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Sentinel #1

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Sean McKeever
Art: UDON with Eric Vedder, Joe Vriens & Scott Hepburn

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens by introducing us to Juston Seyfert, a teenager who lives with his father & younger brother in Antigo, Wisconsin. As we learn the father runs the town's salvage yard, we see that Juston has picked up a working knowledge of electronics, and as such when he stumbles across a circuit board in the yard, he's quick to recognize what it is and what one can do with it. We then follow Juston as he goes about his life as a young teen, as we learn that while he has a small circle of friends at school, they are the favorite targets of the school bullies, and as such Juston isn't the most outgoing of personalities. However, he does manage to luck his way into a conversation with a girl who calls herself Jessie, and the two strike up a friendship of sorts. We then look in on Juston after school, as he & one of his friends stumble across a crater in the woods that wasn't there when Juston had last passed through this section of the woods. We then join him back at home, where he is busy incorporating the circuit board he found into a battle bot he had been constructing, but once he powers up his robot, it goes tearing off into the night. As Juston settles down for the night, we see his rogue battle bot is busy piecing together the remains of a Sentinel, that is scattered across the salvage yard.

Comments:
The first of the new Tsunami books is here and of the three that I've decided to give a look, this was the one that I was sitting on the fence about whether I would pick it up or not. I mean the "Human Torch" automatically gets my money thanks to my decades of devotion to the Fantastic Four, and "Runaways" has Brian K. Vaughan & an interesting sounding premise. However, the concept of a boy hooking up with a Sentinel is certainly an odd enough concept that I had to give it a look. Now this first issue offers up only a couple brief glimpses of the Sentinel, and far more time is spent introducing the reader to the book's young lead, and establishing the various relationships that he's involved in. To this end this issue is a fairly impressive character study, even though it's clear the book is drawing upon well worn character traits (e.g. the young boy is bullied at school, and is automatically cast into the role of protector thanks to a sickly younger brother). The book manages to evoke quite a bit of interest in this young character's world, and in a refreshing move we see that the boy's relationship with his father is quite healthy. His little exchange with Jessie was also fun, as the frank conversation style of Jessie is nicely complimented by our lead character's own attempts at coming across as cool & sophisticated.

I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures is the television program Robot Wars, as not only is it one of the only places I can see a cast member from the much missed "Red Dwarf" on a weekly basis, but also there is something to be said about the sheer visceral thrill of seeing two robots kick the living crud out of each other. Now why am I dithering on about a television show, during a review of this comic? Well largely it's because our lead character & his younger brother look to have a little competition going on where they construct battle robots. Now I do have to wonder how many parents would allow their children to play a game that provides such ample opportunity for serious injury, but then again I'm sure raising his kids in a scrap yard would produce children with a healthy respect for how easily one can be injured if one doesn't know what they are doing. If nothing else this little competition provides an explanation for how this child would come to possess skills one wouldn't normally expect to find in a child, and I imagine this mechanical know-how will come in handy when he befriends his pet Sentinel. There also something rather refreshing about the blue collar personality type that our lead character has, as it affords the character a maturity that makes it easier to see the character as being strong enough to carry a series.

With Agent X's impending cancellation I had wondered what UDON Studios next project would be, and it would appear that they've found a new home in these pages. Now the art on this book is a little more cartoonish in appearance, but truth be told the material is very well served by this style change, as the book's young lead is allowed to wear his emotions on his sleeve with his easy to read expressions, and high energy body language. The art does a very nice job of detailing the key moments of the issue, as we can see the fear on their faces when the school bullies are racing toward them, and while it's a little throwaway moment, the page after the boys discover the mystery crater is a great visual look at the two personalities involved, as how can one not smile at Alex's decidedly childish reaction. There's also the little details like the fact that Juston's elbows continually smudged with grease stains, or the way that the shot of the lunchroom manages to perfectly captured the chaos that one would expect to find, and why Juston would be sent running back to eat in the classroom. The various shots of the Sentinel also look quite promising, and I can't wait to see the final product. The cover to this issue is also a wonderful piece of art, and I love the cover logo design.

Final Word:
A fairly promising debut issue for this new monthly series, as Sean McKeever has managed to introduce an engaging lead character, and nicely defines his world. Now yes there are familiar elements in these pages, as Juston is the typical comic book teen, who is ostracized by most of the people at his school, and he struggles with the standard plot elements such as school bullies, and the shyness factor. However, the writing does some nice work detailing Juston as a fairly well adjusted teen, with several admirable qualities, and the lower income, working class environment that he moves about within is nicely realized. This issue also does some fairly nice work setting up the whole Sentinel element, as there is a nice degree of impending danger established on the pages when the focus in on the robot. The supporting cast is also fairly solid, though the angry young teen is a little too obvious a character type, and the sick younger brother is a little too sweet.



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