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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Who is this superhero? Sarge?


Rosemary, the telephone operator?

No way, man!

Penry, the mild, mannered janitor?

What? No, that's Hong Kong Phooey! We're talking about the Sentry. You remember the Sentry, don't you? No? Well hmm. I wonder why that could be.

Empowered by the enigmatic Professor's secret formula, high school student Robert Reynolds became a superhuman. After trouncing the school bully who had tormented him, Reynolds sewed together a costume and made his debut as the heroic Sentry. One of very few superheroes active during the years just prior to the Fantastic Four's emergence, Sentry gained new importance when the new wave of heroes rose to prominence.

It was big news when it was first reported: Marvel, going through the archives of old tangible property, found a sketch of a character called The Sentinel. The sketch was signed by Stan Lee and Artie Rosen (an artist who did work for the pre-Marvel Atlas Comics) and dated 1961 - prior to the creation of the Fantastic Four, Marvel's "first" superheroes. That's a comicbook atom bomb, there - not quite as huge as finding an abstract Mondrian painted before Picasso, but still big.

Thing was, it was all a hoax. The backstory was just part of the marketing plan, with everybody from Stan Lee to Wizard playing along to help sell it. But it was more than simple hype: it was also a way to drag the audience into the world of the comic. In order to defeat his greatest foe, Sentry (the name was changed because DC's Golden Age Green Lantern was calling himself Sentinel at the time), who had been operating since just before the Fantastic Four took their space flight, needed to make everyone in the world forget he ever existed - including us, the readers. He's been kicking around the Marvel Universe since the '60s, but you don't remember him? Well that's why.

The Sentry figure is mainly based on the Black Panther body, with a few new elements. That means he has the same nubbly texture and the same articulation: toes, ankles, shins, knees, hips, waist, torso, fingers, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. The gloves and boots are new, of course, but that doesn't keep them from moving well. He's got a big huge cape and belt, both made from flexible rubber.

There are more versions of Sentry floating around than any other Legend in this series. To begin with, he's one of the two variant figures. The standard Sentry is the typical, fresh-faced hero, with a haircut that's not quite high and tight, but would definitely pass muster. The variant is based on how he appeared at the beginning of New Avengers, when he was sitting in a cell in the Raft, one of Marvel's max-security prisons. He's got shoulder-length hair and a full beard, what with not having access to a hair stylist for a while. Both versions are sculpted well; the normal one looks like McFarlane's completely illegal Miracleman (except not, you know, "retarded") and the variant's hair is detailed nicely.

So that's two. The initial run of Sentries was painted light blue and gold, which wasn't quite right. ToyBiz made a running change, and Sentries started showing up in navy blue and yellow, which also isn't right, but is definitely closer. The first set was too dark, and the second too vibrant - what we really need is something between the two, but closer to the bright yellow end of the spectrum. The early, mustard Sentry is more popular with the fans (or at least the fanboys), but the corrected version is truer to the comics. Both the standard and the variant are available in both colors, so hardcore completists have a fun time ahead of them.

Unlike Wolverine, both versions of the Sentry come with the yawn same Giant-Man part, so you're not getting boned as badly. They've got the all-important left elbow. Okay, so it's not glamorous - but you can't plug his glove into his shoulder, so you need an elbow. Included with Sentry is a reprint of New Avengers #3, which is just... idiotic. There have been poor choices for the free comics before, but this is absolutely the worst one yet. It's packaged with Sentry, right? Well he only appears in one panel in the whole issue. Granted, it's a splash page, but come on! If you try to say that there was no better single issue to introduce new fans to this character, you're a liar. Hell, New Avengers #2 has one of Sentry's most bad-ass moments ever, but instead we get this. Bad, bad, bad, bad choice. Someone should be ashamed.

Sentry, really, is a Superman pastiche. Strength, speed, flight, invulnerability, super-senses... he even absorbs sunlight for strength. So, okay, his powers come from an advanced form of the Super Soldier serum and he has some sort of wide-range psychic powers, but those are minor differences. However, in introducing Sentry, Marvel did one thing incredibly smart: they found him a weakness. See, even in a world with kryptonite, Superman is still basically God, unlimited by any restraints. Sentry, however, holds himself back. It's his psychoses that keep him in check, not some chunk of green rock, and that right there is the core of the Marvel style - Superman's problems are purely fantasy, while Sentry's are entirely human.

-- 06/20/06

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