Everyone has their own definition of a superhero. Some people might see them as invincible powerhouses that can overcome any challenge. But many superheroes struggle with their mental health, and the Sentry is one of the best examples. Sentry #1, written by Jeff Lemire, sees the Golden Guardian return in a new series. Yet the return of Sentry also heralds the return of his dark alter ego, The Void. Sentry #1 brings up the idea of whether being a superhero can turn into a drug, so there’s a lot to be intrigued about.
The issue opens with Sentry locked into an epic battle with Void and his dark army. With Earth under threat, Sentry is joined by his sidekicks Scout and Sentress, who help him turn the tide. This leads to a bombastic sequence where Sentry splits the moon in half to destroy the Void. Classic superhero stuff. It’s meant to showcase everything Sentry is: powerful, heroic and limitless.
It’s soon revealed that ‘Sentry World’ is merely a construct of Robert Reynolds’ fractured mind. The Sentry and Void are held within the Confluctor, a device given to Bob by Doctor Strange to stop the latter from escaping. Bob is required to enter the device every day in order to keep the Void in check. Bob is able to experience the thrill of being a hero, but still get to live a normal life in the real world.
These contrasting elements are fascinating. The story places a lot of focus on how mundane Bob’s life has become. He’s middle-aged, bearded and works in a fast food joint. The Confluctor monitors his progress, making sure he reports into a S.H.I.E.L.D division. In this way, the machine acts as Bob’s escape and his medication.
Although it seems Bob is happy with the balance he’s found, Lemire presents him as a recovering addict. There’s a sense that he enjoys the rush of being in Sentry World, that he can feel powerful again in a world of his own creation. It’s as if Lemire is asking the reader to question whether being a superhero can be a form of addiction. Given Bob’s history of mental health issues, there’s always the risk of him relapsing, which makes for an entertaining story.
Memory is an important theme as well. Bob remembers his life as Sentry and Void, two sides of the same coin. His determination to find out what’s real is centred around time. Bob chooses to check his watch regularly, providing him with a routine that keeps him tethered to reality. Lemire’s characterisation of mental health is respectful because he instils his protagonist with an awareness and drive to be better. This isn’t surprising, considering Lemire’s stellar work on Moon Knight.
Kim Jacinto’s art is colourful and trippy, an ideal match for a character that’s prone to living inside his own head. My favourite panels involved Sentry’s skirmish with the Void and a disgruntled Robert Reynolds preparing fast food.
Sentry #1 is an exhilarating comic that reintroduces one of Marvel’s most interesting characters in a big way. It’s available in stores now.
Want to know more about Sentry before starting the new series? Be sure to read The Essential Reading List for all the important stories that Robert Reynolds has been a part of.