By CitizenBane 38 Comments
I'm putting down my thoughts and personal opinions on the matter because I can recall at least three instances in recent memory when an assortment of Sentry fans on the Battle Forums accused me of bearing an extreme bias against the character. Here's the thing: I don't hate Sentry. I don't really think or care about the character enough to hate him. At best I'm disinterested in anything to do with him, and there are a few times when that disinterest has veered towards actual dislike. But I don't consider myself the kind of person who'll argue against a character simply because of any kind of blind hatred. I'll admit that there are some characters that a few of the folks on the Battle Forum know I openly hate, Hulk and Deadpool being the most prominent examples that I can think of. But even so, I don't charge into every Hulk thread and say "Hulk loses because he's a shitty character who should burn in the fire of a thousand hells!" or anything like that. If I believe Hulk or Deadpool would beat one of my favorite characters in a fight, I'll freely admit it.
But I digress: back to Sentry. For the purposes of this blog, let's assume that I do, in fact, actively dislike Bob Reynolds.
Before anyone says I don't "get" the character: perhaps, perhaps not. I know I've read almost everything Sentry has ever appeared in, so I have no fear in saying that I understand the character to a substantial degree at the least. And what I've observed from reading all those issues is a mountain of ignominy that contrary to the beliefs of many Sentry fans, did not originate with Bendis. The problem goes all the way back to Jenkins and his original Modern Age introduction of the character.
The crux of my distaste for Sentry is the fact that his mere existence is disrespectful to half the Marvel Universe. We've watched these characters for years and years. We've seen their heights and their depths, and when we identified characters that we liked more than the rest, we probed deeper and read all the stories we could find. We watched them grow from the grassroots up.
Not so with Sentry. I've seen Sentry fans on this site comment on what a glorious work Jenkins' Sentry was, and the only response I could come up with was "Are you serious?".
When I first read Marvel Knights: Sentry and the rest of the pre-Mighty Avengers stuff that he appeared in I couldn't believe what was happening. Many of Marvel's events were just being edited to shove Sentry in. Not just that, vital elements of established characters were being morphed in a manner that made some of their greatest achievements now possible only because of the previously unseen hand of the Sentry. We're told that he was always present, he was always there, he was always the greatest hero of all. Everyone just forgot about it. Come on. Is it just me or does that seem like an utterly incompetent way to establish your character? What's wrong with building him up from scratch? What's wrong with making his exploits unique? Why must he leech off the trials and tribulations of others and reduce the things that are so central to their character development?
Here's what Ragnell on blogspot had to say about the same thing. I'm just going to quote it directly here, because he covers absolutely all of my gripes and says it far better than I ever could:
That is the ultimate problem with the Sentry being shoehorned into the Marvel Universe. He becomes the Sun around which the rest of the Marvel Universe revolves. Forget every niche occupied by the characters of Marvel, those aren't their stories. Those are just backstories so that we can read about how wonderful the Sentry is! The Marvel Universe goes from being about the characters we love, the ones we love to read about, and becomes All About Bob.
Did you know Angel was once afraid to fly? Amazing, a mutant with wings being afraid of that. Surely, that's something to have overcome during his training under Professor Xavier? Nope, it's something the Sentry helped him through and is now a memory of how awesome Bob is. Why? Doesn't add anything to Angel, but it has to be there for Bob because he has to have taught the X-men something early on, or he wouldn't have been a notable hero in the Silver Age. Warren overcoming his fears? All About Bob.
Did you know that Reed Richards had a best friend outside the Fantastic Four? Someone close to him that wasn't Ben, Johnny, or Sue--his FAMILY members? Why, it was the Sentry. So perfect that one of the most standoffish men in the world was open to him. All of this bonding, of course, happened off-panel during the most important moments of Reed's life. You know, the moments we read that didn't have the Sentry in them. Don't get me wrong, Reed's not an unfriendly man or an extremely shy person, I actually consider him one of the more compassionate characters I've read--but he is incredibly self-absorbed and work-absorbed. Even Sue and Ben can barely get him to come up for air, so if he has a friendship outside of his small, insular group--a friendship where he would actually consider someone other than Ben his best friend--then it's something that built up over time and is a very big thing in Reed's life. It is something we find out about in Reed's story, not in that other character's story. But nope. It's only in Sentry stories and Sentry flashbacks that it comes up. Why? Because it's nothing to do with Reed. Nothing gets added to Reed because he was friends with the Sentry, and the Sentry was there during those moments. It's to show that the Sentry was smart, so smart he was friends with the smartest man in the world. And to show that the Sentry was a great hero that everyone was comfortable with off-duty too. Reed's friendship? All About Bob.
