Jae Lee & June Chung ~ the Sentry # 1
-the Sentry might be the best new character to come out of Marvel Comics in a long, long time. I’m serious. As most fans know, whenever an all-powerful character with a cape is introduced, the Superman comparisons are not far behind. Well, to be quite honest and fair: Superman is NOT a great character. People have tried to humanize him, which does not work. They have turned him into a god, which only works when Grant Morrison does it, but more often than not, Superman is a Parent-Figure. That is why people like Superman: he is the promise of an all-knowing, all-loving, completely infallible God. Forgot your seatbelt? No worries, Superman has got you! Superman is a crappy character because of the simple fact that the nature of his abilities and personality makes him more difficult to write than any other character out there. Comic book characters should be easy to relate to. Because, after all, they are marketed towards teenagers. You are supposed to understand and empathize with these characters, because -as fans- you are supposed to identify with at least one of them. Every comic book fan EVER has the character that they KNOW is them. It is that character that just speaks to us. Superman does NOT speak to us. He is an ideal, he is a God, a Parent, a Problem Solver, etc. But, he is not someone that people tend to identify with. At least not in my experience.
How many CosPlayers do people see dressed as Superman? A couple? OK, how about Cyclops, Wolverine, or any of the X-Men? See my point?
What makes the Sentry a great character is that he -in his very existence- is a big, big problem. Moonstone even tells Norman Osborne the same thing in Dark Avengers:
“You’ve got yourself one whopper of a problem there.”
That is a great character.
That is what DEFINES a great character: creation of more problems than you started with. It creates a well for future writers to continuously tap into. The Sentry’s powers were not clearly defined and explained with limits and stuff because it is important that, to a degree, NOBODY knows what the Sentry can do. And, no one character can realistically stop him. He ripped Ares, the God of War in half. With his bare hands. Just pulled him apart like a piece of celery, holding onto each arm.
He can do that, easily.
He personally destroyed Asgard.
But, when Bob Reynolds/the Sentry talks, all he wants to do is please the people that are around him. He wants to help whoever he thinks is helping him. The New Avengers help him. They try to do it honorably too. Tony and Steve watch out for him, and Dr. Strange and Emma Frost peak into his head. But, as soon as a big enough problem comes along, they use him. Tony tries to recruit him for the Civil War. The Illuminati use him to stop the Hulk’s justifiable rampage. Norman Osborne came along and offered a better deal, and gave it to him. In exchange, Norman got the Angel of Death on his team.
No, seriously. He is THE Angel of Death. From the Bible. The actual Angel of Death that killed the first born of Egypt, caused the Flood of Noah, razed Sodom and Gomorrah. All of it. He is God’s Wrath. And a Helicarrier to the face and a Thor chucking him into the Sun did not kill him.
Spider-Man is great because he has all these powers, but there is a LOT of baggage that goes with them. Mutant Characters work because normal people’s knee-jerk reaction is to hate them.
Comic book stories function on a key element: Conflict.
Whether it is verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, or whatever. Conflict is integral. That is why really good event books do not have a happy ending. A good event book creates more problems than it solves.
Case in point: Re-Read House of M sometime.
For example, do you know WHY Marvel agreed to give Wolverine his memories back? Because they agreed -across the board- that it had to make his life worse. He had to remember, in intimate detail all of the horrible shit that has happened to him and that he had done to other people. What is worse, is that when word gets out that he remembers, even more people want to kill him. And he knows he deserves it.
More important than just Wolverine or Scarlet Witch, House of M setup every X-Men story that followed it for the next 4-5 years.
So, I will reiterate this: the Sentry is one of the best characters created in the last 20 years.
Thank you, Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. Thank you.