Welcome again, Bloggers…please do come in, and please do make yourselves comfortable.
Here’s a little exercise in hating The Sentry that I did, and then thought better of, and then thought better of thinking better of, and now aha! I seem finally to have arrived at letting it arrive, so I hope you won’t mind seeing it again too much.
As always, a brief pause will be inserted, so that those who shudder at the prospect of INTERNET FAN-FIC — WHICH THIS IS — can have a chance to bail out before we hit terminal velocity. Or, you know, whatever I would’ve said there if I was capable of unmixing my metaphors.
Here it is…
PAGE ONE: Three panels.
Panel 1: Dr. Strange looks up and over his shoulder from the Orb Of Agamotto.
Panel 2: Reed Richards turns his head over his shoulder, as if hearing something, from where he’s bent working on his Radical Cube or something.
Panel 3: Spider-Man fights the Hulk in the streets of NYC.
PAGE TWO: Three panels, the top one half a page long.
Panel 1: We’re looking down on Robert Reynolds as he lies curled in the foetal position on a lawn somewhere. Leaves blow over and away from him, Godfather II-style. He shivers. He’s a junkie, going through withdrawal outdoors in February. What could be sadder than that?
Capt: Robert Reynolds.
Capt: THE SENTRY.
Panel 2: Bob’s eye opens, as a shadow falls over him.
Cyclops: (off-panel) Get up.
Panel 3: Bob’s hand on the grass, reaching for a test tube or vial or something. Cyclops’ eye-beam destroys it, slightly stinging Bob’s hand in the process.
PAGE THREE: Three panels, same thing as last page. Maybe vertically, L-to-R, instead of horizontal? Dunno.
Panel 1: Cyclops looms up over Bob, the rest of the X-Men in the background, looking disgusted, with a tumbledown grey house behind them.
Cyclops: It’s OVER.
Panel 2: Bob’s on his knees, hands up to Cyclops; he doesn’t understand.
Bob: It’s…it’s all going AWAY. Please…won’t you…
Bob: Won’t you HELP?
Bob: I don’t know…I don’t know WHO I…
Panel 3: Cyclops’ face, as he looks at Bob.
Cyclops: I’m sorry.
Cyclops: But it’s been TWO YEARS. I can’t have you coming to JEAN’S HOUSE anymore.
PAGE FOUR SPLASH: The X-Men lead Bob off across the lawn, to where their creepy airship waits to take him in. We’re looking at their receding backs. Cyclops is supporting Bob, who’s stumbling. In the distance, past the Blackbird or saucer or whatever it is, tangled trees and violent surf.
Cyclops: I’ve got to GET ON with my LIFE.
Bob: (weakly) …I’ve…I’ve never been to OUTER SPACE before…
Cyclops: And you’re not going there NOW.
Title: “COSMIC IS AS COSMIC DOES, PART ONE: NO EXIT”
PAGE FIVE: Five panels, the middle one’s big.
Panel 1: From above, Bob’s on some kind of medical cot. Professor Xavier and Cyclops are on either side of him.
Cyclops: So…what kind of mutant power do you call THIS, Professor?
Xavier: Zeta-class mutants all have the SAME power, Scott.
Cyclops: ZETA class…?
Panel 2: Xavier and Cyclops exit the examination room: we see that Xavier is wheelchair-bound as Scott pushes him through the door.
Xavier: He’ll be QUIESCENT for some time. Long enough for us to make the necessary PREPARATIONS. Until then, NO ONE should ENTER THIS ROOM.
Panel 3: They proceed down a long metal hallway, deep underground.
Cyclops: What’s a ZETA-CLASS mutant? With what he’s capable of, I assumed he’d be an OMEGA-CLASS, like you or Jean.
Xavier: Don’t be fooled by APPEARANCES, Scott. PROTEUS wasn’t an Omega-class. Neither was LEGION.
Xavier: Neither was JEAN, for that matter…
Panel 4: They open the door to the Cerebra chamber.
Xavier: I AM an Omega-class mutant, of course. As is MAGNETO.
Xavier: As was poor QUENTIN QUIRE…
Xavier: …But Jean was just JEAN, wasn’t she?
Panel 5: They go in.
Cyclops: Yes, I guess she WAS.
PAGE SIX: Three panels, one big one up, two little ones down. Inside the Cerebro chamber.
Panel 1: We get a good look at it.
Cyclops: Are you sure you’re UP FOR THIS, Charles?
Panel 2: Xavier plugs himself in.
Xavier: Frankly, I’m almost certain I’m NOT. Scanning Mr. Reynolds’ mind, even with CEREBRA’S AMPLIFICATION on my side, should be an option of LAST RESORT at BEST.
Xavier: After what happened THE LAST TIME…
Cyclops: Emma couldn’t have KNOWN. NONE of us knew.
Panel 3: Cyclops’ face.
Cyclops: Even YOU didn’t know.
