The Sentry: Man of Two Worlds is out Wednesday, and it balances epic superhero action with a complex, philosophical look at the nature of man.
The trade paperback collects issues #1-5 of the series, and is written by Jeff Lemire with art by Kim Jacinto (#1-4) and Joshua Cassara (#2-5). Rain Beredo did the colors, and Travis Lanham did letters.
Bob Reynolds is the Sentry, one of the most powerful heroes the world has ever seen. Bob is also the Void, his own archnemesis and an unstoppable destructive force. Long story short, Doctor Strange helped Bob lock both personas away in the recesses of his mind, but it left Bob wondering, “who am I?”
When it was announced Lemire would be writing a Sentry series, fans roared with excitement. Who better to take on the Golden Guardian of Good than the man whose work has been defined by rich, flawed characters searching for identity and their place in the world?
“How do you measure a man’s life?”
These words kick off The Sentry, setting the tone for the story that follows. It’s going to be heavy.
Bob feels like half man, or even less. He’s no longer the hero he once was, and he’s struggling to figure out who he is now. This feels real. Superheroes aren’t real, but everyone loses track of themselves at some point in their life. And everyone wonders how they can get back to the place where they were before. Bob, like many people, feels like if he bides his time, he’ll figure out a way to return to his former glory.
In a particularly poignant moment from issue one, he thinks,
“This is just the way it is for now. I have to believe I’ll eventually find a way to come to peace with this. Eventually I’ll find a way to bring these two lives together and be whole again. Until then, I just stick to the routine.”
But is he right?
It feels like Bob is living in the past, pining for the return of his glory days instead of embracing his reality. He could be forging a new path for himself, living in the now, but instead he’s lying in wait for something that may never come.
Again, this feels like a very real struggle, and the question of “is Bob right?” will haunt the reader throughout the whole story. Reynolds is our protagonist – our hero – so we expect him to be right. He’s the titular character. But, as with most Lemire titles, things are never so black and white.
With the villains of the story, things are a little more clear-cut (because they’re the villains, duh). Like Bob, they too yearn to return to their past glory days. They’re jealous of Bob and the power he once held, and want to reclaim it for themselves. But the big red flag here is that their motivations mirror our supposed hero’s.
To defeat his enemies, Bob ultimately reconciles his two identities. He joins the Void with the Sentry and becomes something entirely new. In doing so, he’s able to save the day. The message, according to Bob, seems to be that the only way to become whole is to embrace our inner darkness.
But. Is. He. Right?
Sure, Bob claims this is for the better. Suddenly he believes he deserves this power, something he was denying just a few pages prior. But at the same time, he battles the Avengers. He throws She-Hulk at Captain America. Now, the Avengers are not always correct. But how many characters have you seen attack Captain America and be in the right?
Bob’s “goodness” is left up in the air by the end of the story, but it feels like he pushed so hard to return to his past that he took a sinister turn. He could have just enjoyed the memories he had, accepted they were gone, and moved on. Instead he became this dark version of his former self.
This seems to be the true message in The Sentry: we must accept the nature of time, lest we become a corruption of what we once were. We don’t need to embrace the darkness within to become whole; we just need to embrace who we are.
That’s one of the messages, anyway. Part of what makes this miniseries so great is how many layers there are to it. You can spend hours dissecting these five issues.
Lemire subverts the typical superhero story with his Sentry. He’s teaching a lesson through the titular hero’s failure instead of his success, even though Bob does technically defeat his enemies. And the writer had the perfect team to do it with. Jacinto and Cassara’s art, coupled with Beredo’s muted colors, give the Marvel Universe a grittier, real world atmosphere. There’s true pain in the characters’ faces, pain the reader can relate to. Then there’s such explosive energy and motion in the action sequences, because this is a superhero book after all, and it all gels. Wherever the Sentry ends up now that this series is over, hopefully this creative team is there.
If you like superhero books that try to break the mold, deal with real world complicated problems, and play in the gray area of morality, definitely grab The Sentry this Wednesday.