Silver Age pastiche comics rarely work unless there’s a specific storytelling reason. Otherwise, they often come off as obvious, labored, and just plain cheesy — and not in a good way. Comics from that age seem funny or quaint at times, but that’s usually because they weren’t meant to seem that way. The hilarity of those old comics comes from sincere attempts to make comics, but modern attempts at that “Silver Age feeling” are purposeful in their inanity and, in the case of something like “The Age of the Sentry,” fall flat as a result.
Issue five contains two 10-page stories featuring the Silver Age Sentry as well as a one-page Marvel Fruit Pie parody ad, and one page that takes place now featuring the narrative frame of the previous stories. Firstly, the Marvel Fruit Pie parody ad: please just stop these. Why is it that every comic that flashes back to the Silver Age feels the need to include a fruit pie ad? The joke has worn thin and, let’s be honest, wasn’t that funny to begin with. It’s just a groan-inducing cliche at this point.
The first story in this issue has Superm — er, the Sentry team up with the Legi — I mean, the Guardians of the Galaxy to help Idda, Ego the Living Planet’s cousin, give birth. This almost sounds like it will be fun romp of a read, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. We have lame Legion rip-off characters like Laser Lass and Boy Blob who appear in a few panels, and the actual plot goes nowhere.
The key to helping midwife the birth of a new planet is obtaining a book on a forbidden planet, except the Sentry doesn’t do that. No, he and Starhawk just fly around until they encounter Sun Girl and, then, get into a fight with some aliens. The storytelling is so passive and futile, which wouldn’t matter if the dialogue was witty or funny, but it’s not. I’m not sure what Paul Tobin was trying to accomplish with this story, honestly.
The second story isn’t much better with the Sentry’s Fan Club using advanced technology to manipulate his life and adventures in order to make them more interesting. There’s a metafictional aspect to this that amuses and works with the Sentry, who has always been a character that allows for writers to question the nature of his fictional existence. But, again, the plot is simplistic and the dialogue not much better. However, here, the art by Nick Dragotta more than makes up for Jeff Parker’s writing. Dragotta’s art is dynamic, using odd panel perspectives, and injects a real sense of fun into his work. It reminds me of Cameron Stewart’s art quite a bit at times. His depiction of a Dr. Strange lying on a pile of pillows with Clea next to him and the Sentry awkwardly sitting cross-legged is the highlight of the issue. He doesn’t seem to be trying to capture the Silver Age, just make the reader laugh.
The final page of the issue acknowledges some of the problems here by having Franklin Richards say to his father concerning the stories being told about the Sentry, “Some of it sounds real, and other parts sound fake.” This suggests there’s a purpose behind the inanity here, but is it really worth devoting an entire issue to? Sentry’s past always worked best when briefly flashbacked to, giving a sense of history without trying to recreate it fully; and, here, we see why.
(Hey, look, in CBR’s preview it’s Legion of Su — the Silver Age Guardians of the Galaxy!)