Cyclops: Be CAREFUL in there, all right?
Xavier: Of course I’ll do my BEST —
PAGE SEVEN: Page split horizontally — in the top half Xavier’s head lighting up psychically, Cerebra-mask covering his eyes perhaps…in the bottom half, a number of slices or even maybe one big muralization of past Sentry encounters, as Xavier makes contact. We see Emma counselling Bob back in New Avengers, and any other thing that looks cool and significant. Some Void crap, no doubt, and (important!) stuff from the Dr. Strange rest home/SHIELD facility thing from the second miniseries…the damn test tube, I suppose…paunchy Bob, Golden-Guardian-of-Good-Bob, whatever else…
Panel 1: Xavier.
Xavier: — But we’re really PAST the point of CAUTION, now. And into the realm of the…
Panel 2: Xavier plummets into the mural, out of his wheelchair, tumbling in the astral plane. Yellow captions everywhere repeat the legend “Counteract The Poison…”, with Xavier’s own blue captioning interspersed. The captioning diverges from his “path” through the Sentry’s history; the figure of Xavier falls into or off of the page, or otherwise disappears, leaving only the last caption at the lower right-hand corner of the page to speak for him.
Xavier: (capt.) HAIL…
Xavier: (capt.) MARY…
Xavier: (capt.) PASS…
Xavier: (capt.) …
Xavier: (capt.) …Scott?
PAGE EIGHT: Five panels, one big one in the middle.
Panel 1: Xavier stands up, rising to his feet in a featureless white void.
Cyclops: (capt.) I’m here, Professor.
Cyclops: (capt.) Where are YOU?
Xavier: I’m here TOO. In something like…
Panel 2: We’re looking from behind Xavier, out past what looks like some free-floating black or grey rectangles arranged in a curving convex grid before him…to where Emma Frost and Bob Reynolds stand a little ways in the distance, side-by-side, looking at the pictures displayed on the other side of Bob’s memory gallery.
Xavier: …A MEMORY.
Xavier: And being very careful not to draw EMMA’S attention.
Cyclops: (capt.) What? EMMA?
Xavier: I’m in a REPRESENTATION, Scott. Of the first time she entered Mr. Reynold’s mind.
Xavier: (sotto voce) She’s STANDING with him, not a hundred feet AWAY from me.
Cyclops: (capt.) But…if she’s just a MEMORY…
Panel 3: Xavier slips along behind the memory gallery, being careful to keep out of sight. In the distance, Emma and Bob are repeating their lines from New Avengers.
Xavier: In the Greek oracular scheme, ZETA represents the STORM, Scott.
Xavier: It isn’t only MACHINES that can bridge the barriers between universes, but MINDS. The universe is a HOUSE, with the human mind so many PANES OF GLASS set in its walls to keep the WIND from BEATING IN.
Cyclops: (capt.) And what’s Bob’s mind, then? BROKEN glass?
Xavier: No. Not glass at all, I’m afraid.
Xavier: More like a DRUM.
Xavier: It’s TEMPTING…Emma is RIGHT THERE IN THE PAST, just across the drum’s SURFACE…
Panel 4: Xavier, hiding behind a window, puts his hands to his head.
Xavier: All I need do is set up the correct VIBRATION…if she and I could work TOGETHER, we could…
Cyclops: NO, Professor. STOP.
Cyclops: Emma did her BEST with Reynolds then, and she FAILED…
Cyclops: …She FAILED, but she saved LIVES. We can’t put that at RISK.
Xavier: Yes…yes, of course you’re RIGHT, Scott.
Panel 5: Xavier sneaks away from the memory gallery, further off into the white void.
Xavier: I must find ANOTHER WAY…
PAGE NINE: In nine panels, three sequences of three — the first sequence shows a set of lights in a sub-basement bank of computers somewhere, in darkness, turning from all green with one red blinking light at the left-hand side, to all green with the red blinker slightly further right, to all green with the blinking red light at the rightward side. The second sequence shows a hand opening the X-Mansion’s front door, then a figure slipping through the foyer, then a high-tech elevator door opening to a touch. The third sequence shows feet crossing the threshold of the front door, a hand brushing contemplatively across the bannister of the main stairs, and a finger pressing the keypad inside the elevator, on the button marked “B3”.
Panel 2: Taped on the computer bank above the lights, there’s a post-it note.
NOTE: “Scott — System Check is ON!! Back on Tues. – Kitty.” (“ON” is underlined twice — Kitty’s evidently getting pissed that people keep turning it off.)
PAGE TEN: Four panels, two large ones up, two small ones down.
Panel 1: Back in the Cerebra chamber, Scott is sitting there, watching Xavier wade in technology up to the hips.
Cyclops: …But why does he keep going back to the GREY’S house? What’s his connection to JEAN?
