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The Sentry

sentrycoverThe Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game book provides a datafile for Sentry, as he was when he was reintroduced in the ‘Break Out’ storyline. Here Bob Reynolds is a broken man.

His character arc throughout both the ‘New Avengers’, ‘The Dark Avengers’ and ultimately ‘The Seige’ is tragic. A man with the power of a million suns plagued with mental problems and a literal personal demon in the form of The Void.

He never quite achieved the glory of the story that introduced him. ‘The Sentry’ was a Marvel Knight imprint, written by Paul Jenkins with art provided by Jae Lee and Jose Villarrubia and came with an elaborate backstory.

It was announced that the character of the Sentry was created by Stan Lee, and subsequently forgotten, before the Fantastic Four, making him the first Marvel superhero. Having rediscovered the character sketches this comic series was supposed to make him a true part of the Marvel universe.

This fit the theme of the comic, a hero that people had forgotten. There is a wonderful sense of apprehension and dread.  Jae Lee’s shadow filled art contrasts with the colourful silver age comic flashbacks, indicating the world has become a darker place. The Void sweeps across the globe devouring whole villages and the worlds mightiest heroes, even the Hulk, are terrified of what this means.

Supposed interviews with Stan Lee reinforce this as he attempts to recall the details of the Sentry. Like trying to recall a nightmare there is a growing sense that it is best not to remember the details.

Eventually the truth was revealed, that this was a hoax. The Sentry was a new character but the mixture of fact and fiction, both in the comic and the real life, helped make this a memorable series.

The story touches upon themes of addiction. Bob’s transformation into Sentry begins when he starts drinking his super serum. He feels a rush of power and believes the Void is attacking him. To his wife he is secretly drinking after promising he would quit and has kicked the family dog.

In another flashback the Sentry injects the serum. Alcoholism has become a drug addiction with the Sentry portrayed as more brutish than his earlier incarnations. No matter how he consumes the serum the Sentry is dependent on the power rush it gives him.

A flashback to Bob Reynold’s wedding, with many prominent superheroes in attendance, reveals a drunk Tony Stark, reminding us that this isn’t the first time that Marvel have explored addiction.

There is also the issue of mental health, which would later become the defining characteristic of the Sentry. In the first few issues there is doubt about what is real. Bob is in a state of confusion, unsure how he came to be living the life he is. The Void could have been nothing more than a voice in his head. Even his costume, when we first see it, is nothing more than an old jacket with a cape held on with clothes pegs.

Upon meeting characters such as Mr Fantastic and Spider-man Bob’s sanity is constantly called into question. This foreshadows the eventually revelation that the Void is linked to the Sentry, that it is some dark part of his psyche given form.

I think that this issue became too much of a focal point when he was reintroduced. While it was a way to put limits on a character designed to be incredibly powerful it meant that he could never be a complete person.

The series can also be seen as a commentary on how grim and dark things have become. Sentry was once a golden beacon but over time his sidekick was horribly mutilated and his reputation was ruined by those closet to him until he was forgotten.

This reading is supported by the fact that the Sentry was unable to survive in the modern Marvel universe. There was no place for him and the darkness consumed him, leading to his death.

The Sentry’ reveals an aspect of the Marvel Universe that was hidden. There is an entire history to rediscover that can be used as a basis of adventures or to shape a campaign.

It also shows that the Marvel Universe is big enough to introduce new characters and events into its history. The comics that we have for reference are not a complete record of what happened, nor do they represent the truth.

The Sentry

The past of the Sentry must be pieced together from the fragments we’re shown of old comics. There is plenty of evidence that not all of these glimpses truly happened, with later stories revealing some to be fabrications and outright lies. Still, for our purposes, they do offer some insight into the character of the Sentry.

His origin story has elements of both Captain America and Spider-Man. Upon discovering and consuming a secret formula Rob is transformed from a scrawny teenager to a muscle bound hero. He soon uses his powers to defeat high school bully Buzz. Like Spider-Man he sews his own costume.

We see little more of the teenage Sentry, making it a good era to explore. Still in high school how does he balance his incredible powers and responsibility with protecting the world.

Operating from New York is it possible that Rob Reynolds crossed paths with a young Peter Parker? Before Peter’s transformation he might have provided inspiration, afterwards he could have offered guidance.

In another flashback we see that Sentry has detected an enemy, the Blue Buffoon, and immediately thinks to contact Spider-Man. This either suggests that in these early days Sentry wasn’t as powerful or that he respected Spider-Man enough to want to work with him despite the difference in their power levels.

