Explaining Marvel’s Sentry: Meet the Thunderbolts Villain

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The Sentry comes out of “Marvel Knights,” an imprint started in the late 1990s for writers and artists to craft relatively more creator-driven and mature stories with Marvel’s stable of characters. “The Sentry” was a miniseries by Jenkins and Lee about the greatest superhero no one had ever heard of.

Bob Reynolds is portrayed as a miserable middle-aged man with memories of being The Sentry, but no one else recalls them. The first issue leaves it ambiguous if he’s delusional or not until he starts flying in the last panel. Reynolds then visits other heroes of the Marvel Universe (the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the X-Men) and speaks to them as old friends even though they’re unable to remember him.

You see, Reynolds senses The Void is returning and they must marshal a defense. The twist, that Sentry and The Void are one and the same, comes in the final issue, “The Sentry Vs. The Void” #1. Discovering the truth of the Void, and that he and his superhero friends agreed to erase the Sentry to stop the villain, Bob accepts his “normal life” and everyone forgets about him again. The ending, though, suggests his memory of the Sentry is still in there somewhere.

“The Sentry” is a riff on Alan Moore’s “Miracleman,” also about a middle-aged mediocrity discovering long-lost memories of being a superhero. To sell the illusion of the Sentry having always been part of the Marvel universe, the series also includes flashbacks done in different art styles; the Sentry’s origin story (he ingests a modified super soldier serum) and his teaming up with the Avengers to fight The Void in issue #1, for instance, are drawn in the style of Jack Kirby. This blocky, classical style contrasts with Lee’s darkly shaded, sharper-edged art.

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