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Sunday Slugfest - New Avengers #8

Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2005
By: Keith Dallas

ďThe Sentry Ė Part TwoĒ

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve McNiven, Sal Buscema (p), Mark Morales (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

EDITORíS NOTE: My apologies for the tardiness of this Slugfest. My return flight from Chicago arrived too late to post this on Sunday.





Average Rating:

Ariel Carmona Jr.:
Kelvin Green:
Shawn Hill:
Dominic Organ
James Redington:
Dave Wallace:






Ariel Carmona Jr.

Plot: The Sentry has hidden himself in a cave in Arizona where he is confronted by the Avengers, his wife Lindy who is inexplicably still alive, and comic book writer Paul Jenkins. A flashback reveals Tony Starkís attempt to convince Wolverine to join the new Avengers. Meanwhile, in present day Long Island, the rest of the team battle the Wrecker. Spider-Woman tricks the big bruiser while Wolverine helps her subdue him. They are then summoned to join the rest of the team, and some of the most powerful heroes like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, in Connecticut where the Sentry has teleported to, mumbling about a threat familiar to him.

Comments: I didnít know what to expect going into this series. I started to read it because I knew my favorite Marvel superhero (Spider-Man) was now a team member as depicted in recent issues of Amazing Spider-Man.

I knew even less about the Sentry than I did about the members of Marvelís newly revamped version of Earthís mightiest heroes, with the exception that he had a series written by Paul Jenkins in the past and that he was one of Marvelís Superman knock-offs, but I canít name the others (except for maybe Hyperion).

Iím also not too familiar with Brian Michael Bendisís writing. Shocking I know, considering he has been given free reign to work and overhaul many a Marvel property in the last few years. The main reason is many moons ago I read Marvel comics almost exclusively but what can I say? Now I find DCís books on the whole more satisfying.

Having not read New Avengers before, I can offer a fresh perspective. I really hate it when creators put themselves in the stories, so I cringed a little when I saw the sequence of the Sentry reading comics and the Avengers confronting him about his identity with Paul Jenkins. However, since the mystery of who the Sentry is and why his wife is still alive is central to the new story arc, I will reserve final judgment on that. I have to admit that Capís line ďthe writer faintedĒ following Sentryís energy outburst and subsequent disappearance was pretty funny. I had read that one of the bookís strengths (and of Bendisís writing) was the interaction between the characters and that he often infused some pretty funny dialogue in between the action sequences. Spider-Womanís pheromone discussion was another good example. Spiderman is funny again. I hope the screenwriters in charge of his movies take note.

Yet, hereís something I donít get: almost half an issue of the new adventures of Earthís greatest superheroes who unite to fight the foes no single super hero can withstand is devoted to: the Wrecker? You gotta be kidding me. Is he really that powerful? I always pegged him as a second rate villain. One of the best parts of the book was the opening sequence by Sal Buscema whose work Iíve enjoyed since he was on Spectacular Spiderman in the 80ís. Overall, I found the Sentry to be an interesting character, even though he looks a little bit too much like Thor on the cover. The art by guest penciler McNiven is solid and it reminds me a lot of John Cassady who is skilled at rendering both action sequences and facial expressions with ease. Letís hope weíll be treated to greater cosmic threats than the Wrecker in future issues.




Kelvin Green

Just before the previous Avengers title folded, it was plagued by a sequence of weak stories that were transparently designed to launch other series and left the Avengers as background elements in their own book. Iím getting the same feeling here, as the Sentry plot is hardly advanced at all. There is a sense of mystery surrounding the character, but itís completely negative; rather than actively construct a mystery, Bendis has gone for the easier option of doing bugger all apart from introduce the character and say that heís not the Sentry. All that in two issues. Gosh. Perhaps if Bendis hadnít split the team, and as such the narrative, in two and had instead devoted the entire issue to the Sentry, then the whole wouldnít feel so bitty and disconnected and we might have gotten to this point at the end of the first episode. The news that the writer has requested an additional issue for the story fills me with nothing but dread; Iím really getting fed up with Bendisís lethargic storytelling pace, and no, I donít think his ďnaturalĒ dialogue is worth it. Much as I dislike the whole talking-while-fighting silliness common to superhero comics, neither am I overly fond of these characters taking an endless number of panels in order to get out one bloody sentence, especially when it takes up pages that could otherwise be devoted to such frivolities as characterisation or (gasp!) plot development. The fact that this is all leading up to a new Sentry series doesnít surprise me at all, and I feel like Iím just wasting my time reading this tosh.

