The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 53: Marvel Comics – Sentinel, Sentry, and Shanna The She-Devil

Sentinel – Salvage

Sentinel was a short-lived series that Marvel put on the market about 8 years ago as part of one of their many failed attempts to capture the “youth” market, that doesn’t really exist anymore in modern comics. While I’m a fan of writer Sean McKeever, and generally like his work, there isn’t much to recommend here. It’s a cute enough story, but if you really want  a great story about a loner kid and his giant robot, watch The Iron Giant.


The Sentry – The Sentry

This is one of Marvel’s weirder experiments, and one that eventually succeeded, though perhaps not in the way Marvel intended. The Sentry was one of the greatest marketing ploys in the history of comics, but also a great example of organic, fan-based storytelling. Here’s how it played out: In 1998, Marvel “leaked” to Wizard Magazine, that they had “discovered” a lost silver age character that had been created by Stan Lee, and by a fictional creator named Arnie Rosen. This got some attention, until Marvel finally fessed up and acknowledged that it was a hoax. They continued the premise of this being a “lost” hero in the pages of the first Sentry comic, and Paul Jenkins fabricated a complicated story about someone who was actually the greatest hero of his generation, but no one (including Marvel’s other heroes) could remember him.

As a marketing ploy, this was brilliant. But as a character, the Sentry never clicked with audiences. The original series itself wasn’t that good, and was less of a cohesive story than it was a series of vignettes told by various characters in the Marvel universe. It suited Jenkins writing style, and there are few nice character moments, but it just didn’t work as a story.  After the mixed reaction to the original series, Marvel put the character on the bench for a few years until he was finally brought into Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Bendis’ shrewdly recognized that the character wasn’t really that likable, and used some of the mental instability that Jenkins had written into the character earlier as a major plot point. So now you have the most powerful being on earth, slowly going nuts. And it worked. It created a lot of tension, and the Sentry served as an effective deus ex machina in Marvel’s books for the next several years. As plot point in a team book, The Sentry worked exceptionally well. But as the lead character in his own heroic comic book? Not so much.


Shanna The She-Devil – Shanna The She-Devil

I don’t think that the female breast has ever had a more passionate champion than Frank Cho. He’s such a big fan, that if they didn’t exist already, I think he would have had to create them. And so we have Shanna The She-Devil, which isn’t really a story about Shanna so much as it a story about how Marvel is smart enough to let the preeminent penciler of curvy women, do a comic about curvy women. And as a generic jungle adventure Shanna The She-Devil works. Barely. But there really isn’t anything to this story other than: Pretty Girl In Bikini, which is fine if you’re reading a book of pin-ups, but not fine if you want a cohesive serial adventure. This was a cull for me, but it’s a fine example of why Cho is one of the finest pencillers in the game today.


Next up: She-Hulk! She’s like the Hulk, but with breasts!


The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 34: Still. More. Avengers. Sigh…

I’m about as sick of talking about the Avengers as Charlie Sheen is of being sane. But an unanticipated result of Brian Bendis’ commercial success on Avengers was the spin-off book. Or I should say spin-off books. Lots and lots of books. I should say that although this period had a lot of spin-offs, for the most part they felt like natural, organic parts to the larger story that Marvel was telling at the time. I happen to like this period (Civil War/Secret Invasion/Dark Reign) of Marvel’s history, as I felt that it flowed together quite well, and that everything served a larger purpose.

Breasts. Evil, evil breasts.

Mighty Avengers – The Ultron Initiative, Venom Bomb, Secret Invasion Book 1 and 2

This was also written by Bendis, and was a direct result of the events that took place in Marvel’s Civil War cross over. At this point in the storyline, this team was the “official” Avengers team, and basically filled the more “traditional” Avengers role: They only took care of planetary threats, were sanctioned by the government, etc. This book was a little bigger, a little more epic than the New Avengers book. It also attempted to break some new stars, specifically Ms. Marvel and Ares. I think it succeeded with the latter, but maybe not as much with the former. This book started with a bang. The Ultron arc is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. It’s a big-time, world is about to end, Avengers story, and with incredible art by Frank “I can create better breasts than God” Cho, and it stands up well as one of the better self-contained Avengers stories of the past few years. The Venom story is also good, but gets a little bogged down with some of the subplots of what’s happening with the other Avengers team. After that, the book becomes just another Brian Bendis Avengers book, and it loses a lot of the scope and wide-screen adventure that the first two arcs had. All in all it’s a good superhero book, and the first arc in particular is a barn burner.


Eeeevil. So very evil.

Dark Avengers – Assemble, Molecule Man, Siege

If Mighty Avengers was a response to Civil War, then Dark Avengers was a response to the Secret Invasion storyline. Quickly then: The supervillain formerly known as the Green Goblin has somehow become in charge of America’s security. As such, he leads a new team that he calls “Avengers”. In actuality, the new team is composed of criminals, posing as popular heroes (Moonstone as Ms. Marvel, Bullseye as Hawkeye, Venom as Spider-Man), as well as Ares and the Sentry, and of course Norman himself. I would have thought that the fans would have been up in arms over this, but for the most part people embraced this, and so did I. I don’t think this would have worked so well without the years of set up that Bendis had prepared us with beforehand, but by the time this storyline came out it felt as a very organic part to the epic that Bendis was crafting. Even though the team is composed of nothing but villains, Bendis still makes you care about them, if by care you mean ” I REALLY can’t wait until someone comes along and kicks their ass”. By this point Mike Deodato had evolved into one of the better superhero artists on the market, and his work here is exemplary.


Because training child soldiers is always a good idea.

Avengers: The Initiative – Basic Training, Killed In Action, Secret Invasion, Disassembled

Yep, another spinoff, this one coming out of Civil War. So now every hero has to “register” with the government, and The Initiative the government’s way of training all these new heroes. This was writer Dan Slott’s first big book, and he did a nice job with it. He put familiar faces like Tigra, Hank Pym, and Justice in as the trainers, and then threw a combination of new and old (but still not well-known) characters in as the students. When I started rereading this, I think I thought I would be getting rid of these. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoy this book, mostly for its engaging character development. Slott is pulling out all the stops in trying to get us to love these new characters, and for the most part it works. Unfortunately, the book is not without its problems. Like his previous work on She-Hulk, the book did start to get bogged down with sub-plots. Because so much was happening in the Marvel Universe at the time, it feels as if this book was being pulled in too many directions at times. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable read, if not entirely essential.


Young Avengers – Sidekicks, Family Matters

This book started not long after the original New Avengers title started, and shares the bleak “Our heroes are gone, what will we do” vibe that Bendis’ book did for a time. The premise is that a group of young heroes with costumes and code names reminiscent to Avengers of the past is patrolling the city, and Jessica Jones (formerly of Alias fame) is trying to get to the bottom of it. And so are Captain America and Iron Man.

This is a very good teen superhero book. It’s more superhero than teen, but it’s still quite good, and easily the equal (if not better) than DC’s recent Teen Titans books. The question is this: Why would trained, experienced combat fighters like Iron Man and Captain America let untrained children dress up and fight crime. The answer: They wouldn’t. Which of course leads to conflict, which is something that teen superhero books often lack. What is forgotten is that no matter how powerful these people are, they’re still kids, and should act like them. I don’t mean have scenes with them making out with each other, or playing X-Box all the time. YA avoids these clichés (thankfully), but it does show them acting the way teens do: erratically, but trying to do the right thing. Allen Heinberg and Jim Cheung did a beautiful job with this series, and it’s nice to see that they’re currently in the middle of another one with the same characters.