Every time the Sentry comes out for a new mini-series, it gets harder and harder to maintain the character’s appeal. This is largely due to the quality of the original series, which had a strong central premise and a twist ending that placed the character neatly back out of consideration, to boot. It took a clumsy re-introduction to even allow future stories, and while the Sentry is often compelling in his capacity as plot device, stories of his own adventures don’t quite have the same gravitas.
This time around, Marvel has gone for a direction previously only used in flashback, allowing Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin to each tell some of the Silver Age adventures that the Sentry supposedly had before all memory of him was erased. You may start drawing comparisons to Marvel’s other retro-continuity books, like “Avengers Classic” or “X-Men: First Class”, but note that this title is nothing like them. Where those titles told modern stories using the simpler setting of Silver Age continuity, “Age of the Sentry” is, for this issue at least, a very direct Silver Age pastiche, mimicking the look and feel as best it can.
Now, every comic reader loves a little bit of Silver Age wackiness, even though most of us weren’t around to see it, but whether an entire series can be based solely on that premise is debatable. With five more issues to go, we can only hope that the series has a twist in mind, because it’ll take more than tongue-in-cheek homage to sustain things for that long. There is a short framing device in Parker’s tale, so hopefully a little more will come of that and give the series an extra dimension.
For this issue, however, the pastiche is enough to make things work. Both stories maintain an ironic, knowing (though not cynical) tone with particular emphasis on Stan Lee-style dialogue. The art is clean and vivid and adequately recalls the spirit of the past, if not necessarily the exact look. Small production touches like deliberately misaligned color plates only serve to make the series look all the more charming.
While it could veer instantly into retread in future issues, there’s nothing especially wrong with the opening couple of stories. It may disappoint Sentry fans hoping for some insight into the modern character’s mindset, but it should delight anyone looking for a little bit of Silver Age silliness to divert them.