Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Sentry/Fantastic Four introduces to the strange story of the Sentry, and the even more strange story of how he was created.
This comic immediately follows the six-issue The Sentry miniseries. If you’re going to read this comic without knowing who the Sentry is, you’ll be lost. So let’s get into the backstory first. Bob Reynolds was given a version of Captain America’s super-soldier serum, called the golden soldier serum. This transformed him into the Sentry, one of the most powerful beings on Earth. He was also one of Marvel’s first superheroes, pre-dating the Fantastic Four. He was a friend and colleague to Reed Richards and Professor Xavier, a mentor to Spider-Man, and one of the few puny humans to earn the Hulk’s respect.
If the Sentry is so integral to the Marvel Universe, then why haven’t you heard of him? That’s because of his enemy, the Void. A cosmic being that feeds on people’s fears, the Void was revealed to be the Sentry’s own repressed dark side come to life. To stop the Void, the Sentry, Reed, and Dr. Strange came up with a way to have the Earth’s entire population forget the Sentry’s existence. It worked, except years later the Sentry’s memory returned, forcing a rematch with the Void.
If the above were the whole story, that’d be fine, except writer Paul Jenkins took things to a whole other meta level with the Sentry. First, to promote The Sentry miniseries, Jenkins, Stan Lee, and Wizard magazine staged a hoax stating that the Sentry was an unused Stan Lee creation from the early ‘60s. Later, Jenkins himself became a character in the Sentry’s, where he was the one who received the Sentry’s memories and had to write a comic to reveal them to the world.
Sentry/Fantastic Four begins at the finale of the Sentry miniseries, where the FF and various other Marvel heroes have gathered at the Statue of Liberty to see off the Sentry as he flies into battle against the Void for the second time. Reed contemplates how being a superhero used to be a fun adventure, but has since become dark and sour.
Reed then flashes back to the good old days, when the FF and Sentry teamed up to battle the Android Pirates of Dimension Nine. We’re right in the middle of action where our heroes are fighting their way through the androids’ spaceship, and a lot of sci-fi talk about shutting down tractor beams and a self-destruct countdown. The Sentry fights back the androids and survives the blast, just so the FF can escape back to their own ship.
The next flashback has the Sentry and Reed inside the Sentry’s science lab. The Sentry is holding an all-powerful Cosmic Cube as Reed tries to study it. The Sentry’s computer, named CLOC, is reprogrammed by the cube and attacks the heroes. There are several pages of everyone fighting past CLOC’s defenses, until the Sentry suggests using the E-Nullifier on the cube to get under control. Reed says that would be suicide, but the sentry says he’ll do whatever it takes. It works, and CLOC is restored to normal.
The flashback ends with the FF out of uniform, having a backyard barbecue with Bob Reynolds and his wife, joking about the adventure they just had. Cut back to the Statue of Liberty, where Reed ponders how those early days. Reed says that when he helped the world lose their memories of the Sentry, he “betrayed the age of innocence.” And with that line, the comic just ends. I guess it’s making a big statement about how comics used to be fun and colorful but they’re all dark and violent. (Kids these days, etc.)
Unstable molecule: Because the Sentry is a science genius as well as a Superman-powered hero, he and Reed get to do super-science together. Both this comic and the Sentry miniseries go out of their way to establish Reed and the Sentry as best pals. But then, this makes Reed feel even more guilty about the whole “erasing the world’s memories” thing.
Fade out: Sue and Sentry’s wife Linda are also good friends. Jokes about them reading fashion magazines and fussing over their hairstyles would seem to be attempts at recreating the tone of ‘60s Marvel comics.
Clobberin’ time: While most of the Marvel heroes seem enamored of the Sentry, Ben is not one of them. When the Sentry flies off in the middle of the fight, Ben says, “I always told you there was something wrong with that guy.”
Flame on: Johnny, meanwhile, is really, REALLY enamored of the Sentry, saying “I told you was the best!”
Commercial break: Here is the Wizard magazine promo that convinced everyone the Sentry had been around since the 60s:
Trivia time: The Sentry did manage to stick around after his big debut, pretty much as an ongoing member of the Avengers. He tends to get brought out during the finales of the big crossover events when the heroes need some big firepower. He has a habit of leaving Earth and flying alone in space for long stretches of time, and once even lived in a pocket dimension dubbed the “Sentry World.” Only a few weeks before the blog post, the Sentry returned to Earth only be killed off by Knull in King in Black #1. The Marvel wiki has the Sentry listed as officially, canonically dead – but you never know about these things.
Fantastic or frightful? With The Sentry, Paul Jenkins wanted to have a lasting impact on Marvel history, while also making a big statement about heroism and the superhero genre. I applaud his ambition, but the gloomy, morose tone of these Sentry comics just doesn’t work for me.
Next: Was that Kazam or Shazam?
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