Issue(s): Avengers #319, Avengers #320, Avengers #321, Avengers #322, Avengers #323, Avengers #324, Avengers #325
The Crossing Line
Len Kaminski - Assistant Editor
The impetus for all of this is a British nuclear sub that is taken over by a group of mostly Russian terrorists called the Peace Corpse. Their more than a little unhinged plan involves starting a nuclear war, in part because they think that it will result in an economic boost similar to what happened during World War II. I said it was unhinged, right?
After determining that calling in their Weird Happenings Organization is "not appropriate" and that Excalibur is "not available", the UK make a call to the US to bring in the Avengers. The current line-up consists of Captain America, Sersi, the Vision, and Quasar. Starfox is said to be recuperating. Since the mission involves a submarine, the Avengers try to contact Namor but have no luck. So Stingray, who is not an official Avenger, is called in to help.
But also on the scene are the Soviet heroes. They have changed the name of their team from the Supreme Soviets to the People's Protectorate.
The robot Sputnik has changed his name to Vostok. And Fantasia has changed her named to Fantasma, or maybe she just made a typo on her registration form the first time.
Since the majority of the Peace Corpse are Russian, the People's Protectorate claim first dibs on them. That triggers a fight with the Avengers that everyone agrees is pointless but no one seems able to stop. Which sounds like a metaphor to me.
Red Guardian is absolutely right. Captain America started this fight, telling the Avengers that he wasn't sure if he trusted the Soviets and sending the Avengers out to stop them.
The Vision was kind of dumb, too. He knew that Vostok's power is manipulating machinery and yet he picked that guy as his opponent.
Anyway, while the fighting is happening, Fantasma is having visions of another force getting angry and making their way over, and then the Atlanteans show up.
U-Man is really experiencing a revival at this time. We didn't hear from him at all between World War II and Atlantis Attacks, but here he is again. Good for him. Of course he'd like us to call him Meranno now.
The arrival of the Atlanteans immediately unites the two surface dweller teams. Typical!
Perun will be a source of amusement throughout these issues.
The battle between the super-characters is causing damage to the nuclear sub, so Captain America and Red Guardian agree to let the sub get away while they continue the fight against the Atlanteans. Stingray manages to sneak onto the sub before it leaves, though. The damaged sub is forced to surface in a Newfoundland port instead of going to the United States as originally planned. Stingray frees the hostages on the sub, although that seems to be what the Peace Corpse wants.
The Avengers and the People's Protectorate rout the Atlanteans and head to Newfoundland after Stingray contacts them. Sersi is unable to simply transform the submarine into "flies or something" because she doesn't know its "mechanical fundamentals".
One interesting and kind of prescient plot point in this story is that everyone is working under the assumption that the terrorists are just looking for a ransom, when in fact they are fanatics. That doesn't play too much into the overall story but it's interesting to see the Avengers making the wrong assumption. It starts with the Avengers deciding to call the Peace Corpse's bluff and not give in when they threaten to start shooting hostages if they aren't allowed to make repairs. So that's how Stingray gets shot in the head.
(Stingray is actually fine, protected by his exoskeleton, but no one knows that yet.)
At that point, the two groups of heroes decide to rush the terrorists, but then Alpha Flight shows up and tells them to stand down.
The book is getting a little crowded!
But that is actually the main appeal.
Heather Hudson indicates that she is Guardian now. Captain America vouches for Alpha Flight to the People's Protectorate (although it's pointed out that he's vouching for their abilities more than their experience). Heather is depicted as being a bit... harsh, but that's actually in character for the way she's been handled since the Mantlo days. She's also shown to be a fairly effective leader (worth noting that Fabian Nicieza is the regular Alpha Flight writer at this time).
You'll also note the theme of internationalism that is behind this storyline.
Heather agrees to the terrorist's demands for the short term and allows them to dock for repairs.
