouch begins to collapse, but eventually, all the heroes make it through alive. Sersi regains consciousness, and, finally, everyone can relax. The Atlanteans depart, and make a truce with Captain America, before the People’s Protectorate and Avengers both leave Canada, all the teams, now friends and allies, while Alpha Flight reflect on the harrowing events that have just transpired.

Full Summary: 

(First Story):
‘We are the combine! We are the means to your salvation! We are also the means to your death!’ declare General Major Prokvitch and Strokov, two of the terrorist group known as the Peace Corpse in their large combined form. Trapped inside the mystical pouch belonging to Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen a.k.a. Shaman of Alpha Flight are members of the Avengers, Alpha Flight and People’s Protectorate, along with Atlantean warriors, countless civilians of Newfoundland, the crew of the Waterwind, and the other terrorists - not to mention a nuclear explosion.

The Combine announce that they could absorb the radiation from everyone’s physical forms and allow them to leave this dimensional nexus. ‘We would prefer to send you back as is!’ they exclaim though. Diamond Lil a.k.a. Lillian Crawley of Alpha Flight mutters ‘That wouldn’t do us much good, would it?’ to which Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn of the Avengers replies that it wouldn’t, but that it would serve the Combine’s purposes just fine. While everyone floats around in strange environment, the Avenger known as Sersi still remains incapacitated, while her team leader Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers, points out that the terrorists goals haven’t changed, just their methods.

Heather Hudson a.k.a. Alpha Flight’s leader Guardian reminds everyone that it is still Prokvitch and Strokov they are dealing with - mentally if not physically, adding that all they wanted was to start World War III so that the economies of the world would improve. Vision of the Avengers remarks that it would appear their biological link to the Waterwind has radically altered them when the submarine’s nuclear payload detonated. Cap blocks a blast from the Combine while telling the Vision that there is no need to belabor the obvious and remarks that the question is, can they stop the Combine from saving their lives and tainting Earth with the radiation fallout which blankets them.

‘Pretty interesting questions, eh?’ remarks Eugene “Puck” Judd of Alpha Flight, while his teammate Madison “Box” Jeffries fires some shots at the Combine, exclaiming that if they want to stop them, then they should give the Combine a taste of what they know best. ‘You seek to stop us with bullets, Canadian?’ the Combine asks, before declaring that is laughable, and that they have evolved well beyond the state where conventional warfare can harm them. ‘But let us see how you fare against an unconventional attack!’ the Combine suggests as beams of intense energy shoot from their eyes, hitting Box square in the chest and knocking him backwards, causing Puck, the Vision, Fantasma of the People’s Protectorate and the Atlantean warrior Tyrak to scatter.

Puck points out that the blast has rendered Jeffries unconscious, and Jeffries phases out of the Box armor. Cap looks to Judd to do something, so Judd somersaults towards his teammate, exclaiming that they wouldn’t want to have him floating around on them, as he could wander into all sorts of trouble. Perun of the People’s Protectorate declares that the time for talking is over. ‘Attack!’ he cries. His teammate the Crimson Dynamo a.k.a. Dimitri Burkharin, Quasar, the Vision and Guardian accompany him. The Vision states that they must engage the Combine with their combined might, to which Heather retorts ‘Was that a joke?’ ‘Certainly not, Guardian’ the Vision replies.

Cap turns to reserve Avenger Walter “Stingray” Newell and asks him to follow Puck’s lead by corralling Sersi and keeping her from floating free. Stingray floats over to Sersi while asking what happened to her. Cap explains that in her fatigued state, her mind was assaulted by the Combine’s probe. Turning to his Soviet Counterpart, Red Guardian a.k.a. Josef Petkus, leader of the People’s Protectorate, and Fantasma, Cap points out that they are not much use in a heavy-weight battle liked this one, but they need to protect the civilians.

‘Then do so’ the mysterious Fantasma replies, while she attempts to contact Shaman back on their true dimensional plane, via a manipulation of their respective bio-fields. Cap asks the Red Guardian if Fantasma always acts so curtly, to which Josef replies ‘Unfortunately, yes’ before pointing out that none of the team has the courage to make her stop. ‘I’m not surprised’ Cap remarks, before motioning to the civilians which they still need to move from harms way. ‘But how? Where?’ Cap wonders, when suddenly the odd Vostok of the People’s Protectorate appears beside him, offering his assistance.