The other half of the plot works a little better as we get a fun, if a trifle sexist, sequence in which Spider-Woman uses her feminine wiles to confuse and sedate the Wrecker; however, the team then proceed to beat him up which is odd because they did that last issue and it didnít work. Oh well.

The art is much stronger this issue; I suspect McNiven and Morales were rushed to put out the previous issue, and they seem far more settled into things here. They do a good job on the many many dialogue scenes, and also do wonderful action sequences that burst with energy and excitement. The big final page spread doesnít work very well however, as there are a number of odd poses (ďJohnny Storm: Lord of the Dance!Ē) and everyoneís looking off in different directions when the context demands that they all be looking at one central point; this wouldnít really be a problem were it not for the fact that itís obviously supposed to be a big memorable image. It would also be nice if McNiven would draw more natural facial expressions; thereís a sequence in the middle of the book in which Wolverine and Iron Man hold an entire conversation without once opening their mouths. That said, on the whole, the comic looks quite good, which is handy because the script is more flaccid than a dead herring.

I donít want to be giving this such a panning; Avengers has long been my favourite title, and I really want this to be a bold return to form after the rubbish Marvel has published since Busiekís departure. But Bendis is killing this comic before itís even had a chance to get started; heís set up plots that arenít going anywhere, and heís based this entire arc around a mystery that heís managed to squeeze all excitement and interest out of in only two issues. Itís not bad, but it just seems so vague and pointless. When the best part of the issue is a three-page parody of Silver Age comics, you know youíve got trouble.




Shawn Hill

Plot: As predicted, the Avengers rebound from their drubbing by the Wrecker. Meanwhile, Robert Reynolds insists forcefully on denial, and someone calling himself Tony Stark makes an unconvincing speech to Wolverine, who buys it anyway. For three pages.

Comments: A large portion of the rating for this issue is earned by the Sal Buscema opening segment, which is beautifully done and with loving words provided by Jenkins. I still donít like the way Bendis underlines the retro in every retro move he makes, but he does manage to funnel some dough to some old talent now and then. Itís also some compensation for not being able to afford the really retro alternate cover for this issue. I swear I might be enjoying the whole Sentry story so much better if those alternate covers were randomly distributed in equal numbers rather than limited marketing gimmicks. For one reason, because they get the retro aspect of the Sentry character, the way heís a timely insertion into a past that almost was. The covers reflect that aspect more than Bendisís story has done thus far, in fact; all we know is that this guy thinks he killed his wife, and heís wallowing in that regret, like all Bendis characters who love to wallow. Unless heís going to start playing some of the Superman analog meta-critiques out before the Avengers eyes, whatís the point?

More interesting: The battle with the Wrecker ends as I predicted, with a deus ex machina that completely reverses the cliffhanger of badness of last issue. Well, almost. Because that Bendis is a sly one, and the secret weapon in their arsenal that they, for some reason, didnít deploy in their clumsy attack last issue has in fact been foreshadowed, if you think about it. The funniest moment in the issue is when all the men react to Jessicaís disclosure of her pheromone ability. And damned if it doesnít explain their ogling of her bod (against apparently even their own best judgment) since she showed up in costume. Thereís no denying this has always been a part of her character (as the recent reprints in her Giant-Size show), and Bendis has even improved things by apparently disconnecting the gendered aspect (she used to make men drool while women loathed her), and giving her some control over them. Sheís a junior league Purple Man, apparently, and we all know how much love there is for Killgrave. So, Jessica softens up Dirk, gets his crowbar, and then everyone gives him the beatdown he deserves.

Art-wise: Still not sold on the McNiven art. His figures are as spindly and odd as Finchís, just in a different way. His poses for Spider-Woman vs. the Wrecker are much better this issue; he dwarfs her physically, but heís not at the same time making her small. I do like the slow-motion blur effects he (or someone) adds to his battle scenes, and heís a competent storyteller, but Coipelís still the best of this lot.





Dominic Organ

Hmm, two and a half bullets, huh? You wondering why I gave this issue that? Me too, to be honest.

The first three pages are a pleasant jaunt into a past that never was (both literally and figurativelyÖ.I think. Ití s complicated) and the art is pleasant, but the entire section is sort of redundant. Did we need to see that to reinforce what was going on? No, itís just an editorial choice to stretch the story over more issues. While it may work, itís transparent as heck.

