The Sentry–one of Marvel’s most complex characters–is back, and by the end of this trade paperback (collecting his recent five-issue mini-series), has a whole new status quo. Though, true to Sentry’s often-confusing brand, you may finish this book with more questions.
That’s not to say Sentry: Man of Two Worlds isn’t a satisfying read, because it’s written by Jeff Lemire–one of the most talented creators currently working in comics. It’s pretty much impossible for the man to produce a bad book (even when he’s got the X-Men battling Inhuman death clouds). But anyone looking for the usual comic book escapism may want to go with another trade, as this one’s pretty bleak from beginning to end.
Spinning out of writer Donny Cates’ recent Doctor Strange run, the all-new, all-different Sentry is a superhero with one foot in a fantastical realm where anything is possible and another in the crushing reality of his human alter-ego Bob Reynolds’ mediocre life. You see (and this is where the Sentry starts to lose people), when Bob transforms into the shining sentinel with the power of a thousand exploding suns, he also risks unleashing the Void, a force of destructive evil birthed by the hero’s subconscious. To prevent the Void from wreaking havoc on the world, Doctor Strange and Iron Man designed a device called the Confluctor, which allows Bob to be the Sentry in a world that exists in his mind every night. But when morning comes, it’s back to reality as the bearded, out-of-shape Bob, serving up orders at a New York City diner alongside his former sidekick Scout. You still with me?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a complex but interesting concept that triggers an emotional battle between a washed-up former hero and his even more washed-up former sidekick. It’s also pretty depressing. Bob is not a happy man. His wife is long gone, his former sidekick resents him and he constantly has to look at his watch or he risks dooming the planet. Did I mention the entire superhero community doesn’t trust him?
The mini-series’ artwork, by artists Kim Jacinto and Joshua Cassara is gritty, grounded and, at times, gruesome. It’s all perfect for the worlds the Sentry inhabits. This isn’t shiny Mark Bagley superheroics–this is two former costumed crusaders having bitter talks in grimy alleys and former super villains working as parking attendants.
It’s also a story of lies, deception, jealousy, betrayal, helplessness and other sunny feelings, which brings me back to my earlier point that this certainly isn’t the feel-good book of 2018. While it starts strong, I took issue with the fact that it ends a bit abruptly, clearly setting up future Sentry stories, but leaving me a bit unsatisfied. Though the changes Sentry goes through as a character could–hopefully–make him more of a streamlined character with less baggage. At least, that’s my hope. He’s always been one of those Marvel characters that has a lot going for them, but the House of Ideas can’t help but make more complicated than they need to be. The X-Men’s Xorn comes to mind.
Still, the flawed Sentry’s very much a character that continues the mighty Marvel tradition of giving readers super humans with a heavy emphasis on the “human” part. And Bob shows readers why sometimes, being a superhero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you like superhero comics that dig a little deeper, and don’t mind venturing into some dark places, then consider giving Sentry: Man of Two Worlds a read.