The super-teams then get together to figure out how to deal with the terrorists. It's determined that a stealth team will infiltrate the sub while everyone else will evacuate the Newfoundlanders in the town in case of trouble. The stealth team includes Captain America, Vostok and Box for their mechanical manipulative abilities, Vision for his stealth, and Puck "due to his size and experience in such matters". Red Guardian insists on going along also, and he reveals that he knows the leader of the Peace Corpse.
On their stealth mission, Captain America notices that the Vision seems to be trying to out-robot Vostok. This could be an indication that his original personality is not as far gone as was thought.
A flaw in the stealth team's mission is Box's size. I guess Cap assumed, like i did, that Box could reconfigure himself into something more compact if necessary.
Puck's size is really played up in the sub mission. That's not his super-power, guys!
Meanwhile, the Atlanteans decide that they're tired of getting constantly beaten...
...so they decide go to and trigger the nuclear explosion that the terrorists are threatening.
So once again, Atlantis Attacks.
Madison Jeffries uses up the energy in his Box armor knocking out Orka. He attacked Orka from behind because Orka was giving Perun trouble.
Have i mentioned that Perun is pretty funny?
While most of the heroes deal with the Atleanteans, Captain America, Red Guardian, and the two robot heroes deal with the two die-hard leaders of Peace Corpse, who have hooked themselves up to the nuclear device in the sub so that it will trigger if they are messed with. Red Guardian reveals himself to the leader of the group.
This is when they explain their nutty plan.
Not sure if "dividing line" is meant to refer to the name of this event, Crossing Line.
After "hours" of fighting and working to undo the nuclear device, the two robots think they've figured out how to disable the nuke, but, um, total fail.
But it's not as bad as it seems, because at the last second Shaman managed to throw everything into his medicine pouch.
So the majority of issue #323 is everyone kind of tediously floating around in various weird dimensions...
...making their way back to a central point so that Shaman can let them out. When they do start letting people out, though...
So they can't let people out yet. But a possible solution is in the Combine, the merged consciousness of the two leaders of the Peace Corpse.
The Combine have the power to remove all the radiation, but of course not the desire. So a lot of issue #324 is the horde of super-heroes fighting the ultra-powerful entity while hovering in the non-nondescript alternate dimension (again, kind of tedious, although Perun's insult makes up for it).
They eventually hit on the idea of getting the other, less fanatical members of Peace Corpse to merge with the Combine and outvote them.
Perun rightly describes the idea as ridiculous, but as Crimson Dynamo notes, that means it will probably work.
And it does work. Before that, though, enough of the radiation dissipates that some people can be let out early. The Atlanteans had a change of heart inside Shaman's pouch due to the way everyone was working together, so they volunteer to test the ability to leave the pouch without getting irradiated, and once they are out they start helping the refugee humans.
The the Combine vote happens and they agree to help everyone else.
The story kind of got bogged down in the last two issues due to all the extra-dimensional stuff, but it's a nice message and the earlier parts with the various super-teams fighting were fun.
The Atlanteans leave on a positive note after Captain America promises them that Attuma got a fair trial after Atlantis Attacks (which we never saw, right?).
One odd little footnote that struck me when i was checking my Characters Appearing against the MCP: this is apparently the last appearance of Tyrak. He doesn't die or anything. I guess people just forgot about him and he doesn't get used any more. He never was a big deal but he had a few good moments taking on teams of Avengers all by himself. And he seems like a good mid-level threat for your generic Atlantean storyline. I always kind of liked him because of his eyewear, which makes it look like he's going around in sunglasses. Like he's the Joe Cool of Atlantis. Update: As Faborst notes in the comments, Tyrak will appear again years later during Fear Itself.
The Crossing Line storyline was a bi-weekly summer event, with pencilers Richard ("Rik") Levins and Paul Ryan alternating between issues (and the inkers being less consistent; you'd think Ryan would always be teamed up with Tom Palmer as has been the case in previous issues, but it's not always the case here). To help with that schedule, there are also back up features by Mark Gruenwald and a variety of artists. The back-ups feature on the Avengers support staff: communications director Peggy Carter, tech engineer Fabian Stankowicz, pilot John Jameson, and security chief Michael O'Brien, and Jarvis the butler.
