Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee had a terrific partnership on the Marvel Knights Inhumans title and in can argued that this project led to much of Jenkins success today. Writing Marvels flagship character (Spidey of course!), the Hulk, numerous ones shots and minis and a few book for other companies. Paul and Jae join forces again to bring us the story of the Sentry, a supposed forgotten character created by Stan Lee and only recently rediscovered....
This review covers the Spider-Man/Sentry crossover. But that won't make much sense if you haven't read the rest of the series. So here's the sixty second summary.
The story of the Sentry starts of as mystery focused on Bob Reynolds, a seeming drunk, who one night vaguely recalls a life as a costumed hero and is attacked by a menacing prescene called the Void. The story progresses, and as Bob tries to unravel the confusing memories that are surfacing in his head, he contacts those that were close to him, in his half-remembered life as the Sentry. He touches base with Mr. Fantastic, the Hulk and Spidey, in effort not only to remember, but to rally support against the Sentry. Each (except the Hulk) are unsure about the Sentry's true identity, but are disturbed enough to investigate his story. Meanwhile, the Void is causing havoc and horror across the world and heading for New York.
Eventually, the mystery of who the Sentry is, is revealed. The Sentry is a golden age hero, given enormous powers by a secret formula. He has intimate ties to many heros the Marvel universe and has played a significant role in it. For some reason though, the world and the Sentry himself have been manipulated and brainwashed to totally forget and ignore anything and everything to do with the Sentry. The question is why?
The answer becomes obvious towards the end to the series. Basically, the Sentry and the Void are both enormously powerful beings. The Sentry being the champion of light. The Void being a malevolent darkenss that want to devour and destroy the world. The Sentry and the Void are in fact, one in the same though. A split personality. So in the final climatic battle, when this is revealed and the answer is to reestablish the worlwide amnesia that cancelled the Sentry out of existence.
OK. That's the main series. Now for the Spidey/Sentry one shot.
Spidey is waiting alongside the other Marvel heroes, waiting to battle the void for the fate of the world. He uses the time to explore his newly rediscovered memories concerning the Sentry... The Sentry and Spidey, first meet early in Spidey's career when he is battling Doc Ock. The Sentry helps out and Spidey is offended. The Sentry gives some advice which strikes up a relatioship with the Sentry taking on a mentor role for Spidey. Spidey recalls a previous battle where he teamed with the Sentry against the void. Spidey ended up winning the day, and the shared experience brings the Sentry and SPidey closer together. The Sentry lets SPidey take the only close-up photo of him, which sells for lots of money and wins a pulitzer for. This money and notoriority solves all his problems (which of course he lost when the Sentry was effectively wiped from history). Spidey finishes reflecting and wishes he forget again, so that he wouldn't have to be in the position he is now. Facing a more powerful than ever void.
While I'm not sure if the Sentry matches up to the Inhumans mini-series, it is still a very good read. Excellent in fact. I loved the ambiguity of the launch of the series and the first few issues. It was brilliant! For those not aware, the publicity for this series prior to it's release was that the Sentry truly was a Golden Age character, created yet forgotten for some unknown reason. This marketing ploy fitted well into the story. And the first issues followed this line, while exploring other things in a weird, provoking, haunting way. Thanks not only to Paul's great script, but Jae Lee's outstanding art.
The series has many strengths, particularly the first 3 issues. After that it becomes a bit more predictable and along the longs of many superhero stories. I was a bit disappointed by the finish, not that it wasn't good, but just that it wasn't as good as the start. This was mainly because the truth that the Sentry and the Void were closely connected and the one in same became too obvious, too soon. When it would have been better to either let this mystery drag longer or to spend more time on how exactly a hero can have such an evil dual personality. How can these two psyche's be reconciled as the one persona? This would've been an interesting exploration. Also, it would have been interesting to see the themes of addiction explored more. The Sentry's powers are closely linked to his potion and it is hinted that he is in fact addicted to it and it resulted in the Void persona. Addiction to alcohol is also raised, but dropped. These issues were addressed in an interesting way, and I think that the series would've been better served to continue in this vain instead of giving over to heroics.
Basically, though it's a great read and leaves a resonance with the reader long afterward. It's also a great kick for long-time Marvel fans, as the Sentry is inserted into Marvel continuity. And Jae Lee does excellent work. He makes the Void a truly evil presence in the book and gives the characters life and emotion. He also mimics the art of different comic book eras excellently, further displaying his talent.
How does Spidey fit into this picture you say? Well Spidey had his own one shot, did cameos in just about every issue of the regular mini and had a significant hunk of issue #3.
Spidey's interaction with the Sentry brings out some interesting facets of Peter Parker's personality. The conversation between Spidey and Sentry in Issue #3 is great! It's great to see Peter in a unfamiliar situation and how he reacts. The one shot also adds to this, by revealing that the Sentry played the role for Peter that he's always wanted, since the loss of his Father and Uncle Ben. The Sentry was Peter's friend, confidant, mentor and father figure. And the fact that Pete reveals he would give these memories up again, to be rid of the Void, really adds to menace of the villain. The one-shot though, isn't as good as the main series, and probably isn't worth picking up on it's own, unless you just want to see some pretty good Rick Leonardi art.
Overall, though this is the Sentry's story and Spidey's appearances are mainly to highlight the Sentry's, until now, unkown significance in the Marvel Universe. But, I'm glad that Jenkins does use this opportunity to explore the character of Peter Parker as well.
All up, it's a great story, written and drawn superbly. It just misses out on 5 webs, because of missed opportunities and the comparitive weakness of the one-shot(s).