Red Guardian asks Vostok how he can help, pointing out that his abilities only affect machinery, to which Captain America motions to the floating Box armor, and suggests that he use it like he did before. ‘That is so!’ Vostok replies as he transforms the mechanical and metallic components of the armor into an effective buttress. Cap applauds Vostok’s work and asks Puck and Stingray to help gather the civilians and the injured Atlanteans behind the shield. Cap motions to Fantasma who floats in a trance and asks Red Guardian what they do about her. Josef replies that there is no need to worry, as he will carry her until she awakens. ‘She makes me miss out on fighting this way quite often!’ he remarks.

Meanwhile, an immeasurable distance away, above what had been St. John’s, Newfoundland, Shaman hovers in the air, telling himself that he can feel the dimensional integrity weakening, and that he doesn’t know if he can maintain the stability within his mystical pouch for much longer. Suddenly, Fantasma’s astral form appears beside Shaman, who replies that he can hear her. Fantasma informs Twoyoungmen that they have been interrupted by further difficulties, explaining that the Peace Corpse terrorists who had blown up the Waterwind have been transformed into a being of radiation and hatred. Blood streaming from his nose, Shaman replies that he senses Fantasma’s thoughts correctly, and remarks that the Combine and trying to shunt the radiation to this plane to further their ends, but assures Fantasma that the Combine are also the only means she and the others have of ridding the radiation in their own bodies.

‘That would seem to be the extent of our dilemma’ Fantasma remarks, to which Shaman replies ‘Not quite’, when suddenly, Fantasma loses the connection, and snaps out of her trance, disorientated. Josef assures her that he is here, and asks what is going on. Captain America supervises Puck and Stingray getting the civilians to safety, and asks Red Guardian if Fantasma has come back to her senses - so to speak.

Fantasma and Red Guardian go over to Cap, and the purple-clad Fantasma reveals that Shaman is losing control of the dimensional integrity. ‘Soon, he will be incapable of retrieving us from within his pouch’ she announces. Cap replies that they cannot stop fighting the Combine, and they cannot allow them to poison Earth. ‘Even if it means never returning home - the Combine must be defeated!’ Cap exclaims, as he turns to where Guardian is leading the physical assault against their enemy.

‘Ho! Have at thee, pontificating buttocks-touching baboons!’ Perun shouts as he tosses his axe at the Combine, who fire a blast at Guardian, knocking her backwards, while Quasar, Vision and Crimson Dynamo all fire at the Combine. The Combine announce that the attacks, though ineffectual, are weakening their limited levels of radiated energy. Quasar calls out to everyone, urging them to keep hammering the Combine, as they’re weakening.

‘They are?’ Crimson Dynamo asks, to which the Vision replies that the Combine does not have a self-replenishing source of energy, explaining that the more they expend, the weaker they should become. Perun suddenly finds his axe careening back towards him, ‘How dare you!’ he bellows, while the Vision adds that his conclusion is based on a postulation that they will survive until that point.

The three other members of the Peace Corpse, and the traitorous Allanson of the Waterwind approach Captain America, exclaiming that they have heard of their comrade’s situation. Captain America tells the terrorists that he doesn’t have time for them now and asks them to accept defeat and let them get on with the task of surviving. ‘In that, we wish to assist you!’ one of them announces. ‘You do? How?’ Cap asks them. The terrorist asks what would happen if the remainder of them were to insert their ideologically sympathetic minds to the forge linked by Prokvitch and Strokov.

Judd asks if they plan to out-vote the Combine’s group mind. ‘Democratic principles in a communist villain?’ Judd adds. ‘Don’t you just love this international thing here!?’. The Peace Corpse tell Captain America that they understand his doubt, and inform him that it is through his actions - and those of the other heroes - that they have seen the error of their ways. ‘Through your efforts, you not only saved your own lives, but those of hundreds of innocents and the very people who threatened you to begin with!’ they point out. Allanson agrees, and admits that he was in it for the money, but that he knows he has done enough wrong to want to make up for it.

