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Sentinel #6

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Sean McKeever
Artists: UDON Vriens, Heilig, Hepburn, Vedder, Hou, Yan and Yeung

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with the Sentinel on a seeming rampage, as it stomps its way around the school yard proclaiming itself to be Baalazar, Sentry of the Galactic Ancients, and that its mission is to destroy all humans. As it stands over the pair of bullies that have been tormenting Juston and his friend with its hand blasters fully charged, we discover that Juston has worked out a rather clever plan, as he comes charging onto the scene driving a jeep, which he smashes into the Sentinel's leg. We then see the Sentinel looks to suffer a catastrophic malfunction, before it rises up and runs away. We then see Juston finds himself the hero of the hour thanks to his heroic efforts that managed to save the very lives of the two bullies that had been making his life a living hell, and drove off the giant killing machine that had threaten the entire school. After looking in on the Sentinel as we learn it was all an act, we rejoin Juston as he finds everyone worships the ground he walks on, and are entirely convinced that he's the bravest hero this town has ever seen. As the media play up his heroics, and he finds people that wouldn't have given him the time of day before now want to be his best friend, we see Juston returns home where we see he's deeply disturbed by the fact that his new found popularity is all based on a trick. However, while Juston wrestles with his conscience, the Sentinel has managed to access its mutant hunting programming.

Comments:
A rather clever issue in that we learn that Juston actually had a plan that was more impressive than simply a childlike tantrum of sending the Sentinel out to kill his tormentors. Now the book does bend over backwards a bit too much when it comes to having the student body unable to recognize their school was attacked by a Sentinel, given the public displays that Sentinels have made over the years. However, this issue does put forth a somewhat interesting answer to this problem, even if it wasn't intentional, as the one video image we do receive of the robot looks wildly distorted, and perhaps Sentinels come equipped with video scramblers to keep them from being captured on film, and as such reports of their existence would have to rely entirely on eyewitness accounts, which as this issue proves are often full of contradictions. Plus, when one is busy fleeing a giant robot one can't really expect a person to deliver an overly detailed description. So with this logic in mind perhaps the Sentinels have managed to avoid public recognition from Joe and Jane Public of the Marvel Universe, but since Juston was able to uncover what exactly he had found, I can't imagine he would be the only one who would be able to accomplish this in the aftermath of this very public display. Plus, one imagines they have a special division within S.H.I.E.L.D. that investigates attacks like this.

I also enjoyed the idea that Juston is smart enough to recognize that while no one was hurt, and his plan accomplished exactly what he had hoped it would, he is deeply bothered by the public adulation that results, as he knows it is undeserved, and the result of his trickery. The fact that he used the robot in such a manner also makes it rather difficult for him to share his secret with others, as if the truth was known I imagine most of them would be disgusted by his actions, or in his father's case deeply disappointed. So with this opening arc Sean McKeever has manages to nicely establish a good fear of discovery element. Plus, given the Sentinel is rather hard to hide, and after this attack it's going to have government forces looking to locate it, one has to imagine it's only a matter of time before someone connects Juston to the Sentinel. The final page of this issue also smartly reminds us that the Sentinel is not exactly a toy, but rather it's a killer robot that has been programmed to hunt down and destroy mutants, and we see that this part of it's programming has not been destroyed. So in addition to the problem of discovery, there's also an issue of just how much control does Juston have over this robot, as one would think it's core mutant hunting programming would prove stronger than anything Juston could've done when he was busy rebuilding it.

UDON Studios gets an opportunity to finally show the Sentinel in action and they do a fairly impressive job of letting this genie out of the bottle, as there's a wonderful sense of the robot's power, and we also get a good sense of it's sheer size when it towers over the student body. Now there are moments when the robot looks a bit clunky, and it's tiny little head looks a bit silly, but for the most part the opening action sequence does a very credible job playing up the idea that this is a giant robot on a rampage. I especially enjoyed the panel where the Sentinel slams down in front of the bullies that have been giving Juston a hard time. The art also does some nice work on the follow up, as I loved the shot where we pull away and get a look at the damage that was done to the school grounds by the Sentinel. The art also makes good use of it's television screen panels, as while some of the shots were a bit too obvious (e.g. the father with his shotguns), I did enjoy the sense of discomfort that we see from Juston as he is being interviewed, as this gives us our first hint that he's bothered by all this attention. There's also a great little scene where we see he has a smile on his face the entire time he's with his dad, but the minute he's out of the man's site, this mask drops away and we see his true feelings. The last page shot of the Sentinel is also nicely ominous.

Final Word:
The final chapter of the opening arc manages to accomplish exactly what one would hopes it would, as Juston makes use of the Sentinel in a rather clever manner to fix his problems at school, and while his plan is a success, we see in the aftermath he is left with some serious doubts about whether he's made the situation better. Now I will confess I didn't see the surprise twist coming, though now that I think about it I really should've, as it's not like Sean McKeever has unleashed a plot device that hasn't been done before. Still, I'll give the book full credit for managing to catch me off guard, and the plan does resolve Juston's problems in an rather unique fashion, with the added bonus that he's now the town hero. Now the idea that the people wouldn't recognize the attacking robot was a Sentinel was a bit curious, but I'll concede that perhaps the extraordinary events that play out in Manhattan might not be public knowledge in the small community the Juston calls home. In any event, this issue is a solid finish to a fairly enjoyable introductory arc.



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