Xavier: HOPE, Scott. Jean’s connection to the PHOENIX ENERGY makes her the only thing in time and space his powers can’t DECOHERE. Everything else he touches just…FALLS APART, like images in a DREAM. Sometimes he even forgets what the dream is supposed to BE, and then it CHANGES AROUND HIM, and that FRIGHTENS him…
Panel 2: Xavier stands in the washed-out, bombed-out streets of a depopulated New York City. Arms and legs lie all over the place, Maybe — maybe — in a corner we see a silver surfboard with a big bite taken out of it.
Xavier: There are whole UNIVERSES OF GUILT in his head, that he’s made to remind himself of how ALONE he is…
Xavier: You see, with ZETA-CLASS mutants, it isn’t ever a question of POWER.
Xavier: It’s a question of FRAGILITY.
Panel 3: Xavier climbs through and over wreckage. He sees dead bodies everywhere, gruesome.
Xavier: Again and AGAIN, we see him try to ESCAPE his life, UNDO it. He imagines himself a CRIMINAL, a MADMAN, an ADDICT, a VICTIM, a MARTYR…
Panel 4: Same kind of thing.
Xavier: An ANGEL, or a DEVIL. Even a NORMAL MAN.
Xavier: But it never STICKS. So he keeps going back to JEAN — and if she were only ALIVE…
Cyclops: (capt.) Where are you NOW, Professor?
Xavier: Somewhere very UNPLEASANT. But I…
PAGE ELEVEN SPLASH: Xavier emerges from the rubble, to see a large mountain in front of him (that we’ve seen before!), with the Sentry’s Watchtower dimly visible at the top of it..
Xavier: …I think I may be starting to GET SOMEWHERE after all.
PAGE TWELVE: Four panels, three small ones up, one big one down.
Panel 1: A hand grasps something like a…snowglobe? It’s the 1602 universe that the Watcher wears on a chain around his neck, as we’ll see.
Watcher: It amounts to the same thing.
Other Watchers: (capt.) That is not the only possible conclusion.
Panel 2: More of the same.
Watcher: No, but it is the only possible EXPLANATION.
Watcher: And if we choose to OVERLOOK it, is that not a WORSE sin?
Panel 3: Same again.
Other Watchers: (capt.) Once again you show UNDUE ATTACHMENT to those you are charged with OBSERVING.
Watcher: INCORRECT. My ATTACHMENTS are part of my EXPERIENCE…
Panel 4: A council of the Watchers, on their homeworld. They sit in an outdoor amphitheatre, surrounding Uatu as he makes his case.
Watcher: …And my experience is what makes me a useful WATCHER.
Watcher: That we are forbidden to ACT is only because we cannot forbid ourselves to FEEL. As you all KNOW.
Watcher: Just as you all know that the planet in my charge has become a DETERMINING FACTOR in Galactic events, far beyond what could have been ANTICIPATED from their overall state of DEVELOPMENT.
Watcher: The theory I propose simply ACKNOWLEDGES that fact.
Watcher #2: It does far more than simply ACKNOWLEDGE. You KNOW this, UATU.
Watcher #3: That the planet Earth is UNUSUAL we will CONCEDE. Your experience as a WATCHER we will LIKEWISE concede…
PAGE THIRTEEN: Four panels.
Panel 1: The Watcher’s Council continues to interrogate Uatu.
Watcher #3: …But we cannot assign the IMPORTANCE to Earth that you WISH US TO. Much less can we countenance the belief that any ONE timeline in the Multiverse OVERMASTERS any of the OTHERS.
Watcher #3: These facts are NOT in evidence.
Panel 2: Uatu responds.
Watcher: Perhaps they are not in evidence TODAY, my friends…
Panel 3: He displays the 1602 snowglobe to his peers, and speechifies.
Watcher: …But what of YESTERDAY?
Watcher: Dare we ignore, as Watchers, the evidence of our very EYES?
Watcher: THIS universe, that I hold here in my hand, we have OURSELVES separated from the Multiversal Structure not one year PAST, in what CIRCUMSTANCE and for what REASON you know VERY WELL…
Panel 4: He meets with resistance.
Watcher #4: I PROTEST. To bring this incident up at this time is IMPROPER…
Watcher: I DISAGREE — it is not IMPROPER at all, but NECESSARY. Necessary to the SURVIVAL of ALL THAT IS.
Watcher: GAZE into its DEPTHS, brothers. Let us not argue, but as Watchers simply LOOK there — look there, and accept what we SEE!
PAGE FOURTEEN SPLASH: Some trippy stuff, as the Watchers mentally examine the 1602 universe.
Watcher #2: Very well then, Uatu. We SHALL look, since as Watchers we can do NO LESS…
Watcher #3: Hmm…I will admit, this universe is a STRANGE one…
Watcher #4: I find I must AGREE. It seems to have developed CAUSAL ATTRACTORS that are offering some unexpected RESISTANCE to my ANALYSES…and yet…
Watcher #5: …And yet, something about it FEELS…
Watcher #2: It feels RIGHT. The overlay is FAMILIAR, is it not, brothers?