Did you know that Crystal slept with the Sentry? This, I suppose fits a bit. She likes temperamental, impulsive men with light coloring it seems. Of course, she doesn't remember the affair. He does. Why? Because the Sentry was there in the Silver Age, and he had to have gone to the moon. And what could he have done on the moon? Why, he can sleep with Crystal, because she's just some dumb slut, right? Not because she married too young and let two guys push her into choosing one or the other. Not because of her own insecurities or desires. Nope, doesn't matter why Crystal did it, because that romance had nothing to do with Crystal's situation or storyline. It was because sleeping with a moon princess is just something a Silver Age hero does. Crystal's love life? All About Bob.
And of course, there's Rogue. Poor Rogue, starved for the touch of another person. Rogue who it turns out had her first full sexual encounter with none other than the Sentry. What led to this? How did she react? How did the relationship end? Was there even a relationship? Who cares?! It doesn't matter what Rogue's role in this was, only that there was a void in her life and the Sentry filled it. Why? Because Rogue losing her virginity isn't about Rogue, silly. It's about how wonderful the Sentry was and how much we miss him! It's just one more throwaway moment in a list of moments of how awesome the Sentry is, how he saved everyone's lives and helped everyone do everything, and was the Superman-like inspiration they needed because Captain America somehow just didn't cut it. Not only that, he is so amazing that not only did he have a romance with the X-men's poor chaste belle, but he actually f**ked her which not even Gambit or Magneto can seem to pull off. He got the the prize, folks, and what is possibly the most desired experience in Rogue's life? You guessed it, All About Bob.
I find the Reed Richards incident particularly irritating. I'm a big fan of Reed, and I consider him to be quite possibly the smartest man in either Marvel or DC. In the post Dark Reign story arc "Solve Everything", Reed decides to, well, solve everything. When he's offered the possibility of unraveling the secrets of existence itself with alternate-universe versions of himself he turns his back on it. Why? Because he learns that the price of solving everything, is everything. He'd have to abandon his family and devote himself entirely to that cause. The Reed that I'm a fan of wouldn't do that, because no matter how insular he can be, at some level he needs his family to keep himself together, and he knows it. That was a moment of personal development for Reed, one that proved he wasn't a cold unthinking machine who'd isolate himself from humanity in the pursuit of knowledge. But now it's devalued, because thanks to Jenkins we know that in reality it was the wise and noble Sentry who first managed to bring Reed out of his shell. Apparently Reed was just applying the lessons that he learned from his "friendship" with Bob. Step into my shoes for a minute. Wouldn't you be frustrated?
The last comic that Sentry appeared in was Fallen Sun. It was an opportunity to highlight the character's own development and accomplishments. Instead it just devolved into Jenkins fanwanking his own character. Again.
I am by no means an expert on Iron Man. But isn't the protracted period where he overcame his alcohol addiction a major milestone for the character? As I understand it, he had people to guide him at every step, but for the most part conquering his demons was his own achievement, and a moment of pride for him. But no, it's now been revealed that Tony would never have been able to beat the booze if it wasn't for the wonderful Sentry helping him in his darkest hour.
At Reynolds' funeral, Ben Grimm says "I never forgave Sentry for being a better man than I am". Seriously? This is the same Ben who's lived for years and years as a hideous monster, and still strives to be a hero. This is the same Ben who's fought alongside the Avengers. This is the same Ben who's a source of comfort for the kids in the Future Foundation. This is the same Ben who never forgave himself for being helpless to stop Johnny Storm from being overrun by the Annihilation Wave. In what idiotic world is Sentry "a better man" than Ben Grimm? Jenkins' world, that's what. Except now it's not just his world. It's the entire Marvel Universe. Nothing you've read about those characters matters. Yes, you guys have countless acts of heroism to your name, but step the f**k back now, 'cause here comes Sentry. A character none of us have ever heard about. A character we've never seen grow. A character that we have no reason to care about. But none of that matters, because without this flawless ubermensch in their lives many of our favorite characters would be poorer.
Sentry fans despise Brian Michael Bendis, condemning his portrayal of the character as repugnant. Jenkins' portrayal is just as bad. Bob is a pillar of strength for the Earth's greatest heroes. He's this handsome, polite, kind young man who would be oh-so-perfect if it wasn't for the mean ol' Void.
What part of this character doesn't scream "wish fulfillment!"?
There's really no point blaming Bendis alone for what happened to Sentry in Siege. Jenkins's execution was just as shoddy. You can't keep reducing the achievements and character development of established characters and then wonder why people start to resent your shiny new toy. I'm a DC fan at heart, but there are some things that only Marvel can give me. And I don't appreciate watching all these heroes worship some writer's brand new God Mode Mary Sue just because we're instructed to assume that he's the best of the best. If the House of Ideas is smart, they'll keep him dead. He's done enough damage already. The circumstances of his end were just as dreadful as those of his beginning. There's some consistency in that at least.
(These were simply my personal views on the matter. Your response is your prerogative. Perhaps you'll agree with me, perhaps you won't, perhaps you'll build an effigy of me and set it on fire. I don't know, man. But thanks for reading this.)