Monday, June 11, 2007

INDY SPOTLIGHT: Sentinels Vol 1 and 2

This week I'm going to try and talk about a different cool book each day, the majority of them independently published, and a couple of them manga, but I'm going to start today with a book I'd waited a long time to get my hands on, Sentinels by Rich Bernatovech and Luciano Vecchio.

Sentinels is created and written and published by Rich Bernatovech (via Drumfish Productions), and he collaborates with Argentine artist Lucian Vecchio. At the recent Pittsburgh Comic-con I had the chance to meet and speak with both creators, and after years of hearing and seeing great things, pick up a complete set of all four original graphic novels. The books retail for $14.95 each, are full trim size, contain black and white grayscale artwork, and are quite lengthy, containing around 8 chapters each (about the equivalent of 8 comic book issues). The book itself is Rich's super powered team creation, inspired most prominently by a childhood love of the George Perez era Teen Titans, he was/is also an actor though, so his love of drama shines through as well.

Sentinels is an epic four volume saga, where each book stands alone as a complete tale, but together they tell one large overarching story. The Sentinels themselves are a second generation super team, led by Templar, an energy blade wielding descendant of the Knights Templar, who at the start of this volume, operates on his own via the Sentinels former compound with the help of computer entity Cyprus. Through a series of events the former teammates collide and work together again to fend off escalating threats to the team, from Hell, the government, and even outer space.

The sprawling cast of 10 young powered characters, are familiar, yet unique. Where Sentinels volume 1 really shines, is it's incredible plotting. Characters are introduced and quickly put to the test in imaginative ways that take the reader on a sci-fi/fantasy super powered adventure. Volume 1 is only a little weak in scripting, some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, and some of the characters perhaps a bit too familiar. However, Bernatovech keeps you completely enthralled with the simple concept executed well via the sheer volume of fun pacing.

Where Sentinels also shines, is in the artwork that Vecchio provides. He brings a unique style somewhere between classic John Byrne or 80's independent, and more contemporary manga/cartoony, all styles of which I'm a major fan, but I am painfully aware they have their detractors. I really feel that Vecchio's style is straightforward enough though, to play to any crowd, which is a big plus.

Volume 2 picks up where the first left off, and moves plot points forward, further develops characters (especially the books expansive supporting cast). In addition to the approximately dozen or so Sentinels, there's a new opposing government sponsored team, Squadron 7, and a handful of other players and villains that come and go. That's the nice thing about having the series in the longer form installments, there's always enough room for everything and everyone introduced, and you never feel like too much is offered or lost. Bernatovech really captures the episodic, side-plot driven balancing act that was 80's teen superteam comic book fiction, where there's always a new cool character to shine the spotlight on and learn more about.

Where the first volume had some of the best independent superhero plotting to be found, but was a bit lacking in scripting/dialogue, volume 2 improves in that area, but isn't as ambitious in plot. That's not to say there isn't a ton that happens, or a lot to enjoy. Quite the contrary. Also, Vecchio's art in the second volume shows growth and improvement. Sentinels is a book that has plenty to offer, all around, and I'm really happy to have taken the plunge and begun to immerse myself in it's world.

I'm looking forward to reading volumes 3 and 4 over the summer, and HIGHLY RECOMMEND Sentinels to any fan of super powered team action, and especially fans of independent characters and comics. Bernatovech and Vecchio have taken much time and effort to craft a solid graphic epic worthy of much larger attention than what it's received to date. Please do yourself a favor and pick up the first volume, I'm sure you'll be hooked from there!

You can check out the book more at it's website HERE

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