Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I hate The Sentry


As a character, The Sentry just doesn’t work.

First, he’s anchored down by being an obvious knock-off a certain other super-powered ubermensch. That’d be fine on the face of it (it’s not as if it hasn’t been done to death already), but here’s the problem — he's in the Marvel Universe.

Without getting into the whole discussion of the differences between the Marvel and DC universes, lets just stick to the fact that DC is filled with heroes with nearly god-like powers, while Marvel is filled with heroes that are more (for lack of a better word) human.

Which works for DC because it’s all leavened with a healthy helping of silly – the edge is taken off the “real-world” implications of having a bunch of super-powered yahoos tearing ass around the city fighting bad guys when there’s also, y’know, a secret society of talking gorillas or something.

But that’s never been what Marvel’s about. Marvel’s about heroes the reader can relate to, usually through characters who aren’t so powerful they don’t get the crap kicked out of them on a regular basis (seriously, it’s amazing there aren’t a bunch of punch-drunk heroes wandering around Manhattan), and who have some sort of angsty back-story that gives them a reliable Achilles’ Heel to tap into. If DC is a hyper, piñata-smacking kid at a birthday party, Marvel is the two or three emo teens slouching around in the corner.

Don’t get me wrong – I love both universes, despite their flaws. But I think this is part of what is essentially wrong with The Sentry; he’s been shoe-horned into his Universe. He was OK in the original stand-alone story, a kind of What If? that was interesting in its bloated, heavy-handed, self-satisfied kind of way. But then Marvel tried to force the character down the throats of its readers, and not only that, it was seasoned with the idea that The Sentry is in some way essential to the MU.

And he’s not.

Add to that the fact Marvel probably went too far in giving Sentry its patented Feet of Clay brand cement shoes (the better to weigh your character down!), and you’ve got an almost all-powerful schizophrenic agoraphobic, a collection of neuroses with the power of a million exploding suns. A superhero who never. Does. Anything.

And readers, on whatever level, recognize that.

Nobody is invested in The Sentry, no matter how much Marvel wants to pretend otherwise. Nobody cares about his place in the Marvel Universe, because he really doesn’t have one at all. And due to how forced the character is on nearly every level, almost nobody likes The Sentry.

Including me.

So, what do you think of The Sentry?

Panel from World War Hulk #5

5 comments:

snell said...

It's interesting you bring up the Marvel/DC compariosn, because isn't Sentry just Marvel's version of Triumph?

You remember, the guy they tried to retcon in as the most powerful member of the original JLA, and then was immediately lost in some damn time/limbo accident so nobody remembered him?

It didn't take there, either.

plok said...

Dear God, how I wish someone would even try a time/limbo solution to the Sentry problem!

It's awful. I just don't believe in him. I believed in Nova, I believed in Orca The Killer Whale, I even believed (though only slightly) in Stardancer.

But every time I see the Sentry I just want to rip up all my old Marvel comics and throw them in the fire.

Maxo said...

Snell: Apparently, there is no horse dead enough it can't be beaten. And that time/limbo accident must've worked, 'cause I don't remember Triumph at all!

Plok: Exactly, and that's saying something when you can believe in Orca more than the Sentry.

The Fortress Keeper said...

I totally agree with what you say about The Sentry.

What really bugs me, though, is how he usurps Thor's position in the Marvel Universe.

He's supposed to be the heavy-hitter who safeguards the world, and he should have been the guy to take on the Hulk in WWH #5 (which I liked, by the way).

I was fine with the first mini, but the guy is just lame on every level as an ongoing character.

Maxo said...

Keeper: That's a great point! And I think you're right; the way The Sentry is used really devalues other Marvel characters, especially the big guns like Thor. Which seems, at the least, counter-intuitive.

I really liked the WWH mini, too - it was nice to see the Hulk acting like the Hulk.