The earlier section excluded, the issue has three sections, none of which really ever connected with me, though they do have their charms. We get to watch the Sentry situation edge a teeny, tiny, miniscule bit closer, and even that comes at the end of the issue. This idea is okay, and I assume it will help balance out the Sentry situation. I am particularly interested in this character as I reviewed the TPB and the untapped potential here has the power of a million exploding suns. I really hope Bendis can make this work, because it will give him all sorts of brownie points with me (and Iím sure, he is worried about how I view him). Another section presents the resolution of the fight with the Wrecker and it works okay. Thatís all I can say. Itís okay. The remaining section is a jaunt into the past to see a conversation between Tony and Logan about him joining. Why is it there? What relevance does it have to the story? None frankly. I donít know why it is there other than perhaps they forgot to put it in another issue. Come on guys, bit too much cutting and pasting going on here!

Having said all that, the issue does have a couple of redeeming qualities. As always, the dialogue is excellent, and the general tempo interaction between the characters is very satisfying. There are some laugh out loud moments, and I canít complain about that. The other major strength of the issue is the art, which gives the dialogue unnecessary help at putting points across and forwarding conversations. The final panels are excellent for the one shot ofÖ..well, you can find out, I liked it anyway. All the technical aspects of the issue are okay. Itís just that nothing really happens. Iím reading and not hating, then again Iím not blown away either.

So my final words on this issue have to be that I give it because I couldnít find enough redeeming qualities to give it more, and couldnít find enough about the issue that I hated to give it less. It forwards the story barely one iota, so itís scarcely worth what I paid.




James Redington (But it should be more)

Dull.

But, quality dull.

At the end of the last issue we were hit by a bombshell, just who or what is the Sentry.

This issue - 22 pages later, we know nothing more than what we were told on the last page of the last issue.

Spider-Woman can release a scent that can make you fancy her. That was a funny scene. And I think maybe the scent is working though the comicÖ I have always liked Spider-WomanÖ that old 80ís cartoon was class; I still have an old VHS somewhere.

You know, as much as I like this title, I was ready to drop it due to money issues. But I have no money issues, so I decided to keep going because even though the story arcs are drawn out, they are good. This issue reminds me why I wanted to drop this book. In four issues time when we finally learn who the Sentry is, and I will be able to read all the parts, maybe Iíll understand it more and be glad I didnít drop it.

Bendis is a great writer and Steve McNivenís pencils are sweet as pie. We get a fun first three pages by guest artist Sal Buscema, and that was my highlight for the issue.

We have all these cool characters together and cool moments, but I want to see the plot develop a little more than the two pages we had with Tony and Logan discussing his joining of the ďnewĒ team.

Great end spread, but I donít really see the point of the all those characters being there. The build-up seemed non-existent for such a dramatic event.




Dave Wallace

Last issue of New Avengers saw our heroes trying to unravel the mystery of the Sentry, the all-powerful forgotten hero of Marvelís Silver Age, who until recently was self-imprisoned in the Raft for the murder of his wife. However, in the closing pages of New Avengers #7, we learned that his wife is very much alive, and the only clue that Captain America and Tony Stark can find as to the identity of the Sentry is some old comics written by Paul Jenkins, scribe of the original Sentry miniseriesÖ

Truth be told, this issue of New Avengers is a bit of a letdown after the cliffhanger which ended the last issue, the setup of which held a lot of potential for me. Iím a big fan of these kind of meta-textual fourth-wall-breaking stories when theyíre done well, and the idea of the Sentry as the flawed but self-sacrificing forgotten hero has been one which intrigued me ever since the characterís original miniseries.

Unfortunately, the bold ideas which were thrown up by issue #7 simply arenít followed up here. The storyline involving the Sentryís true nature isnít really developed (when faced with the reality of his wifeís survival, he teleports away and doesnít reappear until the issueís end), and the promise held by the cameo appearance of original Sentry writer Paul Jenkins is wasted, as he doesnít get a chance to elaborate on his role in proceedings before he conveniently faints.

Whilst we do get a few minor yet significant character beats (a scene between Tony Stark and Wolverine manages to state the case for Loganís inclusion on the team quite convincingly, and the revelation of Spider-Womanís more subtle powers of persuasion were well-written and nicely paced), a neat action scene which ties up last issueís fight with the Wrecker (with Steve McNivenís art earning the issue most of itís silver-bullet-tally: I love the opening page of the fight which shows Wolverine crashing to the ground among a spray of soiled nappies and apple cores, and thereís an excellently drawn piece of co-ordinated teamwork which closes the fight), and a set-up for the return of the Void (which is going to mean very little to people who arenít familiar with the original Sentry miniseries), thereís only really about half an issueís worth of material here. Whilst thereís still a lot of promise in the ďSentryĒ arc, itís currently treading water. Hereís hoping for better things next issue.



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