Watcher #3: But then what of these DISSONANT ELEMENTS? How can THEY be explained? There has not been TIME enough for a COSMIC SPECIATION, surely…
Watcher #4: Unless Uatu is CORRECT, and it is our OWN universe that is diverging…
PAGE FIFTEEN: Two panels.
Panel 1: We’re back in the amphitheatre.
Watcher #2: …In which case this matter requires IMMEDIATE FURTHER INVESTIGATION. Uatu is quite right — we ignore this possibility at our PERIL.
Watcher #2: And since ONE Watcher is as MANY Watchers…
Panel 2: Uatu departs into space a la Milgrom’s Captain Marvel.
Watcher #2: (capt.) Uatu will return via TRANS-DIMENSIONAL DISLOCATION to Earth’s Moon THIS INSTANT, to learn if, for the first time in UNCOUNTED MILLENIA, the universe’s WATCHERS must agree to BREAK their most sacred VOW…
Capt.: END INTERLUDE
PAGE SIXTEEN: Six panels.
Panel 1: Xavier, climbing the mountain, comes up to a plateau where a house and garden is set. We can’t quite see it yet, but there is a broad patio there, with a couple of tables and chairs. Behind him is a magnificent view of mountains and a setting sun, round about late afternoon. He’s very high up.
Xavier: Something’s CHANGING, Scott. I can FEEL it.
Xavier: Everything here is so REAL…so faultlessly RENDERED. Even the AIR…
Cyclops: Is he NEARBY?
Panel 2: Xavier steps out onto the patio from the mountainside; he passes the empty tables and chairs, and we can see the chalet’s windows and the door leading inside. It all looks incredibly deserted. Maybe he reaches out to lightly touch a chair or table surface.
Xavier: No, he ISN’T. He’s back where I CAME FROM. Back at the BEGINNING.
Xavier: Back stuck under the MICROSCOPE…
Panel 3: Xavier drifts through the kitchen.
Cyclops: (capt.) WHAT?
Xavier: Everything’s so SOLID, here. Solid, and LONELY.
Xavier: I feel like a GHOST.
Panel 4: Xavier moves deeper into the house. Ahead of him there’s an open doorway leading into a small alpine meadow-like area, gently sloping upward to where the mountain rises abruptly again. It’s dark in the hallway he moves along, bright and sunny through the doorway. Eerie, and suggestive.
Cyclops: (capt.) This doesn’t sound GOOD…
Xavier: Robert’s a man of TWO-DIMENSIONAL SURFACES, Scott. Simple polarities, without fine detail. Light and dark PASSAGES, straightforward OPPOSITIONS…
Panel 5: Xavier emerges out the back door into the meadow, in the medium distance. There are wildflowers all around him, simple homely things like a wooden fence, maybe, or a wheelbarrow lying in the grass. Some scarlet runner beans, or something. Right up close to us we can see that there are steps cut into the side of the mountain, leading up.
Xavier: This place is so TEXTURED. Somebody has LIVED HERE.
Xavier: This would be like a PARADISE, to him…
Cyclops: (capt.) Are you saying…
Cyclops: (capt.) Are you saying there’s somebody else IN there, with him?
Panel 6: Xavier begins to climb the stone steps.
Xavier: I don’t KNOW.
Xavier: There SHOULDN’T be…
Xavier: …But perhaps if there WERE, that would EXPLAIN things a little better.
PAGE SEVENTEEN: Three panels, two up, one down.
Panel 1: Xavier proceeds up, around the curve of the mountain. Beautiful mountain vistas are at his shoulder.
Cyclops: What do you mean?
Xavier: The problem with Robert is that he’s all SYMPTOM and no CAUSE, Scott. He SELF-MEDICATES by looking into a MIRROR, for heaven’s sake. It’s all he ever DOES.
Panel 2: Xavier climbs.
Xavier: And meanwhile here I am, on the SACRED MOUNTAIN of the psyche — where the CLOUDS touch down, where the GODS can be PETITIONED, where the KNOWLEDGE OF SELF can be had. This is Robert’s true CENTRE…
Panel 3: Xavier comes up onto a flat, circular piece of ground, floored with flagstones. The Watchtower sits on top of it. In a moment, the Sentry’s computer Cloc will speak to him.
Xavier: …And yet it’s becoming quite plain to me that he NEVER COMES HERE.
Cyclops: (capt.) Well, if HE doesn’t, who DOES?
Xavier: That’s probably where it gets COMPLICATED.
Cloc: Professor Charles Xavier?
PAGE EIGHTEEN: Six panels, maybe a diptych-thing with #3 and #4.
Panel 1: Xavier enters the Watchtower.
Cloc: Please come IN. I ‘ve been HOPING you’d arrive.
