This blog may be a long one, and it's my first, so here we go.
First of all I think it should be noted that I absolutely adored Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee's Marvel Knights run on "the Sentry", I found it to be a beautiful and moving story. It is one of my favourite comic books of all time, and possibly my absolute favourite from Marvel; aside from DD Born Again. I never bought into the hoax aspect of it, though it was certainly some clever marketing by Marvel; the reason I loved this comic so much was because of the sensitivity and care taken by both Jenkins and Lee. As someone who suffers from some unpleasant anxiety disorders, it was a breath of fresh air to show a schitzophrenic hero treated with respect and admiration, rather than fear. So often we see schitzophrenic villains, the entire disorder has gained a certain stain on its name. Nevertheless, Jenkins showed us what can happen when we take a hero of Superman proportions and subject him to human fragility; and it was a literary triumph, at least in my opinion.
In addition, I think Brian Michael Bendis' work on the Ultimate line and Daredevil is fantastic, and his skills as a writer are not under question.
Now, onto the crux of the matter; the Sentry in Siege and Dark Reign.
I enjoyed Bendis' original run with the character back in New Avengers, and whilst it was nowhere near the quality of the Jenkins' story, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. Then, came Dark Reign. Norman Osborn succeeds in manipulating the Sentry, Robert Reynolds and the Void; why is he able to do this? No idea. There is no explanation given. In Dark Avengers #5, Norman tells Robert "there is no Void", and then asks for the Void's help next issue. I know that Bendis is trying to illustrate just how evil Osborn is, but it comes off more as an insult to the intelligence of the reader. We know Osborn is evil. We know he is an insane, cruel and manipulative expletive. Gwen told us that 30 years ago.
So, in order to tell us what we already know, Bendis spends the first 6 issues of Dark Avengers showcasing the Sentry as something of almost Spectre-level power, and all the while having him being controlled by Norman Osborn. Again, the question is why? Why would the Sentry follow Osborn? The Sentry is a universal force for good, his best friend is Reed Richards. He is a mentor to Spider-Man and a friend to the Hulk. For whatever reason, he forsakes these prior relationships (relationships he was willing to sacrifice his memory and legacy for), so he can work for Osborn. Again, the question is why?
Nevertheless, I have a large amount of patience for comic books, even books with overwhelmingly large plotholes; and Mike Deodato Jr is one of my favourite artists, so I continued to look forward to Dark Avengers each issue.
Then, the Molecule Man Arc. I don't even need to explain what was wrong with this. How exactly does drinking a freaking serum give you molecular control of the environment around you? Answer, it doesn't. The serum accelerated and temporally displaced Robert's molecules, it did not give him a metaphysical reality alteration ability. Still, it could be worse? We all know that the Sentry is going to return to his status as a true hero at some point, atone for his sins, and all will be well.
Dark Avengers #13 and #14 threw in some garbage about the connection between the Sentry and the Angel of Death of the Passover. So, that's a nice slap to Jews and Christians everywhere (of which I am one) by suggesting their faith is actually just a physical manifestation of a schitzophrenic's "dark" side.
Still, I continued to persevere with the series, just waiting for Bob to shed this dominated weakling persona he gained for some bizarre unknowable reason; then Siege #3. In Dark Avengers #15, Bullseye kills the Sentry's wife. Sentry becomes the void (of-bloody-course) and yells for a few pages. Then Osborn just tells him to chill....And he does. The most powerful human being on the planet is told by a world-renowned psycho (Bullseye) that his wife committed suicide. And he believes him. Now, on top of that being ludicrous in of itself, I'm reasonably certain that the Sentry has telepathy. Which, for some ungodly reason, he decides never to use when HE IS LIVING WITH A BUNCH OF CRIMINALS AND SADISTS.
So, we've established that DA #15 frustrated me, but I still didn't hate the issue that much. Bullseye's interaction with Lindy was hauntingly wonderful to read. And then I read Siege #3. What the hell was that? The Sentry destroys Asgard on Osborn's order, because Osborn has just had the holy hell beaten out of him by the good guys (took long enough), in an entirely unsatisfying manner. This is all after Thor and Sentry have had a mini-throwdown with Thor having a look of "holy $#%@" on his face the entire time. So, Sentry destroys Asgard and Norman starts whining about how he was the only one who could keep "him" in check. The heroes all stand around like a pack of morons, after all, it's not like a floating city just got destroyed or anything, and then we see what Osborn was alluding to; the Sentry in fully voided-out-mode looking maniacal and menacing.
And so the real villain of Siege was the Sentry, the greatest hero of the Marvel Universe (according to Jenkins' original series, we all know Spidey is really the greatest in the MU). A truly incorruptible and selfless being is now the Big Bad. Everything that made the Sentry a joy to read, his fragility, his honor, his courage, his strength and his willingness to do what is right no matter what, is completely gone. This character, who I so loved for being psychologically scarred, has become just another nutcase. Bendis took a character with a severe mental illness that was treated with the utmost respect and understanding, and turned him into just another evil dude.
The characterisation isn't what has annoyed me, nor the plot holes. It's the complete disregard that the writing has held for such an awful illness. The moral of the Sentry is no longer "overcoming adversity with faith and selfless action", but rather "if you have a mental illness, you're going to turn into a grotesque, psychotic demon".
Thanks for reading.
This blog may be a long one, and it's my first, so here we go.