“Sentry World, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Brian Hitch (regular)/Kim Jacinto and Pyeongjun Park (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I don’t get it.
When writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee introduced the Sentry in 2000, it was an interesting experiment in genre storytelling – a super-hero who’d been erased from continuity because it turned out he was as big a threat to reality as he was its savior. The problem arose when Marvel’s writers and editors decided to make use of the character beyond the initial limited series. The character was wisely killed off in the Siege event book eight years ago. And now he’s back, because… because… Why the hell did Marvel bring him back? Jeff Lemire doesn’t offer an explanation for how Bob Reynolds survived his supposed death, nor is there a clear purpose to this deeply depressing story.
Bob Reynolds is living a mundane, filthy life, barely eking out a living in New York City by working in a greasy spoon. He loathes his life, and his only reprieve is his daily visit to a false reality in which he is the all-powerful Sentry once again, joined by cherished allies and where he triumphs over evil – always. The illusion is the only thing keeping the Void, the dark, destructive identity lurking within him, in check, thereby keeping the world safe. But what happens when the day comes when that safeguard is gone?
This script is a series of missteps, but notable among them is the inclusion and depiction of Misty Knight. Instead of a heroic crusader for justice, she plays the role of the Sentry’s de facto jailer, cracking the whip when she feels he’s not being compliant enough. There’s an unseemly jack-booted tone to her words and presence in the story. The timing is poor, given that Season 2 of Luke Cage dropped a week ago, featuring the continuing storyline of the live-action incarnation of the character. Simone Missick’s portrayal of the character is fierce and honorable, and that’s not the vibe Lemire instills in his depiction of the character here.
Kim Jacinto’s elongated and angular artwork suits the harsh tone of the plot here. It’s highly stylized, but it’s not as though this book needs a realistic look (which raises some questions about why artist Brian Hitch was tapped to render the image for the regular-edition cover). Jacinto’s style is in the vein of many comics professionals active in mainstream comics today, such as Sean Gordon Murphy, Matteo Scalera and Tradd Moore, so it should appeal to fans of those talents. I liked the texture and grit effects that colorist Rain Beredo adds to the visuals, as they’re certainly in keeping with the miserable tone of the story.
And miserable, it most definitely is. Even the opening scene – in which Bob lives his ideal life as a triumphant hero – is gruesomely brutal and reckless. Instead of instilling that mode with the bright atmosphere of a Silver Age Superman yarn (as was part of the intent of the character when it was introduced almost two decades ago), it revels in chaos and unrestrained power. It’s quite off-putting.
The same can be said of Bob’s anger and bitterness in “the real world.” He seems incapable of finding any solace in a quieter, mundane life, and what’s worse is he doesn’t seem content to wallow alone. He shares his misery with the young man who was once his sidekick, who’s now crippled by his past circumstances and forever denied the power and joy of his youth. Bob’s decision to let him know of the illusion in which he must immerse himself daily is incredibly selfish. I don’t mind dark and sullen storytelling, but there’s nothing in Lemire’s take on Reynolds that makes me want to spend any more time with him. 4/10