Cloc: I’m VERY WORRIED about BOB.
Xavier: You’re Cloc, aren’t you? The Sentry’s SENTIENT COMPUTER?
Xavier: I have a HELPER like you MYSELF, Cloc. She MONITORS things for me…
Panel 2: Xavier continues inside. Everything’s golden, like the interior of a beehive.
Xavier: …Helps me KEEP TRACK of what I should be DOING.
Cloc: It’s an honour to CONTRIBUTE to HIS WORK.
Xavier: I’m sure he would say the SAME.
Xavier: I understand he’s sought PSYCHIATRIC help on occasion, too?
Panel 3: Xavier enters the heart of the hive. Cloc dangles from the ceiling like a fantastic chandelier.
Cloc: Yes, he HAS.
Xavier: Very WISE of him, I think. AMATEURS can only do SO MUCH.
Xavier: You know…I had ANOTHER helper once, too. Did you know that?
Cloc: Another ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, Professor?
Xavier: Yes…I treated her very BADLY, though.
Panel 4: Xavier looks up.
Xavier: DID you ever hear of that, by chance?
Cloc: No, I never DID.
Xavier: It shames me to ADMIT it…but I kept her in a CAGE. For YEARS and YEARS.
Xavier: YOU are not kept in a cage, are you, Cloc?
Panel 5: Xavier’s face as he draws closer to the chandelier. Maybe a little shadowy.
Cloc: What? Certainly NOT, Professor!
Xavier: Please FORGIVE me for mentioning it. It’s just that I see so much REPETITION in my life. Like a CAROUSEL — things turn and turn, but they never really CHANGE.
Panel 6: Xavier looking up at the chandelier.
Xavier: My WEAKNESS, I’m afraid. GUILT. It keeps coming BACK on me.
Xavier: You’re SURE you’re not…?
Xavier: You’re here of your own free…?
Xavier: Then…will you help me, so I can help YOU? Just SHOW me.
PAGE NINETEEN: Three panels, one big one up, two little ones down.
Panel 1: Xavier looking up at the chandelier, from the chandelier’s viewpoint. He is perhaps down and slightly to the right of centre, looking up at the mass of technology which, just slightly now, looks like an abstract metal sculpture of a cocoon, dangling above him. Just about human-sized.
Cloc: …SHOW you?
Xavier: Just for a MINUTE. I don’t ask for more than that. I don’t ask you to CHANGE. Just SHOW me. For just one HEARTBEAT.
Xavier: Just so I can be SURE. That’s all.
Cloc: …All right.
Cloc: But just for ONE SECOND.
Xavier: For TWO seconds.
Cloc: …All right. If it will HELP.
Xavier: It will.
Panel 2: Xavier’s face, eyes open, in a wash of golden light emanating from the cocoon.
Cloc: I was a little afraid that you would ask me to do this, actually.
Xavier: I know.
Panel 3: Xavier again, eyes shut this time against the faintest wash of rose light in the gold. Maybe he grimaces a little, as if in a bit of pain, like a twinge of sorts.
Cloc: But I was a little…I don’t know…
Cloc: …A little EXCITED, too.
Cloc: Or…I don’t know, does that make sense? Is that the word I want? EXCITED?
PAGE TWENTY: Two panels, horizontal, splitting the page.
Panel 1: Xavier is in the foreground, shielding his eyes against the blast of light coming out of the gradually-lowering “cocoon”, as it peels away to reveal an indistinct nude female figure with what might — might — be something like red flowing hair. We can’t see her face, only her outline: arms outstretched and feet together, in the classic Phoenix pose.
Cloc (only not really Cloc anymore): I can’t believe you feel that carousel thing TOO. I HATE that feeling.
Panel 2: Blacked-out panel, as by dark stormclouds, with only a muddy hint of red and gold in it.
PAGE TWENTY-ONE: Six panels, one big one up, three little ones in the middle, two slightly larger ones on the bottom. We are back in the Cerebra room, seeing Cyclops freak out as the machinery in the room overloads and shoots out all kinds of sparks and explosions. Professor X is trapped inside the machinery.
Panel 2: Cyclops starts zapping away mechanical connections and flailing cables with his optic beams.
Panel 3: Same.
Panel 4: Same.
Panel 5: Closer up on Cyke hauling at the Prof, whose head lolls on his shoulder, some foam coming out his clenched teeth.
Mysterious Intruder: (off-panel) Jeez, what a MESS. It so FIGURES that I get my first surprise EVER, and of course it’s gotta be UCKY.
Panel 6: Scott, still holding Xavier, turns his head over his shoulder in the middleground to face a pair of short shadowy legs (and a skirt) standing dramatically apart in the foreground. In my head he’s right of centre and the legs are to the left.
Cyclops: HOW DID YOU GET IN HERE??
