Last month I wrote an article for WWAC about indie creators who are trying to revive the format of classic British comics. One title I mentioned was Sentinel, although for reasons of time and space I wasn’t able to go into much detail.
Since then, the people behind Sentinel have got in touch and provided me with PDF copies of the series. So far I’ve read the first two issues, both of which are scripted by Alan Holloway and drawn by Ed Doyle (although the first also has a co-plotter in Melanie Bagnall). Sentinel has sixty-odd pages per issue, with an average of two panels a page; this format might be a little strange to modern readers, but it was once very common in the UK (and, indeed, still survives in the venerable old war comic Commando).
The story in Sentinel’s first issue is an offbeat space opera romp starring a Han Solo-like character who finds an unlikely Chewbacca: a small (but hard-as-nails) round furry creature with detachable gonads – which, as fortune has it, are just the right size to fit the roguish hero’s slingshot. The two get into various scrapes in the bars and prison cells of alien worlds, evolving from enemies to friends along the way. The story has a charming straightforwardness to it, like a parody comic drawn by a group of giggling schoolchildren.
The second issue moves from comedy sci-fi to straight-faced fantasy. The story takes place an alternate version of ancient Rome where humans have enslaved dragons and forced them to compete in gladiatorial combat; the hero is a sort of dragon Spartacus who leads a rebellion. Here, the creators of Sentinel show that they can tell a good tale even without the broad humour seen in the first issue.
Each issue runs along at a rattling pace, and it’s easy to ignore if the execution’s a little rough in places. Best of all, the two issues really do capture the spirit of the vintage British comics that inspired them: they’re not interested in telling vast, sprawling epics; they just want to give the reader sixty pages’ worth of solid, unadorned entertainment. Sentinel is definitely worth read from anyone who harbours a fondness for the UK’s comic heritage, and readers unfamiliar with the format might well find something to enjoy, as well.