Beyond Spider-Man : 2003 : Sentinel
May 2003 : NM ($3.00) : No Spider-Man
Summary: Salvage Part One
I know that there are a number of old-school Marvel fans who have cold feet regarding the current crop of Manga-influenced artists popping up various Marvel titles. I also know a number of Anime and Manga fans who have become highly critical about a growing number of American comics trying to imitate the feel of "authentic" manga. These are the people who are most likely to pass up on a book like Sentinel. I actually feel sorry for them as to be completely honest, as Sentinel #1 is one of the best new titles to come down the pike in years.
Sentinel is the first title from Marvel's new Tsunami block of titles aimed at the Shonen Jump crowd, and has proven itself to be the title with the most obvious Manga influence both in theme, and in art. The title falls in the "Boy and his Robot" sub-genre that has given us countless anime works from the grim and ultra-serious Giant Robo to colorful, self-referential, and often silly Gear Fighter Dendoh. This genre has also inspired a small handful of American comics such as Oni's Jason and the Argobots, along with some animated works (most notably "The Iron Giant.") The titular robot in Sentinel is of course about one of the many 30-foot-tall monstrosities that usually make life miserable for the X-Men, however the book's true star is fairly ordinary high school student named Justin Seyfert.
Not unlike the version of Peter Parker seen in Ultimate Spider-Man, Justin is a modern day adolescent everyman, a smart capable kid who, alas, lives a somewhat rough life. Justin's mother ran out on his family years ago; his blue-collar father struggles to make due running a scrap yard, and his younger brother Chris appears to be suffering from some unknown, but possibly serious, ailment that gives him severe migraines. Meanwhile, at school, he finds himself and his friends to be the target of bullies, so much so that his friend Matt seems to be growing dangerously angry. Then there's Jessie, an older classmate who Justin might have a crush on.
Even though the Sentinel itself does not show up until the book's final page, it is easy to see that this title is a labor of love. In the first Sean McKeever manages to set up a likeable cast of three-dimensional characters while keeping the dialog sounding true. The art by UDON Studio is crisp, clean, and just cartoonish enough to make the whole book click.
In short, Sentinel is a "Better Read" in every sense of the word. If you are a fan of Ultimate Spider-Man, or any other comic, please give it a look.