Mysterious Intruder: Don’t freak OUT, Scott. After all, the only reason JAMIE didn’t TELL YOU about me is because he’s a JERK, and you already KNEW THAT, anyway…
Mysterious Intruder (only not really mysterious anymore): …So what’s the BIG DEAL?
Layla: Hi. Remember me?
Layla: I’m LAYLA MILLER.
Layla: I KNOW STUFF.
END. Thank you for coming. (Oh, here’s part two.)
But now I’ve got nothing else to say about it!
Very intriguing stuff.
I’d buy it and would eagerly anticipate the rest.
S-S-C, thanks…of course there’s a minor Doc problem with all this as well, which is that he “knows stuff” too, or he ought to. But of all the Marvel heroes, Doc’s probably been screwed with the most by the Sentry’s shenanigans, and Xavier has (oddly) been screwed with the least. In the mainstream Marvel titles, Doc really hasn’t been himself (as I understand him anyway) for a long time. Whereas Xavier’s been dead, depowered, etc. Out of the way.
Anyway, glad you liked it!
Of course my addition of the X-angle to all this is very recent, in fact just a couple days old. I’ve been noodling idly on and about the subject (well, is there any other way to noodle?) for a while, though. Because the Sentry is the most glaring example of WTF-ness in this new, crappy Marvel Universe, I’ve often thought that by pulling on him, you could pull on the whole subterranean tangle of Greater Wrongness, and get it out of there. Civil War, the Illuminati, Marvel Zombies, everything. This was actually a post I tried to write quite a little while ago, a lot like the “Trouble In The Henhouse” post I just did, that attempted to dispassionately spell out just what had to be wrong, and why, in Marvel cosmology.
But, talk about frustrating! Because the Marvel Universe is a LOT more screwed up than the DC Universe, now. There are all kinds of things in it that just don’t make any sense at all, that have a bit of surface meaning that makes it look like they can be grabbed onto, but which prove on closer examination to be nothing more than anchors for nonsense. And…tempest in a teapot? Yes, sure, but you try writing something fanciful about the MU’s cosmo-logic, in these dumbass days! It goes quite beyond “wow, they screwed up Starhawk” — it’s just a big old MESS. It’s like someone took one piece each from a thousand different jigsaw puzzles, and put ’em all in the same big box. And then put a picture on the box of the crazy-ass image you’d get once you assembled it all…
But then they forgot to re-cut the pieces so they would all fit to make that stupid picture!
Grant Morrison, where are you?!
To take off at something of an angle, the new nature of the MU reminds me a little of the “new” nature of French politics under Louis — by aggressively eroding the traditional political role of the aristocracy, he gradually drew all the power to the centre, where he was, linking all authority of every kind through his own person. Like a spiderweb that first had forty percent of its silk in the middle, and then ninety, and then a hundred…well, that made for bad storytelling too! “L’etat, c’est moi.” He might as well have said: “apres moi, le deluge.”
(Boy, I so wanted to make fake warning labels for packs of cigarettes that said stuff like that on them, a few years ago…)
Anyway, the problem with pulling up old stumps in this new MU is that you can’t pull one up without pulling all of them up, and for that you need a plenty big tractor. I became quite irritated with trying to describe some of the essential faultlines in current Marvel in essay form — I thought it’d be as easy as pointing out that any post-Crisis Barry Allen could of necessity never be the real Barry, but only a lesser, rebooted Barry — a copy of Barry — but it was considerably tougher than that. As an intellectual exercise it became a constant, nagging annoyance. Finally I broke down, bashed out about ten thousand words on the matter’s general stupidity, then realized “oh my God, I’m only a third of the way through, this is RIDICULOUS, this is an outline the size of a Stephen King novel that I’m writing here, maybe I should just go watch some TV or something.” Not that I’m saying there isn’t a way for all the stumps to come up: there is. But Lord, how labour-intensive it would all be! It would be like writing the show bible for “Lost”.
So I left it. Some time later I made a much smaller copy of it for a lark, and then deleted the big old MESS of the one-third explication because, well…I just couldn’t have it around anymore, if you see what I mean. It was just too evil. It was colonizing too much of my head-space. Better, I thought, just to say “you madmen…you blew it up…” and leave it at that.
But then a couple of days ago, for no good reason, I had this “No Exit” idea. Which really isn’t the resurrection of all that stuff I wrote, but takes a somewhat different approach to its central issue. A better approach? Well, a shorter one, anyway…it just kind of occurred to me that you could write an actual comics story that pulled on one of these roots, and that in that format it might actually be fun to see how deep the dumb went. Plus, I like the X-Men. And they’re still located well outside the court of the Sun King, out in the sticks somewhere; unlike even Dr. Strange (!), they still retain a little bit of their traditional independence.