The group is currently in the process of rebuilding the Avengers subbasement. One point of interest in future issues will be the Avengers' meeting room table, so here's a scene showing that Michael O'Brien has brought in a replacement table that cost $50,000.
But of more immediate concern is that each issue features one of the characters being confronted with a moment of guilt or fear from their past.
This all turns out to be the work of Mother Night (aka Suprema), with some help from Machinesmith and Melvin Scarbo (aka Minister Blood, and Mother Night's brother).
The Avengers Crew are brainwashed and released.
The back-up story then becomes the main story for issue #325. But first, i mentioned that table before. Turns out that new table was an unnecessary expense.
More on the saga of this table in the next arc!
Ok, we had Perun maybe getting a little too uncomfortable about two men touching buttocks above, maybe in a "protests too much" kind of way. But one character that is definitely gay is Machinesmith. First, an interior decorating comment.
Then he's rejecting the lusty Mother Night.
And then he turns his hidden cameras on the Vision.
The Vision notices the camera and confronts Machinesmith.
The two robots wind up knocking each other out, but Machinesmith is able to transfer his mind to a computer first.
I like Machinesmith being a gay character. I just find the writing to be way too unsubtle. I have to admit that "gorgeous hunk of man-machine" is really no different than similar scenes from Mark Gruenwald (he wrote the back-ups and this final issue), like with Diamondback thinking, "Mmmmmh! Look at that tushie move" about Captain America. So part of why this feels off to me is just Gruenwald's writing style. But every gay character doesn't have to have an interest in interior decorating.
Meanwhile, Quasar uses the good old boy network to get his civilian self a job.
Quasar works fast, too.
There are repeated jokes about Quasar's (lack of a) secret ID.
Vision's body is worked over with a hammer and chisel by Scarbo, and then dumped in the East River. Then the bad guys decide to attack at a party being held by Sersi.
When Diamondback shows up as Cap's date at the party, there's a little cattiness between her and Sersi. We'll see more of that in the next arc as well.
As for the villain's scheme, i don't know. It doesn't seem to be much of an attack. The villains make the hypnotized Avengers staff attack their dates.
I'm unsure if John Jameson's date is supposed to be his longtime girlfriend Kristine Saunders. It does look like her, with miscolored hair, but it has been a long time since we saw her, and she isn't named, and the MCP don't list her. Anyway, she turns out to be fine; she passed out from shock. The Vision recovered and disarmed all the bullets in the guns, turning them into blanks, before the party, and then waited to see how things would play out before revealing himself. He then captures the two Scarbos.
Issue #325 has a fun cover by John Byrne.
I wasn't expecting "great" from this story, but it's fun to see so many characters running around.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after Alpha Flight #87-90 since the return of
For what it's worth, in issue #325 it's said that the repairs on Avengers Mansion's subbasement are complete at this time and the work is all going on "topside".
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBlonde Phantom, Captain America, Crimson Dynamo V, Diamond Lil, Diamondback, Fabian Stankowicz, Fantasma, Gabriel Jones, Glory Garsen, Guardsman II (Michael O'Brien), Jarvis, Kayla Ballantine, Kenjiro Tanaka, Machinesmith, Madison Jeffries, Man-Wolf (John Jameson), Mother Night, Orka, Peggy Carter, Perun, Puck, Quasar, Red Guardian (Steel Guardian), Scarbo, Sersi, Shaman, She-Hulk, Stingray, Tyrak, U-Man, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Vision, Vostok
U-Man, eh? Wonder what he would think of the U-Men. Not that he needs much encouragement to harvest a certain mutant's organs... Or wings.
Posted by: Max_Spider | June 25, 2015 4:49 PM
Tyrak has one last appearance in the Fear Itself tie in The Deep.