It is also mentioned here that the Sentry has detected the Blue Buffoon with his Sentry Sensors, rather than senses. This suggests that this detection was done via some form of technology. This isn’t too unusual as we learn that the Sentry has some technical skills.

sentrymillerA low powered Sentry, with gadgets to augment his abilities, would work well with a group of PC heroes in the early days of the Marvel Universe. This would prevent him from overshadowing others and let him learn the ropes with everyone else.

Later, the Frank Miller style art suggests the 1980s, the Sentry begins to inject the serum. Here it is stated that his powers come from the sun. It would appear that the serum allows him to convert solar energy to give him his powers, a form of photosynthesis.

A professor tells the Sentry that the serum creates a phase-shifting effect that moves every atom in his body an instant ahead of the current timeline. This fact could have important repercussions if the Sentry were involved in time travel. He might also be unaffected to changes to time, since he is out of synch.

The professor goes on to say that his powers are limitless, that he has conquered both time and space. In effect he is immortal. To reflect this most of the Sentry’s powers should be boosted to D12.

The Sentry is warned that each time he uses his serum the dosage must be increased. This would lead him to being too dependent on the drug. This could make a basis of an adventure, with the Sentry dealing with this issue.

Just how is the serum made, how long do its effects last and how much can the human body take? The idea that the Sentry has to recharge is another way to put a limit on his powers, putting him more in line with a character like the Green Lantern.

To represent this the Sentry might have a limit to how many times he can use his abilities during an adventure. This would work well with the Exhausted Limit, requiring consumption of the super serum to reactive a shutdown power.

In issue 2 Bob unnerves some subway passengers because he is no longer casting a shadow. This is either a reference to the fact he is giving off a golden light or an indication that the Void, his own living shadow, is no longer attached to him.

To protect the Hulk the Sentry is able to produce a small orb of energy. The game system allows this, this gesture easily replicated by creating an Asset for the Hulk to use in later scenes.

The Void

avengersvoid

The Void would end his confrontations with the Sentry by saying ‘I will return.’

He always kept his word.

It was the activation of the Sentry’s powers that allowed the Void to manifest. It is possible that he would eventually return without this, since it is suggested that the reason Bob started to remember his earlier life is because the Void was returning.

It is also possible that this was just a mental suggestion from the Void. He needed Bob to think he needed to become the Sentry again, in order to open the door for him.

His stated aim is to consume the souls of the entire universe. This hunger for souls would put him into opposition with demonic beings who use souls as currency. In practice most of his actions seem designed to draw out the Sentry.

The Void avoided direct sunlight, preferring to hide on the night side of the planet.

During the Void’s attack in Issue 1 Bob says ‘they don’t exist anymore’ rather than ‘he doesn’t exist anymore’.

This would indicate that the Void is not a single entity. This is not referenced again, nor supported by the revelation that the Sentry and the Void are the same being. Yet it is ripe to be explored.

It could be that there are many Voids, or beings like him. This could link to the idea presented in ‘Fantastic Four: 1,2,3,4’, with the Void acting as a tulpa. They could be parasites who link themselves to heroes to balance out their good acts with evil ones.

Void reveals his true nature here, saying that he is the face of Bob’s soul. He also says that Bob’s wife is the Void in addition to their house. This could be deception or just emphasising that he can possess anyone and anything, given that he currently speaking through Bob’s dog.

If this is true then the Void can possess just about anyone and anything. This means he could attack PCs through trusted friends and even their own homes. The goal of an adventure could be to free that person or thing from the Void’s influence.

The Void’s primary form of attack is his infini-tendrils. Being struck by one exposes you to your worst nightmares. They are sharp enough to stab people and severe limbs. His favoured tactic is to make an overt attack, setting up his target for a strike from behind. These infini-tendrils are extremely powerful able to break the Hulk’s bones with each strike.

In a flashback featuring an early line-up of the Avengers (Iron Man, Giant Man, Captain America, Thor and Wasp) the Void is shown using ‘Cosmic Cocoons’. This black energy immobilises the heroes. Both Iron Man and Wasp are shown in mid-air so they are either still able to use their flight powers or the cocoon actually suspends those trapped within.

Just as the Sentry is apparently out of synch with time so does the Void set of Sentry’s kid sidekicks Chronosensors. This suggests that he is some form of temporal anomaly that those with the right temporal equipment could detect.

The Void influence seems quite far reaching. In Issue 2 Johnny Storm and the Thing are watching a television show hosted by William Shatner called ‘World’s Greatest Abduction Mysteries’ which talks about a Turkish village being transported away by a black cloud.

Since this isn’t a news program and the short space of time between this scene and when Bob freed the Void in Issue 1 it would suggest that this happened in the past, an incident that isn’t being blotted out by the mind wipe.