But does it work? More importantly: is this stuff really still colonizing my head-space? Jeez, I thought I’d comprehensively depowered it some time ago, and now I find it’s actually still been screwing with me the whole time, only behind the scenes…
I guess it was hearing about that World War Hulk climax, that set me off again. For Christ’s sake, who IS the Sentry, anyway?
Who, damn it.
We really know absolutely nothing about him. If he were just pfft! gone one day, who would miss him? I guess part of me wants to pretend he’ll just fade right out one of these days, and I’ll never have to think of how much I hate that character ever again, because he’s useless anyway, and infuriating, and oh why am I even talking about him at all? When I’m sure there’s something more productive I could be doing, like watching TV.
Anyway this was pretty much my mind-set the other day, when I thoughtlessly yanked this post. But I’m glad I put it back, now. Good call, chastisers of the “Why?” post! Which for some reason is still drawing hits like you wouldn’t believe…it appears there’s a great hunger for answers to the question “Why?” out there in blogland…
So to reiterate:
Matthew: Whoops, sorry!
I’ll try to be more deliberate in future…
No one’s ever listened to my advice before, much less taken it to heart. I’m not sure how to handle this. Excuse me, must sit down for a moment…
Now then. A scriptwriting term of art I like a lot is “hanging a lantern on it” — which means to take some story element that’s improbable or unlikely or otherwise hard to swallow and, if there’s no way to remove it and still tell your story, have a character call attention to the improbability and respond to it accordingly. It’s kind of cheap when you’re doing it to a story entirely your own creation (aking the lazy way out instead of, you know, fixing the problem) but it comes up a lot in comics writing when dealing with the perceived shortcomings of a previous writer. Avengers Forever was essentially a long exercise in lantern hanging. (“Wait, you said all that and didn’t realize it made no sense at all?” “Um…it’s a thing I do, okay?”) Busiek treated it as a sport, a game, to find the art in doing it cleverly. I get a similar feeling from a line like this:
“The problem with Robert is that he’s all SYMPTOM and no CAUSE, Scott. He SELF-MEDICATES by looking into a MIRROR, for heaven’s sake. It’s all he ever DOES.”
Right there you’ve solved the problem of a badly written character by having one of the most observant and perceptive characters finally notice it, but in a way that’s consistent and doesn’t violate the fourth wall or wink at the reader. More than that, the line is a vivid description, it’s moderately elegant (after all, what is a Mary Sue but another word for mirror?), it describes the character accurately while also describing a real-life personality type we’ve probably all known…and, by golly, it does all this in a single word balloon.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t like to see so much time and creative energy expended on trying to salvage the Sentry…but on the evidence so far, if anyone could do it, you can. I’m eager to see where you’ll go with this.
And apologies for the delay. I mean: thanks! And: what delicious flattery! Human beings are like Star Trek “energy” aliens too, you see…we subsist on flattery, we’re flattery-vampires…
But, ah heh, I kind of hadn’t actually planned on doing any more of this… (ducks) Because I really only put the words “Part One” in there because it’s obviously just the opening chapter of a story…um…
Well, I guess I’ll have to think about this. The Mirror And The Lamp and Blue Shadows were kind of fun, but then again I like the Inhumans. And I like the X-Men too, don’t get me wrong, but the figure emerging from the cocoon in the Watchtower is, you know, not Jean…
I mean, rehabilitating The Sentry is one thing. After all, he was never really “habilitated” in the first place. He may be on the cover of JUST ABOUT EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN BOOK MARVEL’S PUT OUT FOR THE LAST TWO FLIPPIN’ YEARS, but it’s patently obvious that no one really cares about him even so, so who would care if I did rehabilitate him? For my own little fannish purposes. Layla Miller, on the other hand, has pretty clearly become one of Peter David’s pet characters, and to do any more with her really would be fan-fic.
Although on the other other hand, rehabilitating 1602 (i.e. just acknowledging the preexisting habilitation that was designed into it) is just another case of something no one cares about, that I think is really cool…and of course anyone may use The Watcher, I think that’s written down somewhere as a rule…
But on the other other other hand, rehabilitating The Girl In The Cloc (oh dear God, it’s a title!)…well that would be…
Well, it would be…
It would be totally impossible.
Okay, fine. One more. But after that I’m making a weird MEME! And you all have to play.
I’ll give you some time to think about it.
By the way, back on the old thread Matthew asked, so I’ll tell: I chose “Zeta” as a class for mutants because when I was young I always couldn’t figure out why “omega” was “z” and “zeta” was, I don’t know, “g” or something…
And it so happened I needed something apocalyptic-sounding as a mutant class for this story.
Boy, I was sure RAB was gonna like that part best…although I’m sure as hell not complaining…
Anyway if you look up “Greek letters” online, you get this bogus Morrisonesque Greek “Oracle”, wherein the letter “Zeta” stands for “Storm”.
And me, I’m an old fortune-telling charlatan from way back, y’know…
In my plan, Layla Miller is the only example of an Upsilon-class mutant in the whole world, Upsilon in that oracular nonsense meaning “crossing”.
