Monday, October 30, 2017

The Sentry Sinister!

OR: "What A Way To Spend A Vacation"

With all the exposure the Kree have received in The Avengers, how curious that we first learn of them in the pages of Fantastic Four, and in only a limited number of appearances at that. As a mysterious alien race that apparently visited our world long ago, they're given quite a build-up in a pair of 1967 back-to-back FF stories; but whether by design or because of opportunity, the Kree were diverted to other titles for the time being.  First, they would be briefly passed over to the Mighty Thor book at the end of the year, where they would play a part in a major revelation involving the Inhumans--and, during the same month, they would also factor into the debut of Captain Marvel taking place in Marvel Super-Heroes. Three months later, it would fall to the new Captain Marvel title to expand on their threat, where unfortunately the Kree didn't live up to expectations (much like the book itself).

In Fantastic Four, however, we were given a lot to look forward to concerning the Kree, when a professor researching an alien civilization arrives on an island in the Pacific and uncovers not only the evidence that he's been seeking of their existence, but also a remnant of that race that lives up to its name--the operative word, unfortunately, being "lives."

And so Sentry 459 makes his first appearance and heralds the debut of the Kree race in Marvel lore. But just how long has the Sentry been dormant? As we'll discover, the Sentry was walking the Earth during the formative stages of mankind--but in the here and now, it's the Fantastic Four who must bear the brunt of the Sentry's reawakening.

"By removing that power core, no creature from the Negative Zone will ever again be able to enter our world thru the open barrier door!" Try telling that to the Avengers, Reed. For that matter, try telling it to yourself! (Maybe it's the door you should be removing.)

Thanks to the perseverance of Sue, the FF (at least most of them) are heading off for a well-deserved vacation, though Johnny and Crystal have opted to stay behind and do their own *ahem* vacationing while the older set are away. As for the Thing, the sooner he can get this ball rolling away from the nauseating interaction between Reed and Sue, the better.

Nor does he waste any time settling on their destination:

Given what we've seen of the Sentry's locale, you can probably make a good guess as to which south Pacific island the FF are headed for. But while the Sentry doesn't realize that he's about to have company, he's nevertheless making sure that any other intruders will be dealt with on arrival and prevented from discovering this outpost.

When the Sentry catches the hurtling Pogo Plane on the fly, hostilities begin almost immediately between this creation of the Kree and the FF, and that works out well from a reader's standpoint. While artist Jack Kirby generally excels in his work on Fantastic Four, he's arguably at his best when he has the FF holding their own against a foe and cutting loose with their own skills and powers, rather than having them lapse into a defensive posture. Against the Sentry, they're cooking on all cylinders in both tactics and teamwork, even without the addition of the Human Torch. Though I don't see Sue running into the fray with the rest of her team. She's probably turned invisible--yes, that's it, she's just looking for an opening.

It looks like the FF have seized the initiative in this fracas. But even with its weaponry array crippled, the Sentry makes a formidable foe for the team--using its bulk and power to turn the tables on the Thing, and much worse.

It's beginning to look like these three will need their fourth member after all, which Reed has already taken steps to remedy. Until then, with the Thing out of action, they'll have to settle for fending off the Sentry as best they can--if they're given the chance. The action the Sentry takes next is certainly something right out of a comic book, given the speed with which it happens as well as the sheer power required to initiate it:

It's a scene which could benefit from Kirby's oversized panels, if not an entire page; after all, we're talking about a tidal wave that will impact on the entire island (including the Kree installation, which our stalwart Sentry doesn't seem to have thought of), and its magnitude as a threat to the disheveled FF should reflect its size as well as its formation. As it is, we're forced to take in the scene as it is, in condensed form: a tidal wave, formed in the blink of an eye by a single blow. Even earthquakes need more than a few seconds to accomplish such a feat.

But the wonderment doesn't stop there. Imagine a single trench not only stopping every drop of a wave surge that's large enough to inundate an entire island, but the pinpoint accuracy involved in the save.

I don't know, Reed--Sue's field withstood the impact of a Q-bomb explosion. With the three of you acting like you're expecting to die, it won't make any difference if she tries, will it?

With the Torch on the scene, the battle (pardon the expression) heats up. It's unclear why he doesn't just melt the Sentry into slag--he has an aerial vantage point, and the Sentry is too big to miss. Or is he? Can you spot the clever way that writer Stan Lee sidesteps both points by simply having the Torch bring them up?

With the Kree outpost on its way to destruction (way to put everyone in even more danger, Torch!), the FF are understandably hoping that the Inhumans' interdimensionally transporting dog, Lockjaw, doesn't blink out on them--while our captured Professor and his guide are no doubt also hoping for a helping hand. Luckily for them, the Thing is on the job; but while the entire group manages to escape, there is no escape in sight for the Sentry, whose unswerving loyalty to the Kree compels it to remain at its post until the inevitable.

In the issue that follows, the FF are confronted by the judgment of the Kree in the form of Ronan the Accuser, who gathers them to answer for their actions toward the Sentry and their intrusion on the Kree outpost (the main event of the issue, despite what's going on with Alicia); while a clash with another Sentry three years later (our time) would bring to a close any further involvement of the Fantastic Four with this alien race that was again taking an interest in our world.

As for the Inhumans--receiving a back-up feature in the pages of Thor--we find them flourishing in their island city of Attilan during prehistoric times, at the point where they prepare to take the first fateful step in experimenting with the terrigen mists that will evolve them further from an advanced state of human to beings with extraordinary abilities and powers. Once again, it's Sentry 459 that's awakened from its slumber in order to investigate what amounts to a "loose end" that the Kree left behind; and while the newly-named "Inhumans" learn at last the answer to the mystery of their evolution and of their connection to the Kree, we, in turn, learn a few more details concerning what brought the Kree to Earth, and how this new breed of humans amounted to a forgotten experiment whose status the Sentry has been sent to assess.

It's too bad our Professor didn't think to ask a few questions about Lockjaw, eh? It turns out he was closer to the answers he sought about the Kree than he knew.

Fantastic Four #64
(with scenes from Mighty Thor #143)

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek


Rick said...

Interestingly, the Sentry in the Inhumans series seems significantly shorter than in his FF appearance.

Comicsfan said...

Colonel Yon-rogg has an answer for you, Rick (as part of a story you'll see profiled in the PPoC this week): "Sentry 459 has even grown in size... due, no doubt, to our androids' ability to adapt their physical size to meet varying conditions!" Granted, that's something you'd probably hear in response to a letter-writer seeking a no-prize for uncovering an inconsistency; after all, we generally don't see the Sentry growing larger or smaller in a single issue, do we. Another response might have been, "Well, [letter-writer], maybe the Inhumans were taller back then!" or "That could have been the smaller Sentry 459-A series!" At any rate, it's still an excellent observation on your part.

Rick said...

There was a time when I would have remembered Yonn-Rogg's comments, being a dyed-in-the-wool Marvelite from back in the day. The ravages of age, I guess. Or some clever Kree mind trick. In any event, love your posts every day.
P.S. I am neither robot, as the site keeps asking, or a Sentry.