“Act One: Under the Eye of the Clock”
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I'm so glad I spent the time and money on that insipid New Avengers arc in which Bendis bludgeoned all the good stuff out of the Sentry, because Jenkins apparently ignored the whole sorry exercise when putting this together, and instead restores the character to his interesting and complex self. So I didn’t have to read the Avengers arc to understand this at all. Great. One does have to question the wisdom of using one title to launch another, only for the second title to ignore the first, but wisdom, alas, is in short supply at Marvel these days.
So here we have a conflicted and confused Superman figure, struggling under the weight of the responsibilities inherent in being the most powerful being on the planet, afraid of the dark destructive side of his personality, and concerned by his lack of a normal life, but a person who ultimately finds himself fulfilled when he's out being this impossible figure. For the Sentry, it's a daily personal struggle to be a hero, and the fact that he still does it makes his heroism all the more worthy and interesting; this is the key premise of not only the character, but Stan Lee's Marvel Universe as a whole, which is why it was so painful to see Bendis miss the point so completely.
But this is a comic about Sort-Of-Superman, and traditional Marvel Angst aside, we also need to see some Superman-style action, something which is delivered in abundance; my particular favourite example of which is a fun little sequence in which Terrax, for all his mighty power, is utterly humbled by a largely disinterested Sentry. This is wonderfully drawn by the similarly-mighty John Romita Jr., who gives the comic as a whole a suitably epic look; the opening sequence is a highly effective bit of widescreen storytelling, but just as enjoyable are the smaller, subtler moments, such as the shot of the Sentry opening the massive door on his secret vault, a small and simple panel that easily conveys the character's great power without wasting space with an unnecessary splash page. Romita is a visual genius and Marvel needs to put him on something far more high profile than this, like New Avengers or The Ultimates, but see my comment above on wisdom for why that will never happen.
I approached this comic with some trepidation after the abysmal lead-in story in New Avengers, but it's a lot better than I dared to hope. We'll see how things go in future issues, but for now this is a fun and enjoyable book, and the only problems I have are purely conceptual; with the Sentry around, the Avengers seem somehow demoted, almost like a B-list team, and his presence makes finding a place in the Marvel Universe for the beleaguered Thor even more difficult. As such, I really don't think the Marvel Universe needs a Superman, indeed his presence undermines things a little, but he's a fascinating character nonetheless.
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