At the end of this segment the program says it will examine the link between this abduction and the appearance of a black mass over London. While Britain does come under attack from the Void this is still not a news program and so this must also be a past incident.

In the present the Void devastates a region of Africa, forcing the area to be quarantined before sweeping across Europe. This is consistent with the idea that the Void is following the dark side of the planet.

The Watch Tower and CLOC

watchtowerSentry operated from the Watch Tower. Located in New York City the building stretched into the sky. Overseen by CLOC, a form of artificial intelligence, the building was rendered invisible during the enforced mind wipe.

With so many super beings flying around New York there are good odds that one of them might have collided with the invisible building. There is also a strong indication that they might have been able to go inside if they were to discover it.

Heroes or villains could operate from this invisible building, without ever knowing its origins. CLOC might even aide them, as long as they don’t interfere with his main duty of maintaining the mind wipe.

Alternatively CLOC could activate its security systems to defend the tower. Without knowing its motives PCs might just see this location as a hazard.

Billy Turner

The kid sidekick of the Sentry, Scout. He was gravely injured by the Sentry and lost his arm. His powers come from the same serum that powers the Sentry. It is unknown what his comparative power level was.

Adventures could be built around Scout interacting with other teenage superheroes of the era. One would imagine that he would have a lot in common with Rick Jones. Other superheroes might also take him under their wing when Sentry is away.

At the conclusion of this series Billy has gone back to working in a burger joint. Not only does he forget the Sentry he forgets his own role as a superhero. This suggests further adventures could be had where Billy remembers who he is and tries to become a hero again.

The Sentry and the Fantastic Four

It is established that the Sentry had a close relationship with the Fantastic Four, especially Reed Richards. He is the first person that Bob goes to when he begins to recover his memories.

We learn that the Four Freedom Plaza site was surrounded by stasis fields, meant to incapacitate intruders. Bob doesn’t explain how he avoided this, but he could either have flown around them, knew how to turn them off or his out of synch nature could mean he is immune to stasis fields.

During the time of these events the Plaza is a worksite, yet Mr Fantastic still saw fit to maintain advanced security systems. This would indicate that all similar sites have the same level of protection.

This is a sensible precaution since many of the Fantastic Four’s foes might search such places for artefacts left behind. This would require a certain level of expense and it is possible that such places are rented out to others. PC heroes could operate from such facilities, keeping an eye on the property while enjoying the high tech security systems that the Fantastic Four can provide.

The Sentry and the Hulk

hulksentry

The Sentry has a very tender relationship with the Hulk. His presence has a calming effect on the Hulk. It makes him child-like, but still able to think more clearly than when he is filled with rage.

The Hulk views the Sentry as a friend. During ‘World War Hulk’ a more intelligent Hulk berates the Sentry for keeping him in this state.  So much of the Hulk’s nature changes that it isn’t clear if he already had a child-like mind here or if it was induced by the Sentry.

Bob comments that the Hulk shouldn’t have remained the way he was. That he should have evolved by now. This indicates that the Sentry has a deeper understanding of the nature of the Hulk. It also opens up the possibility that something is preventing the Hulk from achieving his full potential.

Sentry/Hulk team ups make for good adventures. Both are incredibly powerful and near-invulnerable. The Hulk’s more docile nature makes it easier to play the character within a team.

Dr Strange

When everyone is made to forget the Sentry it is Dr Strange who is the exception. He is entrusted with the task of making sure that the heroes don’t try to remember. Presumably it is his magic that protects him. This could be because he is Sorcerer Supreme but other magic users might also remember.

Rather than forcing Mr Fantastic to forget he gives him a choice. This indicates that Dr Strange understands that it is better to persuade the heroes to co-operate rather than put himself in conflict with them.

The fact that Dr Strange was given such a high level of responsibility could lead to further adventures. What other things is he entrusted with? What secrets does he hold and what would happen if others find out?

The X-Men

Professor Xavier is another person that Bob contacts in an attempt to gather allies against the Void. When there Bob says that he doesn’t recognise the current X-men consisting of Wolverine, Rogue and Nightcrawler.

We know that Sentry had contact with the first X-men, especially Angel, but it is odd that he never encountered this line-up. Since his wedding took place around the time of the Iron Man ‘Demon in a Bottle’ story which was published in 1979 why did he never encounter the X-Men who were in the comics from 1975 onwards?

After their meeting Professor Xavier begins preparations for the approach of the Void. He creates new equipment to measure upsurges in psionic activity. This is never clearly explained. Does it suggest that the Void feeds on psionic energy? Could there be a psionic upsurge when the Void possesses someone?