Fantasma informs Captain America that she has read the terrorists’ bio-fields and announces that they are sincere, though she also points out that the joining of the Combine was done bio-mechanically when the bombs went off, meaning, to accomplish their task now, they need Sersi. Everyone gathers around the sultry Avenger lying hunched over on the floor of the transformed Box armor, as Cap declares that Sersi is in no condition to do anything. ‘She is not. But I am!’ Fantasma replies as she touches Sersi’s head, then Captain America’s thigh, explaining that she is going to link Sersi’s mind to hers, and her own mind to Cap’s.

Back above, the others continue their assault, and Quasar tells Crimson Dynamo that the Combine are slowing down. ‘So are we!’ Burkharin replies as they both blast the Combine with their respective powers. Wendell sees Heather return to the battle and asks if she is back. ‘Barely’ Canada’s finest replies, before asking what is next. Wendell suggests that they try a double electro-magnetic spectrum disruption, which they do, and it hit’s the Combine hard.

Suddenly, an astral projection of Captain America’s head appears in the “air” asking everyone if they can all hear him. Cap announces that they have a plan, but that it requires all of their help. ‘All of you must continue to pound the Combine relentlessly!’ he orders, adding that they must not let up, and that once the Combine’s resolve is weakened, the remaining members of the Peace Corpse will enter their group mind and force the Combine to absorb the radiation from everyone else.

‘That sounds ridiculous!’ Perun exclaims, to which the Crimson Dynamo agrees, and remarks which is why it will probably work perfectly. With that, the Crimson Dynamo, Guardian, Quasar, Perun and the Vision all unleash their myriad of powers upon the Combine. ‘Pour it on, folks!’ Quasar encourages. ‘Aye, but the Heavens shall tremble this day!’ Perun replies, to which the Vision remarks that although he finds it symbolic, he also finds it unlikely.

Down below, Lillian and Judd watch the battle above. ‘Look at them go!’ Lil exclaims, clenching a fist and wishing that she could try throwing her two bits into that brawl. Judd tells his teammate that they are not exactly equipped to deal with that kind of fighting, and suggests they make themselves useful where they can, which means, using their invulnerable bodies to make sure no stray blasts nail Fantasma while she is busy with Sersi. The Alphans flank Fantasma while one of the Peace Corpse ask her how she intends to do this.

Fantasma replies that there is no need to worry, and as she and Sersi float above the others, she explains that by tapping into Sersi’s biofield, she can manipulate her Eternal powers. The others soon find themselves levitated, and all six are propelled towards the Combine. One of the Peace Corpse ask how they will survive the conflagration ahead, motioning to where the others are still attacking the Combine.

Perun notices his teammates approach, and informs everyone that she has created a protective sheath around herself and the others. The Combine exclaim that the concentrated attack has weakened them, and therefore they must replenish their spent energies. Quasar notes that the Combine are absorbing the radiation from all of them, but that they are now growing stronger. ‘I am liking this plan less and less’ the Crimson Dynamo remarks.

Suddenly, Shaman’s astral image appears before Captain America, announcing that he senses enough ambient radiation has been dissipated for him to start withdrawing some people and inanimate material. ‘You’re sure? Fine. When will you be ready?’ Captain America replies, to which Shaman exclaims ‘Now, quickly, Captain!’.

Suddenly, Meranino, Tyrak and several other near-dead Atlanteans approach Cap, asking if they may be allowed to go first, as they are deliriously close to death as it is. ‘If someone is to be used to test the magician’s theories, it may as well be us’ Tyrak remarks. ‘After all, what difference if a few Atlanteans die?’ Meranino remarks. Captain America replies that all life is precious - including theirs. ‘But if you’re volunteering, then let’s do it. We don’t have much time…’.

