Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Sentry - Marvel just can't figure it out

One of the icons of DC Comics is Superman. The Man of Steel is powerful, true, and faces supervillains of all kinds every month. His main foe is not even super-powered, but a normal guy named Lex Luthor. Despite his lack of superpowers, Luthor always manages to give Supes a problem worthy of his powers. Amazingly enough, Marvel never jumped on the bandwagon of the caped super-being powerful enough to take down a planet...until they rediscovered a character they had left to obscurity: The Sentry.

Even though he made an appearance a few years earlier in a miniseries no one seemed to read, The Sentry really made his presence known in New Avengers #1. Relegated to nothing more than a simple "He's the most powerful person on Earth" comment, followed by a "He killed his wife" mystery statement, we are given just a taste of what's to come.

It isn't until the second issue that we are treated to what was the biggest "Holy Cow!" moment in comics for me in years. Carnage (the crazed Spider Man symbiote villain) is one of the escaped prisoners from The Raft and is about to seriously injure Foggy Nelson, when out of the shadows flies this yellow blur. Without a word, the Sentry carries Carnage into outer space, and then promptly rips him in half! It appeared that Marvel had found a superhero who could finally compete with Superman in power, and kick him to the curb in serious attitude. I mean, Spider-Man fought him for years and never put a dent in him, but Sentry kills the guy the first time they meet! It's like The Punisher and Superman all rolled into one.

Now this is where it gets weird. Marvel takes this really cool hero (and my primary reason for subscribing to the comic) and tucks him away in another asylum for six issues. Then we get to see him again, but this time he's a basket case rambling on about killing his wife. We get a big "The Sentry is The Void!" moment (but they had already told us this in the first Sentry miniseries) and it appears he's all right. Nope.

For some reason, Marvel has no clue what to do with this hero. It's like they made him so powerful they have no clue as to how to make him relevant to the Marvel universe, so they tuck him away month after month with one mental breakdown after another. It's so bad, that the Sentry's big moment in Secret Invasion #2 is relegated to this brief encounter with Skrull Vision. Get this: the most powerful hero in the Marvel stable and one who could seriously do some world-changing gets sent away crying no less! Why does Marvel hate this hero?

Here's an idea for the Marvel editors: go buy a copy of the latest issue of Superman and see how to handle a character like this. Don't get me wrong: Superman hasn't been the greatest title in recent years, but at least DC knows how to throw super-villains his way. They don't make him crazy, they just up the ante on who he fights.

You want to fix this ultra-cool character? Forget the "breakdown of the week" idea, let him settle down and just be a hero. Throw some tough baddies at him (create some if you have to, but there are a lot to choose from already waiting for him like Juggernaut or the Wrecking Crew), and let the fans enjoy some great storytelling. This is the one character Marvel has really stumbled with, and there's really no reason why. It's a simple fix. If DC can do it, then you know it has to be simple.


Jonathan Nolan said...

To me it's painfully obvious why. Marvel has Shazam-ed itself with this awful character.

It didn't need Sentry and it was a retcon character on top of that, absolutely stupid and pointless. Gladiator of the Shi'ar was the Superman of Marvel U.

Sentry now is the third wheel, soon to be put out of his misery when Bendis finally leaves and Thor comes back in time for his movie.

Excellent Blog by the way, loved reading through it!


Andy L said...

I agree with Brian in that the Sentry was also my reason for reading the New Avengers, and I still haven't given up hope. I also agree that, while he's not as clean as superman, he's totally doable as a great character. But the writer who could handle him is few and far between.

Take a look at Authority, lotsa uberpowered characters, dirty ones even. The trick is to tell an actual story instead of a hack and slash clobberfest. I think the new Thor comics are great because they've added complexity to the resurrected character of Thor. I think Sentry could be even better than Thor, in fact. But there's a list of characters Marvel won't do anything with, and I couldn't tell you why. Surfer, Dr. Strange, even Hulk sometimes get reduced to deus ex machina positions even though they could be the strongest focal points. I think Bendis is the first one in a while to have the balls to break away from the Spiderman formula, and I want more Marvel writers to follow that lead Bendis has laid out.

Nash said...

Sentry has been the only really cool new hero in a while and I have a lot of hopes in him, I feel like with him Marvel can get to another level, present different kind of stories, not just the same formulas, nice to see I´m not alone waiting a lot from Sentry, so let´s hope marvel forget about all the garbage they are making with him and give us at last the new great hero they have been showing glimpses of. because Sentry Rocks!!

andres6593 said...

They already played the crazy card with what they should do is what DC did with Superman prime and make him the single most powerful villain in the universe that can't b stopped only relocated....because as it stands he is only being used as a hero....and he is only truly bad ass as a villain

Anonymous said...

Found this by Googling "Sentry is BS" after reading his Wikipedia page. The "hey this guy has always been here and everybody knows him" retcon was unbelievably lame the first time they did it with Cable.

But it still wouldn't have been as bad if they had a clear idea as to what they were going to do with him. Sentry is like Sylar after the first season of Heroes - the writers can't make up their minds as to what to do with him.

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