Review by Peter Duncan
The most exciting thing about the 2000AD fan community, is the vast range of creative activities and publications that come from within it.
There are fan films and Podcasts, while fanzines like Zarjaz and my own Sector 13 magazine sit beside other creations with a 2000AD inspiration like David Broughton’s wonderful Shaman Kane title (Issue Four out now) and the two, newspaper style parody strips that have started to appear on Facebook and beyond every week.
Now the creators of one of those strips,“The Whole Twoth”, Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle, have published the first issue of their own magazine.
Sentinel is a throwback, taking its inspiration, and its dimensions, from Starblazer, the science fiction companion to Commando, that ran for 281 issues from April 1979 to January 1991.
A digest-sized attempt to recapture the unique feel of the DC Thomson title, at 64 pages, with one or two panels per page, it’s a different form of storytelling from what we’ve seen from Alan and Ed in their Sector 13 and Zarjaz appearances. Simpler, more direct, there is not the room, or indeed the time in short strips for an artist to play with page layouts or create artistic masterpieces. Here, storytelling is the most important factor. Yet with the extra pages there is the flexibility to tell a much longer tale than this writer, artist team have attempted before.
The plot of “Special Delivery” is slight. It’s an interstellar crime caper with twists and turns that are, perhaps, predictable and familiar with characters who are not ‘overdeveloped’ by the writer. But that’s not the point. The plot, the locations, the characters, they are all there to act as a canvas on which Alan does what Alan does best, gags!
For Sentinel is funny. From the very beginning the tone is set. Opening in “Spence’s Bar” in Sector 13, we find a dubious establishment occupied by aliens of various species and morphologies. Our hero, Doyle, establishes himself as a cheeky-chappie of dubious morality and poor judgement. Just the sort of person to take all the risks for more well-off and sensible criminals. And from there Alan simply goes for it.
The plot moves quickly, breaking the speed of coherence fairly early on, but as I read, I found I didn’t care. Alan delivers the laughs and if some of the gags are ones that make you groan; they still keep you turning page after page.
Art is provided by Ed Doyle, a native of Enniscorthy in Ireland. He’s previously been published in Sector 13 and Zarjaz, but here the time pressure and immediacy that came from having to draw 64 pages in a very short time, has given his art an energetic and loose style that perfectly fits the material. And, as I’ve discussed with him on a number of occasions, his work does look better in black and white.
This isn’t Watchmen, it isn’t even Shazam! What it is, is a totally enjoyable romp for science fiction fans, produced by two creators who are having a great time working together.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sentinel Issue One. There really is nothing like it in the small press field and I’m looking forward to the ambitious plans Alan has for the title.
Issue Two is already in progress, with art by Ian Beadle, who provides one of a pair of covers for this issue. Alan is trying something different next time and it will be interesting to see
One thing to note: credits for the script read Alan Holloway and Melanie Bagnall. I’m told by Alan that while he did the bulk of the writing, Melanie added all the clever stuff. He especially wanted us to mention that… a few brownie points needed sir?
• Sentinel Issue One is available for order now. £6 Inc. UK Postage. Full details of payment options and international prices can be obtained from the Sentinel Facebook Page here
Peter Duncan is editor of Sector 13, a 2000AD fanzine based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and writer of Cthulhu Kids. He has also published one issue of his own throwback humour comic, Splank! Full details of all titles Peter is involved with can be found at www.boxofrainmag.co.uk