With dozens of super-powered criminals suddenly free and on the run, the reformed AVENGERS are stretched to their limit. Even the most powerful collection of heroes in the world may not be enough to recapture so many dangerous individuals. So now the AVENGERS seek out the most powerful being on the planet - the SENTRY. SPIDER-MAN and the other AVENGERS must help him rebuild his shattered psyche before the villains overwhelm them.
Today I'm taking a look at the latest Marvel's Greatest Battles Comic Pack - Spider-Man and Sentry.
The former is - I'm sure - familiar to even non-Marvel readers, but who is Sentry and why is he the ''most powerful being on the planet?'' As Stan Lee would say, ''Read on and find out, true believer!''
Sentry is Robert Reynolds, an over-the-hill metahuman who - along with the rest of the Marvel Universe- has forgotten he was once one of Earth's mightiest heroes. What makes the character interesting is that a (fictional) real-world publication history was also drawn-up for Sentry, complete with Stan Lee going on record as his creator in the Silver Age and Wizard providing ''newly rediscovered'' sketches from the era. Of course, it was a metahoax intended to play along with the storyline in the comics, where Sentry's associations with the Marvel Universe's big-hitters had been erased from their memories. The unfolding Sentry storyline culiminattes with the eventual explanation for his erasure from history and his subsequent return.
Anyway, that's the history lesson over with. Let's get onto the toys!
I'll start with the bad: the pack contains Spider-Man. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Spider-Man mark and it's clear that Hasbro have included him to make the pack more attractive to non-collectors, casual fans and kids. I understand that his presence in the pack is a big draw and will help shift units. especially given Sentry's relative obscurity. However, as a collector it's annoying that there's yet another Spider-Man figure bouncing around in the Marvel Universe (by my quick tally that makes TEN Spider-Mans... Men...) and the only way to get the Sentry toy is to - again - buy a Spider-Man figure.
Worst of all, though, it's not even a very good one.
Whilst the paint-work on the whole is good (although the Spider-logo on his back looks like it was painted by a fat-fingered, myopic sloth), the figure itself is - frankly - horrible. Lumbered with a torso that's about 50% longer than it needs to be and a head cast with massive, doe-eyes, the Spider-Man here is a gawky, gangly-looking thing that's difficult to pose in a crouching Spidey-style and that just looks wrong. The picture says it all. To the front is the ''standard'' Spider-Man with this pack's counterpart behind him. Look how badly-proportioned it is. It's almost like this is some Mangaverse or Spidey Jr's Super Saturday Power Hour figure rather than a toy from the 'realistic' Marvel Universe.
No sir, I don't like it.
Yet again, Hasbro's schitzophrenic nature manifests itself: where Spider-Man is awful, Sentry is awesome.
Okay, so the paint-work isn't the best: he looks to be wearing lipstick and his body has some odd paint splodges that are supposed to be... well, I'm not sure. A dark wash? Shadow? I'm not sure. But it's pretty uneven and seems out of place.
However, get past that and you'll see what a great piece of plastic Sentry is. He's just so dynamic. Whereas previous caped-figures have had a simple rectangle of rubbery plastic hung off their backs, Sentry's cape flows. It's caught mid-movement, swishing around him and looks great when he's posed to accentuate it.
Initially, when I first looked at Sentry on the card I was concerned, as his paint-job is so blotchy and - on my figure - his left elbow joint appeared to have popped open, but once I got the figure out and started posing him, I soon realised what a good job they'd done with him. Yes, he still has the old-style peg-jointed hips and may look like a flying tranny with his flowing locks and pink lips, but there's something very cool about the plastic dynamism of Sentry that hasn't been seen before in the Marvel toys.
More of this, please.
This release uses the plastic vac-molded blister pack introduced in the Secret Wars run and used on all other Marvel Universe's Greatest Battles Comic Packs. They really need to shorten that name.
The packaging is functional and allows a good view of the toys within, with the included comicbook (see below) offering a nice backdrop.
Something I don't like is the way the figures hands are pushed through the retaining plastic. And in this case, Sentry's cape also requires a combination of fine dexterity and brute force to pop free. Not good.
One minor point: Sentry's costume is different on the cover art when compared to the figure. I'm not expert enough on the character to say if this is a mistake or whether his costume changed but it is worthy of note.
The pack comes with New Avengers Issue 8. One superb point about this comic is the way that Sentry's period adventures are rendered in a Silver Age style, complete with bullpen nicknames for the creators and a Thor that wouldn't look out of place selling you Twinkies. As a big Silver Age fan, I got a kick out of that!
Of the three most recent Greatest Battle Pack releases, only this one features a new character (Sentry) and a new figure cast (the horrible Spider-Man seen here.) The Thor/Iron Man team-up sees a recycle of two single-card figures and the Captain America/Wolverine pack repeats this process, but makes it all shiny and good by including a new accessory (a battle-scar shield.) Yes, I can understand that for kids or non-collectors it's a pretty good deal and I understand Hasbro wants to get the most mileage it can from its releases but the collector in me doesn't like it.
As for the Spider-Man and Sentry pack, it's a tough one to call. There's definitely a sense of Yin-Yang balance going on here: the figure of Marvel's biggest hitter - Spider-Man - is terrible but then the figure of an obscure character - Sentry - is excellent. That makes it incredibly difficult to recommend buying but at the same time, it does an injustice to the Sentry figure, which is a superb piece of work.
It's his presence that will be the deciding factor for most potential buyers, given that the majority of collectors will already own a Spider-Man figure of some sort. And even if you don't, there are better Spider-Man toys out there: he's already available in two Secret Wars double-packs and countless single-figure variant packs.
At the end of the day, this pack is really about Sentry. If you're not a fan of him or you're only a casual buyer, you're not missing out on anything by passing on this one. But if you can live with paying the asking price for Sentry alone, then it won't be a decision you'll regret.