Posted by: Faborst | June 25, 2015 5:44 PM
Ah, thanks Faborst.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 25, 2015 6:24 PM
fnord, the Fear Itself storyline is much more than a decade after this one. Tyrak tends to disappear for periods of about two decades between appearances...
Posted by: Bill | June 25, 2015 7:11 PM
Fabian Nicieza has a much lower opinion of his work on these issues than you do, fnord.
Posted by: Michael | June 25, 2015 7:56 PM
Also, why does Bukharin have the armor in these issues when Shalatov was already the Crimson Dynamo by this point? Was Shalatov punished for Tony's actions in Iron Man 255?
Posted by: Michael | June 25, 2015 8:23 PM
Bill, not sure if you're trying to correct something i said about Tyrak and "a decade"? Maybe related to that, Tyrak's appearances were in 1976, 1978, 1987, 1989, and 1990 (this story). Not too shabby for a C-lister. Maybe there's some confusion between him and Merrano the U-Man?
Michael, added the Shaman reference. Thanks. Regarding Crimson Dynamo VI, we did see that he was arrested in IM #255.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 25, 2015 8:42 PM
I think that one factor I do have to credit with Nieceza that's a positive here is his desire to use international heroes in general instead of just to "fill space" like many of their appearances. If its an international incident, then why not have the Avengers, Alpha Flight and the Supreme Soviets all have something in association with it, let alone Atlantis. Its this sort of thing that does allow for him to at least have a hand and understanding to at least try new ideas with many of the characters he's associated with around this period.
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 25, 2015 8:55 PM
Yeah, fnord, but if the Dynamo IV was absent because he was arrested, you'd think there would be a scene like this:
Posted by: Michael | June 25, 2015 9:26 PM
Well, like you've noted, there's a kind of gap because of the story intended for Marvel Comics Presents that later got published as the one shot. The whole situation with them being treated at Avengers Island and then appearing now feels like something is missing, because, essentially, there is.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 25, 2015 9:28 PM
I quite liked this storyline. At the time it was published it felt like it was reflecting the times a bit more, with the Soviets no longer cartoon bad guys.
Peace Corpse is a great name and the idea of superheroes taking on actual terrorists was a good one, particularly as they were idealist terrorists.
In general the soviets come off well here. Crimson Dynamo is a polite, humane opponent, Vostok shows his superiority to the Vision in every way (the Vision needs to get taken down a peg) and Perun is brilliant.
The issues did drag a bit once they were inside the pouch but I liked the raid on the sub. Also the idea of calling in Stingray as a water specialist was good.
I liked that Mother night's plan was foiled by Quasars extra security measures and it was nice that the Avengers finally acknowledged Diamondback.
Posted by: kveto | June 26, 2015 4:14 AM
Interesting that Byrne still did the cover for 325, considering the fiasco that led to him quitting both Avengers books only a few months earlier.
Posted by: Bob | June 26, 2015 6:40 PM
Fnord, its true that Machinesmith's sexuality isn't subtle...but I don't think its meant to be. I think the point is that he is a flamboyant and "flaming" gay man. Back when Machinesmith was still Saxon Starr, the artists were meant to get his sexuality across with flamboyant gestures and such, so I don't think it is just a matter of Gruenwald's writing style.
I think its great that Machinesmith is so flamboyantly gay. Obviously if all gay characters were written that way it would be a problem in terms of stereotypes, but I think there are enough different gay characters out there that it isn't an issue--and the more flamboyant and 'obvious' gay men do exist and deserve to be represented as well.
I've just always found it interesting that Machinesmith ended up as part of Red Skull's Skeleton Crew...and that none of the other villains seem to have any issue about his sexuality. When Mother Night and Minister Blood find him and Vision intertwined on the floor, they even start to speculate that the two of them are having sex (although Machinesmith interrupts them before he can finish the sentence and give the Comics Code a fit).
Posted by: Dermie | June 28, 2015 11:55 PM
Another plus is that Machinesmith--at least to my eyes--isn't being written as being evil BECAUSE he's gay, he's just evil and HAPPENS to be gay.