Back above, the Vision informs Heather that they have come to an impasse, pointing out that although they want the Combine to continue absorbing the radiation from them, the more that gets absorbed, the harder it will be to insert the Peace Corpse into the group mind. Heather replies that their only chance is to restrict the Combine’s ability to function long enough for the other Soviet’s to join them, to which the Vision agrees, and remarks that he has a plan, but that it will require instantaneous action on Guardian’s part. The android tells Heather that it may prove dangerous for them both. ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’ Heather replies. ‘Colloquial, but summative. Let us proceed!’ the Vision states as he and Heather fly towards the Combine.

Back on Earth, various boats and structures begin tumbling from Shaman’s medicine pouch, and the relieved Alphan sees that all the inorganic material is clean of the radiation which it had been suffused. However, as Twoyoungmen points out, the true test is coming now as the Atlanteans emerge from the medicine pouch, along with some of the civilians. They all fall into the ocean, ‘Water!’ shout the grateful Atlanteans, who quickly realize that the humans are floundering.

Tyrak orders his men to assist the humans, as it is the least they can do now. Shaman tells the commander that his attitude is surprising, before welcoming him home. ‘Home? Yes…we are home…thanks to your efforts’ Tyrak replies, before telling Shaman that he looks unwell. Twoyoungmen replies that he cannot maintain this for much longer. ‘Those inside best hurry…or soon, it will be too late!’.

Back inside Shaman’s medicine pouch, the Vision tells Quasar, Perun and Crimson Dynamo to keep the Combine occupied while he enters them in an intangible state. The Vision then flies through the Combine, solidifying himself while doing so, thus disrupting their metabolic processes. ‘Now, Guardian!’ the android calls out to Heather, who then tells the Peace Corpse to get ready for a gravitational shunt. With that, the terrorists vanish, leaving Fantasma holding onto Sersi, only to reappear beside the Combine. Heather quickly flies away from them while ordering the terrorists to surround the Combine and link into their group mind.

The Combine are confused, and ask their once-allies what the meaning of this is. ‘No! You cannot control us - our cause is just!’ Prokvitch exclaims. But one of the Peace Corpse replies that their actions and decision to unite the world through war was wrong. Another agrees, exclaiming that an international enclave of heroes has shown them the way of the future. ‘The way is through might!’ Strokov shouts, declaring that they must use force to further the needs of their country and planet. Allanson replies that the answer is not through force or might, or personal greed. ‘We’ve learned that now’. The last member of the Peace Corpse exclaims that the way of the future is through mutual dependency, mutual cooperation, and mutual desire.

The four members of the Peace Corpse link their bodies with Strokov and Prokvitch, and are all surrounded in a glow as they ask Prokvitch and Strokov if they can see inside their minds now. ‘I…I…see!’ one of them replies. ‘Then we must atone for the error of our ways, comrades!’ one of the Peace Corpse declares.

Nearby, Heather motions to all of the energy swirling into the Peace Corpse, Crimson Dynamo exclaims that they must be absorbing all of the excess radiation, to which the Vision replies that it is just as they planned all along. ‘In order to maintain their group mind, they need more energy’ he explains. Heather asks what will happen if the Peace Corpse members lose in their test of wills. ‘What if all of that energy just makes for an unstoppable foe?’.

Suddenly, ‘It is done!’ announce the Combine, admitting that their mission was flawed, their goals - no matter the initial intentions - were improperly approached. The heroes watch intently. ‘It worked…thank God!’ Heather exclaims as she hovers beside the Combine and the Peace Corpse. The Combine exclaim that the heroes have shown them that the true spirit of nationalism is not through the defense of self-defined borders, or the temporary fulfilment of political agendas - but through security and unity as part of the world order.

Quasar asks the Peace Corpse / Combine what they will do now, to which they reply that they will seek to learn and grow, adding that their place now, as a being composed of many distinct components will be to explore this Multiverse, which is made up of many distinct realities. ‘It is ironic, but appropriate’. The Combine bids Earth’s heroes farewell, ‘Continue to protect our planet’ they add, when suddenly a blinding light is all that can be seen as they vanish. ‘That’s some light burst, even by my standards!’ Wendell remarks, when suddenly, as Crimson Dynamo points out, the dimensional vortex begins to close around them.

