The Sentry and Siege (Spoliers for Siege #3 / Dark Avengers #15)

Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23390 posts) - - Show Bio

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.

#1 Posted by Vance Astro (89636 posts) - - Show Bio

Norman succeeded in manipulating Sentry because pretty much anyone could have pulled it off.If Iron Man wanted to..he could have done it already. 
I agree with most of the things you say but I will say this.Sentry's actions aren't under his own influence.The Void has taken over so this is repairable.I think chances are he will be killed though.

#2 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23390 posts) - - Show Bio
@Vance Astro said:
" Norman succeeded in manipulating Sentry because pretty much anyone could have pulled it off.If Iron Man wanted to..he could have done it already. I agree with most of the things you say but I will say this.Sentry's actions aren't under his own influence.The Void has taken over so this is repairable.I think chances are he will be killed though. "

Yeh, it's kind of like the Dark Phoenix, I think. As in, even though he wasn't acting of his own volition, his crimes were too heinous for him to be allowed to live. 
#3 Posted by Raruthos (5 posts) - - Show Bio

Still you're right about the main fact... the caracterization of the deus ex machina (if there is one after all... norman who manipulates instable sentry or void who use the situation to do its own biddings and finally come back as main personality?????) is in the both case we are considering SIMPLY RIDICULOUS.  
Bendis want to put fresh things in MU but all he is doing is REDICULIZING nice ideas of the past... in future someone will explain the mega-ark from civil war to siege with a retroactive plot of cosmic or villainous manipulation.

#4 Posted by TypingKira (3555 posts) - - Show Bio

Don't forget, turned into a psychotic monster and killed by Thor. I just keep telling myself "at least it was Thor and not like, Iron Man." 
But my uncle schizophrenia, and I hated how this truly awesome character. . . was flushed down the tubes. 

#5 Posted by lykopis (10868 posts) - - Show Bio

All your points --- bang on. Your last one?

Heartbreaking. I say that without one iota of dramatics.

Mental health issues are still to this day regarded as something to be hidden and cast away -- we see this everywhere, not just the people on the streets who mumble under their breaths as they shuffle along with their meager precious trinkets but also kids in school who act out and can't understand why they are the "bad" kid or the "weird" kid. There are the teenagers who don't even understand what it means to try to fit in, let alone rebel against it because they are overwhelmed with thoughts of self-harm or worse. This stretches out to people who look like they have the world in their hands -- great wife, house, kids, cars and possessions but when alone, they cry from inexplicable misery and try to douse it with alcohol. Or worse.

Medication is only to assist victims to not suffer or make others suffer, it's not a cure. By now you might be thinking "What the hell is she on about?". You see, I thought Sentry was one of the most incredible characters to come along -- a perfect superhero in terms of power-set and even physical attributes but wait-a-second...he's schizophrenic? Wah? He has mental issues and not in a Doctor Doom/Joker kind of sociopath or anti-social type way? About bloody time. Just like people push for minorities and gay/lesbian/bi-sexual representation, you would think something much more common like mental illness would be presented in a responsible way. But nope --- make the guy be manipulated by a insane man and have the Void which gave him a real villain to win over, win over over him and for good measure, have him tear a Greek God in half since he was after all, just a madman -- a bad guy who wanted to be good but couldn't be.

Way to go, Marvel. Giving him that funeral where everyone revealed the Sentry's spectacular-ness would fix it, right? Let's throw my Rogue at him in some whacked out, incomprehensible way, you know --- just because.

I am all annoyed now --- all of that garbage of back then is all refreshed in my mind. In a medium like comics where young people straight through adults are exposed to bits and pieces of reality, stories dealing with mental issues should be much more common and done so in a much more responsible way. Alcoholism and drug-use are -- not always responsibly but it's there. One in four adults suffer from mental illness.

Anyhoo -- not everyone is American but this website still has helpful information. It should be visited not by only those afflicted by the disease but also by those not because understanding is what is needed most in terms of society's attitude toward this.

I liked Sentry --- before he got Bendis'd. I agree with this blog's take on how this character was treated.

#6 Posted by Tendrin (68 posts) - - Show Bio

I just wanted to bump this. I -really- feel this. The treatment of the Sentry (going from a complicated hero who was struggling with anxiety and schziohprenia) to the offensively bad caricature we later received will *always* burn me. IT was just awful.

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