Posted by: Thanos6 | June 29, 2015 12:30 AM
Thanks for the thoughts on Machinesmith, guys. I basically agree but still find the interior decorating comment specifically to be a little too much of "let me throw out every gay stereotype possible".
It's not specific to this issue, but Dermie there's also a flipside to what you note about him joining the Skeleton Crew. I do think it's very progressive of Mother Night and Minister Blood to seemingly be ok with Machinesmith's sexuality. But i think it's weird that Machinesmith is ok with hanging out with a Nazi. I get that he's evil, but considering how homosexuals were treated during the Holocaust you could almost imagine Machinesmith doing something similar to Magneto during Acts of Vengeance.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 29, 2015 8:10 AM
Maybe Gruenwald was thinking of "Ernest Rohm"?
Posted by: Michael | June 29, 2015 8:20 AM
The big difference between how someone like Machinesmith might view the Red Skull being a Nazi and how Magneto might is that, while the former may be aware from history books and so on that the Nazis persecuted homosexuals, Magneto would have needed no books to know that they persecuted Jews: for him, it was visceral and real and the stuff of his nightmares (literally, as per at least one New Mutants issue).
Posted by: Harry | June 29, 2015 8:41 AM
It does, Harry. In fact, everything about the Machinesmith's depiction here is meant to allow for a reading where Machinesmith isn't gay so much as he's a robot, therefore romantically interested in other robots (who may identify as male, but John Byrne just got through tearing down Vision's masculinity). Gruenwald clearly didn't intend just that interpretation, but it does add another layer to it.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 29, 2015 8:51 AM
Fnord, I agree that it is odd that Machinesmith would choose to work for the Skull. But then, he would hardly be the first gay person to ally with someone who is anti-gay.
I think Harry's got a good point with the fact that for Machinesmith, the Nazis' crimes against gays are a matter of history--so he doesn't necessarily have a personal emotional investment in it. Until/unless the Red Skull displays a homophobic hostility towards him personally, Machinesmith is probably just turning a blind eye to it so he can continue to enjoy the resources he gets access to in the Red Skull's employ.
Harry has another good point with the difference between Machinesmith in his current state vs his former human self. Although he still has the same mind and personality, Machinesmith does seem to consider himself more evolved and superior to organics, so he may not care much about what happened to a bunch of humans in the past.
I'm jumping way ahead in time with this comment, but I've often thought that Machinesmith should find and repair the Thunderbolts' robot member Techno...they'd made an interesting couple.
Posted by: Dermie | June 30, 2015 1:27 AM
Am I the only one who has never read The Crossing and thus aren't dreading when fnord gets to it?
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 10, 2015 1:49 PM
Erik, I feel bad for fnord once he reaches "The Crossing" because it is so full of errors and even reading it issue to issue makes no sense. Characters appear at places they shouldn't be or even disappear altogether (and not because of superpowers). The general story is basically nonsensical.
I feel even MORE bad for him when he reaches "Avengers Forever", which, while a fun story and well worth reading by an Avengers fan, it has to straighten out the mess of "The Crossing". Fnord may well find himself needing a stay in a nice quiet rubber room for a while.
Posted by: Bill | October 10, 2015 6:10 PM
Lol, count me among those who already jumped ship from Marvel by the time of "The Crossing," and therefore *looking forward* to its coverage here.
Posted by: cullen | October 11, 2015 1:24 AM
Avengers Forever will either greatly simplify or greatly complicate the "Characters Appearing" tags for the Crossing.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 12, 2015 6:25 AM
Concerning the opening of this review, and the comparisons to The Crossing in the comments; I have to say I like The Crossing a million times more than "The Crossing Line."
For all it's errors and strange plot choices, The Crossing was exciting and dramatic throughout. Crossing Line however, was extremely boring to me.
Posted by: Urban Commando | April 23, 2017 6:11 AM
Comments are now closed.
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