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The Sentry has come a long way, baby. Bob Reynolds’s story is no longer a man struggling with an addiction who was close to his dog, he’s just about as far from that as possible. The original April Fool’s Prank for The Golden Guardian of Good turned out to be a larger tale of a man with the greatest amount of power having the greatest amount of responsibility. That when you create the equal and opposite reaction to the power of a thousand exploding suns, the only way to win was to do nothing at all. At his first introduction, we are left with a very quiet and beautiful study of the greatest good and the worst evil residing in an everyday man and the world that had forgotten him.
When Bendis puled him out of the Vault for his New Avengers, the stakes had already been changed. The balance of good an evil was gone, just an implanted a virus from Mastermind and possible delusion villain The General that created psychological problems and the existence of the Void, which was just another extension of Reynolds himself. We lost our philosophical battle and our more peacable idea of wrong and right to be able to tear Carnage in half in space.
Okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. Bendis even brought in Paul Jenkins as a character in the book to explain everything, kind of having him sign off on the project. Despite his immense power and complexity, the Sentry was going to be an Avenger. Hey, they’ve worked with gods and demi-gods before, what’s the difference?
The difference is that Loki only guest-villains. The Void is the Sentry is the Void and if one’s going to live over your roof, the other is sure to follow. Sentry: Reborn put Jenkins back in the driver’s seat and we were driven back to introspection-ville with some absolutely beautiful work from John Romita Jr. In this mini, the Void sends Bob on this funhouse chase throuh his own creation, turning the tables on him by saying the Void was the real byproduct of his origin and that the Sentry is just his guilty leavings. Drinking an unknown serum could take one in either direction, from villany to heroism, and it’s the person in that moment that makes the difference. Peter Parker, all Spider Totem BS aside, could have been anyone. Anyone can be a mutant. Any soldier could have been super, he just had to be at the test at the right time and really want it. Not to get too off-topic, but there is nothing particularly special about a Marvel character for the most part, they are written with everyone in mind.
At the end of this, there is a beautiful farewell where the Void admits to needing him as the Sentry comes to cope without him and the Void is thrown into the sun. It’s great comics and gets to me every time I read it.
The problem still remains, however: what about Bob? Well, he comes back to Earth and continues to work as an Avenger as the story needs him to work. Best used by Bendis as more of a scary cardboard cut-out, if you see the Sentry backlit in a doorway or used in a splash pag, you know you’re doomed; but if he tries to act against you, you can probably outsmart him. Just trigger his psychosis and leave him babbling in the street, bring up the Void and watch him freeze in terror or run away, mention off-panel that he’s dealing with his agoraphobia or, in Ronin’s case from Dark Reign – The List, wait until something more important in the world is going on and sneak into the Avengers’ Tower right past his cape. He was recruited into the Mighty Avengers by Stark because he wasn’t a good hero, but he was powerful and I think it does the character a great disservice to be described in such a way. Besides, a couple issues later when Yelena Belova absorbs the Sentry’s powers and gets her own equal-and-opposite Void, Bob is extremly patient and clever when he tells her he’ll set her free of the Void, but only if she answers their questions. Incredibly calculating of the man, but in another few issues he’ll be back to his bumbling self.
Since writing for the character, Bendis has wanted a Superman he can play around with and that is not the Sentry. It’s taken a while (and with decompression coming into play, he can say he’s planned this all along), but we might be returning back to something like the original concept for the guy. If say, he’d been given a few issues to contain all this story in, maybe it would have been easier to follow. There are some moments, especially now under the Dark Avengers banner that he seems to be getting that second original concept down (I’d say first but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the dog), a man with powers of both good and evil and it’s the human at the center that makes the difference. Lindy Lee, his sad Rapunzel-eque wife who’s haunted the books seems to be taking action in Dark Avengers #9, where action is shooting him in the face. We’re all smart cookies, we all know that’s not going to work and we know that the Sentry will be back and fine in issue #10.
And after OVER A YEAR of waiting, this shot to the face might just reveal the Void that’s been there all along.