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Sentinel #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics Ė Sean McKeever (w); Udon (a)
Unlike the fairly abysmal Wolverine: X-Isle, Sentinel is a testament to the intelligence of Marvelís marketing team. The book, unlike its counterpart offering this week from the new Tsunami line, is a textbook example of a good way to launch an imprint: with a well-written, well-illustrated book that both younger and older readers will enjoy.
Juston Seyfertís story is a familiar one: while possessed with intelligence considerably above the average, his social skills are somewhat below that. His area of expertise happens to be machinery in general and robotics in particular, a knowledge that he puts to use in the homebuilt, robot-oriented gladiatorial combat that he and his friends engage in. He spends his days being terrorized, along with his equally outcast friends, by high school football players. The time after the last bell rings, however, is when Justonís world really comes alive, scavenging the junkyard that his father runs for parts and testing the machines that he builds from them. Fate intervenes in Justonís mundane life when he stumbles upon a control chip the likes of which he has never seen; a control chip that belongs in a nearby, nearly destroyed Sentinel, the gargantuan, mutant-hunting robots that have plagued the X-Men for nearly their entire life. So while he may not know it yet, Justonís life is clearly about to become a much more interesting affair.
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The strongest point of the story lies in what I said before: the set-up for Justonís life is neither the first nor the last version of an archetypical story. Itís possibly the most retold origin in comic book history: nerdy teenager falls ass-backwards into great power, discovering that great responsibility comes along with it. But however hackneyed that origin may be, it is that predictability thatís really an asset here, as a story like this is immediately accessible to nearly anyone (a concept that last yearís box office totals for the Spider-Man movie proved). And given the fact that Sentinel appears to be aimed at a slightly younger set than the average Marvel book, thatís to be applauded, as the only way the comics industry will survive into a new generation is through the use of characters that teenaged readers will be sympathetic towards.
McKeever treads a thin line with his protagonist and companions, as the needs of the story necessitate that those characters be at least slightly archetypical; at the same time, as a writer, he needs to put a personal spin on them so that they donít become stereotypical instead, reading as little more than a generic teenage power-trip story. And for the first issue, at least, I think McKeever has been successful in that. Itíll be the subsequent issues, obviously, that seal the judgment on that, but McKeeverís well-earned reputation precedes him and that leaves me with confidence that he can keep this level of work up.
The only complaint I can summon for the book is that Udonís manga-style artwork, at least in this book, has a tendency to blur the relative age of the characters, making all of them look much younger than the story tells us they really are. I understand that Marvel feels that manga is popular with the kids these days, but itís a problem that needs to be addressed: Juston looks like heís in middle school, at best, not high school.
At the end of the day though, Sentinel remains a very solid debut for an imprint that many have expressed misgivings about. McKeeverís script is genuinely enjoyable and Udon, despite my complaints about the charactersí diminutive bodies, turns in a solid performance. I was particularly impressed by the panel where the ďcameraĒ pans back to reveal the disembodied fist of a Sentinel, lying just beyond our capering heroes field of vision; itís simply a nice visual.