Jeff Lemire has returned to Marvel for the launch of an intriguing new book that features one of the publisher’s most underutilized characters. The Sentry’s new ongoing series is a promising start to what may be a classic Marvel Comics series.
Introduced in Paul Jenkins and Rick Veitch’s Marvel Knights mini-series before becoming a prominent fixture in Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers tenure, the Sentry has not had a prominent role in a Marvel comic since Uncanny Avengers. Sentry recently return in the pages of Doctor Strange, courtesy of writer Donny Cates, brought with it a surprising change for the golden hero. The good Doctor has given Mr. Reynolds a way to be the Sentry without releasing his darker half, the Void. And that is where Lemire’s story begins.
Bob Reynolds was once a superhero but is now living in an apartment he can barely afford while working at a diner. However, when he is not at work Bob enters into his own pocket dimension where he can resume his role as the Sentry and save the day. In this place he can be a hero again.
Lemire crafts a tale full of human pain and depression as Bob’s only moments of true happiness seem to come from his time as the Sentry in the pocket universe. This gift from Doctor Strange is an escape for Reynolds, not only from his civilian life, but also from a world in which his role as a hero would risk the destruction of everything. In the pocket universe Bob is a hero, but in the ‘real’ world he is nothing but a supervillain menace waiting to happen. It is because of this fact that Bob spends his time indulging in what is essentially escapist fiction. Hopefully Lemire will explore this further in later issues.
One thing that makes this series very reminiscent of Doomsday Clock is the focus on how superhero comics have changed. The pocket dimension is the optimistic silver-age, whereas Bob Reynolds lives in a fictional world defined by Alan Moore and Frank Miller, one filled with mistrust. This is best exemplified in motivations of Misty Knight’s bosses and their fear of Bob’s full powers as the Sentry. Lemire seems to be writing a story about the very nature of superhero comics, making The Sentry very similar to his work on Black Hammer.
The pacing of this first issue is slow, but the creators are not telling a conventional superhero narrative and it has more in common with Lemire’s Moon Knight run then it does his Extraordinary X-men series. Lemire’s script is heavily focused on developing its characters more so then it is spectacle so the series slows down its pace to pay better attention to the quite moments. When the issue’s big twist occurs, the reader is already invested in Bob’s inner struggle.
The art is incredible and Aaron Kim Jacinto brings a style to the series not often seen in superhero comics. His work is rough, idiosyncratic and gives the series a unique aesthetic that differentiates it from other superhero comic books. Jacinto’s art is perfect for rendering the scenes featuring Bob in the real world, but he uses the same style when depicting the pocket universe as well. A more visually interesting approach would be to render those sequences as if they were silver-age style comic book or to have more than one artist work on The Sentry. This is a tactic that worked very well when Lemire was writing his mind-bending run on Moon Knight.
I also cannot help but notice the similarities between the Sentry’s former side-kick and Kid Miracleman (or Kid Marvelman) from Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed run on the British superhero, Miracleman (or Marvelman). I am curious as to whether this will have any bearing on where Lemire takes this new superhero epic next.
The Sentry #1 is available at you local comic shop and through digital reading services.