When “Civil War” broke out between the costumed defenders of the Marvel Universe, for many heroes the choice of which side to fight for was a clear one, while for others the decision was one they struggled with. This January, readers will see the inner turmoil of two of these characters in the one-shot special, “Civil War: The Return.” CBR News spoke with writer Paul Jenkins about the story, which spotlights two heroes, The Sentry and another Marvel hero whose identity is being kept a mystery.
“The Return” was born partly out of discussions about what role a powerhouse character like the Sentry would play in “Civil War.” “There are parts of me that think if he gets involved, everybody is screwed because he’s very powerful,” Jenkins told CBR News. “But we’ve left it in a place where there’s a suggestion that if he feels weird, scared, odd, or negative, he losses power, but if he’s super confident he’s more powerful. So his Kryptonite is almost his confidence or mental state.”
The Sentry’s vast amount of power made it difficult for writer Mark Millar to give the character a significant role in the actual “Civil War” mini-series. “Mark decided he wouldn’t really have the Sentry get that involved because it became so much of what could potentially affect the outcome of ‘Civil War,'” Jenkins explained. “We all had these weird and interesting conversations. My opinion was that I wasn’t sure the Sentry doesn’t turn around and say, ‘I’m not registering. I’ll support you, but you can’t make me register.’ And they say, ‘Why not?” and he says, ‘Because I’m a god.’ It’s really kind of funny because we’ve been working with what the Sentry is going through and he hasn’t worked out his own place in the universe. There are questions of will he or won’t he register? What does he think?
“In a sense, the big question is how do you go to somebody like the Superman or the Sentry, some living god, and say, ‘I’d like you to register by my laws,'” Jenkins continued. “What does the Sentry think of that? Does he obey the laws as a human? Does he tell them, ‘I support you but if you’d like to force me to register you’re welcome to try.’ All of those things are part of ‘The Return.'”
When “Civil War: The Return” begins, the Sentry isn’t in a bad spot emotionally, but he’s still troubled by many of the same thoughts he was contemplating in the recently released “New Avengers” #24. “He’s worrying about things like, if he gets involved will he hurt his friends? And what’s going to happen to everybody if he gets involved?’ Jenkins said. “Then it’s following on from that and him saying okay, ‘What if I make a decision?'”
It won’t just be difficult decisions that the Sentry tackles in “The Return.” “There is a great villain in the Sentry story,” Jenkins stated. “A really cool one, where everybody will be like, ‘Oh, it’s about time those two had a battle!’ It’s a big old bru-ha-ha kind of fight, but it’s done within the context of his decision and what’s going on.”
“Civil War: The Return” is two separate stories. In the book’s first story, the Sentry wrestles dilemmas and a diabolical villain. In a second story, a familiar face makes their “return” to the Marvel Universe, but Jenkins had to keep the character’s identity under wraps. “It’s somebody cool and important,” he said. “It’s basically somebody who I think the fans will be really be interested in and excited to see back.”
Jenkins couldn’t reveal the character’s identity, but he could share some other details. “It’s kind of an interesting intrigue,” Jenkins stated. “At some point he’s approached and told, ‘We have thought of ways to make superhero registration work; for things to improve everybody’s lot. You coming back now to help this situation will save so many lives and be so helpful. We need you.'”
As the solicits for “The Return” revealed, when the mysterious character reappears in the Marvel Universe it’s in the confines of 42, the prison in the Negative Zone built by the heroes working for superhero registration. “Because the story is set right there we learn a little more about the structure of the prison,” Jenkins explained. “It’s been a really funny experience actually because there are some people who are like, ‘Oh Jenkins writes it completely different than Millar.’ It’s funny because I actually wrote the prison before Mark did. So the stuff that appeared in ‘Frontline’ was actually written some time before Mark had done his part. They were a little bit different, but we managed to do this sort of ‘no-prize’ thing of saying that mine was the rough end. Mine was the day release workers, minimum security (laughs).”
Because both tales in “The Return” tie into “Civil War” a number of other characters play roles in each story, but they aren’t large roles. “It really kind of focuses on one character and then the other,” Jenkins said. “It almost has their internal narratives going on.”
Readers of “Civil War: The Return” shouldn’t look for the Sentry and the returning character to meet face-to-face in the one shot. “It’s two separate stories,” Jenkins stated. “There’s a small part of me that as I’m devising things and finishing them up that might actually bring a small connection between the two stories, but it wouldn’t be much of one.”
Fans of the Sentry will be happy to know that Jenkins will be penning more adventures of the Golden Guardian of Good in the near future. “There are some big plans for the Sentry,” Jenkins said. “I’m not going to get into those, but I will say there are some very big plans as to how he interacts and fits in with what’s going to be coming up over the next year or so.”
There is also a chance that Jenkins might tell another tale or two featuring the returning character in “Civil War: The Return.” “I’ve already talked with [my editor] Steve Wacker, who has come over from DC to Marvel,” Jenkins explained. “He’s said, ‘We would like to take this character and do something. What do you think? Do you want to pitch for it?’ But I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t had time to even consider it.”
Jenkins time these days is occupied by putting the finishing touches on “Civil War: The Return” and various other projects like his superhero satire series “Sidekick” from Image and his other Marvel Civil War related project, “Frontline” a ten issue mini-series, which currently features a number of stories each issue. “I keep trying to tell people that for Mark, ‘Civil War’ was seven issues; seven issues that were difficult for him to write,” Jenkins said. “For me ‘Civil War has been 365 pages. It’s really difficult to describe to someone what a fucking massive amount of work that is. I’m really grateful that I’m winding down. When you get to this point of a big series like this you tend to be very concerned because you have the trickle down effect. Everything you’ve done that has lead you here better be tight. Otherwise, you’re going to be tieing up all the loose ends and tearing your hair out. I’m really glad that I’m getting to these stories and I’m reading them and going back over them and low and behold they’re working out great. I didn’t leave too many loose ends.”