Super Heroes of Europe (S.H.E)

sheThis large organisation protected Europe from threats. Their membership was made up of superheroes representing many different countries and regions. They came into direct contact with the Void during his rampage across the world, losing Red Dragon, Javelin, Shamrock, Claymore and Flying Carpet.

Members also include Belgian Brain, Yvette, Oracle, Gunnar, Magma and Amazon. It is very possible that those members who died have subsequently been resurrected or replaced.

S.H.E are an impressively large super team covering a very large area. This can make for a very broad campaign setting, dealing with threats from all over Europe. The relative lack of coverage allows players to create characters to their own specifications.

An adventure could be built around how the team react after the second time the public is made to forget about the Sentry and the Void. What do they do to rebuild and how do they rationalise their loses?

When the truth comes out how does the premier team of Europe react to discovering that not only was this devastation caused by an American but that he is still alive and could potentially unleash the Void again?

Temporalon Homeworld

Reference is made to a race called the Temporalon, that were wiped out by the Void. Since Bob refers to their homeworld this suggests that they had expanded beyond just one planet.

Their name and the fact that their only relic, the Confluctor, appears to be a clockwork suggests some connection to time. They could be a race of time travelling aliens or possibly a future race of human time travellers.

The Sentry swore that he would use the Confluctor to defeat the Void once and for all in their memory. If repaired he hoped it would disorient the Void. This could be a device that affects time, making events appear non-linear around the subject.

The Temporalon could be the setting for an adventure set in space or outside time. The PC heroes could prevent a villain from gaining access to their technology or try to make use of it themselves.

It could be revealed that Dr Doom based his Time Platform on technology stolen or recovered from Temporalon. Kang or Immortus could have joined forces with the Void to eliminate a potential rival in time travel.

There could be more Temporalons wandering space or time. One day they might return and try to rebuild their society. Perhaps they roam Limbo and are in some way related to the Space Phantoms?

The Armageddon Gambit

This forgotten story seems to be an important moment in the Sentry’s life. The Void had returned once again, more insectiod than humanoid. Flames envelope New York, the Void’s jet black body shrouding the sky.

The Void badly injured the Sentry’s kid sidekick. Moments later there was a terrible explosion, mixed with the sound of a million people screaming. All that remained of Manhattan was a huge crater.

It is difficult to say whether the explosion was caused by the Void or if it was Sentry unleashing his power. It is also possible that the trauma of seeing his sidekick hurt allowed the Void to gain control of the Sentry to use his powers in this way.

Later it would seem that this was the day that the Fantastic Four discovered that the Sentry and the Void were the same person. This would support the idea that the Void was able to gain control of the Sentry that day.

Bob comments to Reed Richards that many of the buildings in the area had recently been rebuilt. This would indicate that there was indeed widespread property damage. It is possible that various superheroes came together to help rebuild the area before the world was made to forget the Sentry.

If a million people did die a very elaborate cover story would have to have been put in place to explain their demise. After the mind wipe were there people who questioned what happened to loved ones? Did some people simply vanish?

The Armageddon Gambit would make a good event in itself. With New York under attack most of the major superheroes would have been involved. The culmination of which would be to try and subdue a Void controlled Sentry.

The Return of the Void

sentrylineupSentry: The Void’ concludes the series with groups of heroes defending the Eastern coast from the Void. The presence of Dr Octopus indicates that villains also joined the defence, well aware that if the Void should win everything would be lost.

This would make for a good final action scene for an Event based around this story. Players have a wide cast of characters to choose from and face an opponent of unimaginable power.

Stopping the Void isn’t the end either. Dr Octopus says that should they win he will try to kill Spider-Man. The PCs will have to defend themselves when they are most vulnerable from the people they had been fighting alongside only moments before.

In addition a news report indicates that an enraged Hulk went on a rampage after the events of the battle. Once the second mind wipe is in place PC heroes would have to stop the Hulk, unaware what has upset him so much.

Only moments into the Voids attack an unnamed hero dies when a section of the George Washington bridge collapses on him. Who was this character? What is his legacy? Did he return to life later?

The battle depicted in this issue wasn’t the only one. Scarlet Witch and Storm were stationed along the coast towards Jersey. Given the power and size of the Void it is entirely possible another group of heroes were carrying out their own battles.

Afterwards everyone believed that the damage done was caused by a natural disaster. Reed Richards even placed information that would convince him that there was temporal anomaly involved, explaining the missing time that those involved in the battle would have experienced.

PC heroes interested in such temporal anomalies might begin investigating only to find there are holes in the theory. This could lead to Dr Strange taking steps to ensure they don’t reveal the truth to others.

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