Captain America tells everyone to hurry, as they have run out of time, explaining that Shaman has lost control of the nexus opening. ‘We don’t seem to get much time for a breather on this mission, do we?’ Quasar remarks, when suddenly, he and several of the others appear back on Earth, flung from Shaman’s pouch, they join the recovered Sersi, Fantasma and Vostok, while Judd and Diamond Lil hold up the exhausted Shaman, who exclaims that he cannot hold it any longer. Judd urges him to try, while Diamond Lil tells him to suck it up, before motioning to Quasar and remarking that “the cute yuppie” is out, so there is just a few more to go.

Sersi asks of their respective team leaders, to which Shaman, his face dripping blood, finally whispers that he has lost it - but, just in time, in a blur of blue, red and white, Captain America, Red Guardian and Guardian all emerge from the medicine pouch. ‘Michael! You did it!’ Heather tells her old friend, while Captain America compliments him on a good job, before thanking him. Shaman’s Sarcee pouch drops down beside his feet as he whispers that he is spent, both physically and spiritually.

Thirty minutes later, Quasar thanks Fantasma and her team for their assistance, while the Red Guardian tells Captain America that it was far better to work with him, than against him. The Vision motions out to the bay, announcing that the Atlanteans have left, and asks Cap, who spoke with them earlier, if their differences have been resolved. ‘As much as they can be’ Captain America replies, adding that he gave the Atlanteans his word that the United Nations treated Attuma fairly in his war trial, and that the Atlanteans expressed hope that they could receive assistance for reparations to their city and in finding their missing people. ‘With any luck, this adventure has taught us we can and should work together in the future’ Cap remarks.

Quasar motions to the departing aircraft and points out that the People’s Protectorate are away now too. ‘As allies and friends, I’m happy to say’. Captain America declares. ‘As are the Avengers to the members of Alpha Flight’ the Vision remarks, while Cap asks Heather about the people of St. John’s. Heather replies that Newfoundlanders are a hearty lot, and will be able to pull themselves together, before telling him that Canada is grateful for the Avengers help.

Alpha Flight watch as the Avengers take to the skies in their Quinjet, and Heather tells her friends, including the recovered Jeffries, that they did themselves and their country proud, adding that it was funny to be a part of an ideological struggle between the world’s super powers. Puck remarks that it sort of makes you wonder what the worth of ideology really amounts to. ‘After all, we don’t owe the children of tomorrow a bit of our ideologies and foolish ways. We just owe them a world in which they can choose to create their own…for the better…one hopes…’.

Characters Involved: 

First story:
Captain America, Quasar, Sersi, Stingray, Vision (all Avengers)
Box IV, Diamond Lil, Guardian III, Puck, Shaman (all Alpha Flight)
Crimson Dynamo V, Fantasma, Perun, Red Guardian III, Vostok (all People’s Protectorate)

Meranino, Orka, Tyrak (all Atlantean army)
Other Atlantean soldiers

General Major Illyich Prokvitch, Strokov / The Combine
Kuryestan, Mendev, Voroshilov (all Peace Corpse)

Civilians of Newfoundland
Crew of the Waterwind

Story Notes: 

This issue features a back-up story featuring the “Avengers Crew” written by Mark Gruenwald.

First story:
The Avengers, Alpha Flight, People’s Protectorate and the others found themselves trapped in the various dimensions of Shaman’s pouch in Avengers (1st series) #323, after Shaman trapped them all in there to contain the nuclear explosion which occurred in Avengers (1st series) #322.

Vostok transformed the Box armor into a ship in Avengers (1st series) #323.

Heather’s gravitational shunt which is performed this issue is an extremely rare ability that she uses and has only demonstrated it on one other occasion.

Despite the important themes that this storyline dealt with, the overall importance of this story to the teams and individual characters was minimal at most.

The People’s Protectorate next appear in the Soviet Super Soldiers one-shot, alongside the Super Soldiers (Darkstar, Vanguard, Ursa Major) and a host of other Russian super beings.

The Avengers and Alpha Flight team up once more in Alpha Flight (1st series) #97-101.

Written By: