Perfect 10: The Sentry

Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.

  1. The Sentry Vol. 1 (#1-5, Sentry/Fantastic Four, Sentry/Hulk, Sentry/Spider-Man, Sentry/X-Men, Sentry vs The Void): By Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, Jose Villarubia, Richard Starkings & more. Let me first say if you’re going to read anything about The Sentry you should know the fascinating behind the scenes info that went into creating him. So the whole deal with The Sentry is he’s like Superman but he has a villainous split personality, The Void that threatens to consume him. He is canonically supposed to exist since the beginning of Marvel’s Silver Age. In order to rid the world of The Void he makes it so no one in the Marvel Universe remembers him, including himself, therefore “killing” The Void. All of that works just fine in this story, which is a pretty solid plot of Captain Marvel/Shazam/Superman in the Marvel Universe since the beginning, waking up in 2000 where everyone starts to remember him as The Void returns. But the story itself isn’t half as interesting as the proto viral marketing Marvel did in tandem with Wizard Magazine. In Daredevil #9 from 1999 in the letter column they mention an old Marvel artist passing away, Artie Rosen. In Wizard Magazine #103, they publish a little blurb about his passing with quote from Stan Lee. In Wizard #105 they publish an article about Rosen’s widow finding some old documents from 1961 for a character called The Sentry by Rosen and Stan Lee. The article then mentions writer Paul Jenkins looking over these documents and finding the first issue of The Sentry and wanting to revive him for Marvel Knights. Joe Quesada, Lee and Jenkins all talk in Wizard Magazine that there was a pre Marvel U character that never got published called The Sentry as fact. For months leading up to the release of this book, all the way to the letter columns in the backs of the issues where Quesada interviews Lee about his forgotten creation, as far as anyone knew this was all set in stone facts. In Wizard Magazine #116 it’s finally revealed as an elaborate marketing hoax with everyone describing the parts they played. The amount of collaborative publicity stunt that went on for months to pull a meta prank where no one remembers The Sentry, including his real life creators is so brilliant and fun. I honestly think it’s one of the coolest things ever done in the medium, utilizing marketing and fan press before the internet was such a normal thing. For that unique genesis of his creation, I will always hold a soft spot for the character and this series. All of the relevant info is reprinted in the back of the collected edition for this series if you’re looking to see all this for yourself.

2. Dark Wolverine #75: By Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, Gisueppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio, Marte Garcia & Cory Petit. Ok, yes this is only one page. But GOD, what a page it is. Daken causes a fight during a meeting of the Dark Avengers and before Mac Gargan Venom can turn it into chaos by attacking Daken; The Sentry, at the head of the table, hunched over, hands clasped on his face, unmoving, not apart of any of the snide infighting, quietly just says “Stop.” Venom stops mid attack and everyone is so terrified they just freeze and stare wide eyed at Sentry. I think about this page probably once a week because I am a Sentry obsessed nut. This is just the most perfect, brilliant, quiet way to show a character’s awe inspiring presence and power level. It is the essential, defining Sentry panel. As a person raised on Dragon Ball Z and power levels, it really satisfies the childlike “Who could beat who?” fondness within me. This is the elusive “cool factor” that Comfort Food Comics is built on.

The Age Of The Sentry (2008-2009) #1 (of 6) - Comics by comiXology

3. The Age of the Sentry #1-6: By Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin, Nick Dragotta and so many more. This is the best Sentry comic ever made. The premise behind this is, as usual when it comes to The Sentry, is very meta because these are his Silver Age Marvel adventures told by Reed Richards to his son Franklin. But it doesnt stop there, as it’s all created by The Sentry in a pocket universe, Earth 1611, because Sentry, by just existing creates a separate timeline Universe where all of his backstory can logically exist in tandem with established Marvel continuity. And that is how we get an absolute PITCH PERFECT spoof on Silver Age Superman stories just done through a Sentry and Marvel Universe filter. This is one of the most underrated comic series ever made and one of the best Marvel Comics of all time. It’s the usual galaxy brain material Grant Morrison does but done in a more charming, easier to understand way. Even if you despise The Sentry and all of his mainline appearances, I don’t see how you couldnt enjoy some of the lovable stuff here.

4. Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1-2: By Gregg Hurwitz, Jerome Opena, Paul Mounts & Joe Caramagna. Set during Dark Reign, this wonderful series has Moon Knight coming back with a bang trying to be the best super hero he can be. He stirs up a little too much attention so The Sentry pays him a visit for a chat. The Sentry can’t actually sit still for 5 minutes as he has so much to do as a hero so he grabs Moon Knight and forces him along as he tends to several emergencies in such a short span of time. Both characters main defining trait is their mental health struggles and multiple personalities, so Sentry tries to lay out his concerns over this enthusiastic new turn for ol Moony. He feels if he’s not careful, he’ll slip back into his reckless madness and tries to give him a warning. It’s such a strong sequence and talk and such a brilliant move to juxtapose these two against each other not only because of their similarities, but also because of their status as Batman and Superman analogues.

5. The Punisher Vol. 8 #1: By Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Dan Brown & Joe Caramagna. This is set during Dark Reign and opens with a very simple plot – The Punisher is going to shoot Norman Osborn. The first few pages are spent setting that all up and just as you think the bullet is going to pierce Osborn’s skull, it’s casually plucked out of the air like a slowly falling leaf by The Sentry. The rest of the entire issue is The Sentry just slowly toying with Castle, telling him to give up and be arrested. The Punisher meanwhile has one of the most desperate struggles of his life against the man with a power of a million exploding suns. He only gets away by alerting The Sentry to an unarmed bomb he put in a basement of a school that The Sentry has to fly away and check on, giving Frank enough time to bolt. It is an absolutely amazing issue showing a regular human trying to go up against the awesome power and stature of a being like The Sentry.

Dark Avengers (2009) #13 | Comic Issues | Marvel

6. Dark Avengers Vol. 1 #1-16: By Brian Bendis, Mike Deodato and more. This whole series deals with many plots but the main throughline is the development of The Sentry and The Void. It’s a bit of a mess but it’s a FASCINATING mess. It’s incredibly interesting to see Brian Bendis, one of the more “basic” writers of the medium try to develop an extremely deep recontextualization of the character, even though his writing style and skill set can’t actually pull that off. Where once The Sentry was just an old hero people forgot, in this you can see Bendis try to imitate Alan Moore or Grant Morrison and make him so much more than he was. Bendis just keeps raising the stakes and making you question what the hell The Sentry even is. He starts as an easily manipulated mentally unwell man, to a singularly focused evil beast, to being erased from reality only to will himself back now unlocking the ability to alter reality on a whim, to being some type of biblical evil darkness that’s existed since time immemorial. It’s all incredibly intriguing stuff that serves to really make the scope of The Void and Sentry the craziest it’s ever been. Only problem is, like most Bendis comics, the ideas are absolutely amazing, but the execution is extremely muddled and falls flat. This captivating buildup and exploration runs for almost two years until Bendis just kind of stops with no resolution or clear answers and has this seemingly unstoppable being killed by having a Helicarrier dropped on him concurrently in the Siege event comic. One of the most disappointing comics I’ve ever read. Oh well, at least we’ll always still have this flawed charming mess where you can see Bendis, in the only time of his career, try to really develop something creative and profound, way out of his wheelhouse, way above his usual material. This is the time Bendis TRIED his absolute most.

7. The Sentry Vol. 2 #1-8: By Paul Jenkins, John Romita Jr., Mark Morales, Dean White & Rus Wooton. So after Jenkins created The Sentry for the Marvel Knights line, the character went unused for several years and it honestly seemed like he’d never show up again or even be a part of continuity. But then Bendis threw him into the New Avengers relaunch lineup. The problem however was Bendis’ version and Jenkins’ version didn’t really match up. This series is Jenkins coming back to his baby and reconciling both interpretations of the character to make him work within the current continuity. I enjoy this one more than his initial miniseries. It’s fun seeing the interplay between the New Avengers and the rest of the Marvel Universe during that era. Jenkins also tweaks his origin again, adding yet more layers to this already complicated character. Whether that was necessary or not, you be the judge, but all in all it makes for a very fun read. Romita Jr. does some excellent work on the art here too. Mark Morales’ inks really enhance his stuff and keep it sharp.

8. Doctor Strange #381-385: By Donny Cates, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire & Cory Petit. I LOVE this arc. Some of my fave comics of all time right here. In this arc, Loki has taken over as the Sorcerer Supreme and Dr. Strange tries to get his job and house back from him in the fatally flawed way Strange usually handles things, by using people. Except this time he uses The Sentry. Throughout this story we see that sometime in the past The Sentry returned to Earth and Strange magically sealed The Void behind a door in the Sanctum Santorum and made an idyllic peaceful life for The Sentry to live in inside his own head. Strange asks for The Sentry’s help, so he joins him, first in attacking Asgard do the Doc can be magically powered up by Norse magic. Then The Sentry offers his invulnerable body to take the cost of magic punishment to Strange can cast the most powerful spells in the fight against Loki. But Loki then forces Strange to open the Void’s door because of his curiosity and all hell breaks lose. This is SUCH an entertaining story that weaves continuity for Loki, Strange and Sentry together so perfectly while giving you so many fun scenes and interactions. I find Cates to be one of the best writers to try their hand with The Sentry.

Sentry (2018) #1 | Comic Issues | Marvel

9. The Sentry Vol. 3 #1-5: By Jeff Lemire, Kim Jacinto, Rain Beredo & Travis Lanham. Originally announced as a new ongoing series this one seemed to be cancelled before it could explore a lot of the great ideas presented within. Even with just five issues, Lemire does a really admirable job of simplifying The Sentry and trying to push the character into a new status quo. This one really examines the character of Bob Reynolds as a human, making him a very distinct third entity along with The Sentry and The Void. This direction cherry picks the best stuff from Jenkins’, Bendis’ and charmingly enough Parker’s versions of the character and blends them into something new. Jacinto’s art is so expressive and dynamic here. I really love it. I really bemoan the loss of a very long run with the character by Lemire, as he clearly really got what made him so fascinating and what makes him work.

10. World War Hulk: By Greg Pak, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Christina Strain & Chris Eliopoulos. One thing a lot of people forget is that in the original Sentry miniseries, Jenkins introduced a plot point that the only thing that could truly calm down the Hulk was The Sentry’s unique power radiation, which gave them a very special connection. When Greg Pak brought the Hulk back to Earth for the big event, World War Hulk, he remembered this connection and used it brilliantly, propping up The Sentry as the endgame fight for the Hulk. Sentry and Hulk go ALL OUT in Issue 5’s climax as their similarities as incredibly powerful beings that have been both hero AND villain who both have a civilian alter ego inside of them are brought to the forefront in their colossal battle. It’s a really keen idea to throw them up against each other here. I’m really appreciative of Pak giving that little bit of lore as well as the character the spotlight they deserve.

BONUS:Check out my MASSIVE custom bound hardcover of all of The Sentry’s comics from his genesis to his death in Siege.

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