In that scheme, by the way, “Omega” means “difficult”. Which I, for X-Men purposes, choose to interpret as something like “climbing”.
And Cyclops and Xavier are two cool, cool characters. But this script isn’t first-timer frinedly at all, isw it? In fact it’s a little bit Brad Meltzer, I think.
Oh well…set a Brad Meltzer to catch a Brad Meltzer, I always say…!
I intuitively knew what you were doing with zeta/z/omega when I first saw it.
Where exactly did you find those oracular meanings, anyway? I spent a couple of minutes looking for them and didn’t find anything interesting.
(I presume the Sentry has something to do with storms, and that’s why it’s appropriate. Yes?)
I always thought ‘omicron’ was apocalyptic-sounding, regardless of its place in the alphabet. ‘Omega’ = difficult… I’m trying to come up with something interesting to say about the Omega Men, Darkseid’s Omega Beams, Omega Flight, or Brainiac 5’s creation ‘Omega’. But nothing.
Widget might be another upsilon-character, but I guess he isn’t a mutant, is he?
What are the implications of whatever ‘alpha’ means for Alpha Flight? Or, more importantly for the Marvel universe, what does ‘gamma’ correspond to?
The problem with the Sentry is he’s a story, not a character. In the original miniseries (which I quite enjoyed), he was a missing piece in the Marvel Universe that was never actually missing. He was The Living Retcon, except the stuff his appearance retconned never actually happened. He was a walking What If? in the 616 universe. Bendis & Co. don’t seem to get that, so now we have this story that already ended but the storyteller keeps droning on without a clear idea of what to say.
Anyway, I liked the story, and would love to read more.
Omega for ascent, even…?
Google, Matthew! But I don’t know what I put in there. “Greek letter meanings”, maybe? I was actually looking to see if upsilon had a common math/physics use, and got these lot-casting-type lists. But then I saw Zeta = Storm, and it all came clear. Because Marvel has these “reality-distorting” characters they use from time to time, you see, and then I saw Zeta, and thought, hey…
Because when Morrison was writing X-Men, he added the detail that Xavier had some sort of a classification system for (I think just telepathic) mutants, with Omega obviously being tops, the ultimate. But what’re these reality-distorters, then? This isn’t expressly given as the Sentry’s power, of course (because nothing is: we don’t know what his powers are. Well, okay, we know he’s “one hundred thousand times more powerful than Captain America”, but that’s about it. No, I’m not joking, why do you ask?), but considering nothing about anything that goes on anywhere near the Sentry makes any sense at all — like no sense — I figured why not just say he’s one of these reality-distorters? And then I guess that makes him a mutant, but at some point he’s got to get some kind of origin a person could believe, doesn’t he? If only just enough of one to get him to do something…
Mike’s quite right about the Sentry’s problem (thanks for the kind words, Mike!), his one-and-only story’s already been told, and now there’s nothing left to say. Mind you, it could have been done, but for some reason that’s utterly beyond my understanding Bendis and the gang just shut the door on every single way it might have been made to work. I mean he could’ve been made an anti-Mary Sue, wandering around falsely remembering friendships that never existed with all the MU’s big wheels: “remember when we stopped Galactus?” “Uh, buddy…you weren’t there. I just met you yesterday.” “Oh…right.” But they didn’t do that. They had the real-life writer of the original series make an appearance in New Avengers saying “uh…I made you up, what are you doing here?” but then inexplicably they insisted that he didn’t make him up…
I mean they even pulled the old “it was all a lie, you’re really a crazy man living in an institution”…
And then they revealed that no, that was the lie…you know, as you do…
So everything that happened to him was a lie, but then the lie was a lie too…you follow me? So then I bet you’re wondering, what was the real truth, in the end?
Hey, good question!
You see, they just refuse to collapse the thing into anything like a manageable form. Apparently they like keeping it up in the air.
So that’s how come I picked “Storm”. Also whenever Bob Reynolds’ nemesis the Void shows up (don’t ask), there’s always a big storm. It’s symbolism, or something. Anyway…
Yeah, “omicron” has a great threatening ring to it, doesn’t it? And yet it’s “H” or something. No, the Greek-letter thing doesn’t come up elsewhere, only in X-Men, and in my formulation here, only in this story. Alpha Flight is “alpha” because they’re the number-one team, Omega Flight is conventially “omega” (end-point) because they’re trying to kill off Alpha. Gamma is…
Well, we’ve discussed this before, haven’t we? Gamma is magic, in the Marvel Universe. Of course in the real world, gamma rays are just any kind of light that’s higher-frequency than X-rays. Kind of a lot of room to move in that definition, then!
Pingback: 24/2/2012 Superhero of the Day: the Sentry « Matthew Elmslie·
Pingback: The Sentry: The Girl In The Clock « A Trout In The Milk·