Sunday, 17 October 2010

Sentinels (vol. 3): Apocalypse Rising

The third in the opening Sentinel's trilogy (the Grand Design), Apocalypse Rising by Van Allen Plexico draws many of the extant story threads to a conclusion, while finally bringing the Sentinels team back together after they became separated in the pages of A Distant Star (link to my mini review here).

I like this series. Despite the lulls I felt were inherent in A Distant Star, Apocalypse Rising marks a return to form and promise shown within the pages of When Strikes the Warlord (volume 1; link here). The series is unabashed super heroic adventure fiction, and I find is on steadiest ground when tackling the the more familiar tropes of superhero comics. The shadow of the 1970's and 1980's Avengers looms ever-present in terms of tone and feel. When Plexico divides his heroes for too prolonged a time the stories have been weakened, so it was pleasing to see the team reunite.

We see are main heroes from volume 1 - Ultraa, Pulsar, Vanadium and Esro Brachis - joined by some new heroes, most of whom debuted in the first two volumes. The new Sentinels include Fury, Heavyweight, Mondrian (the alien Kur Bai star ship officer from volume 2) and Wendy, Pulsar's sister. However all of these newer heroes have divided loyalties, each for their own reasons.

A trio of primary threats that have been present through the earlier volume are faced in the pages of Apocalypse Rising: the sundered Warlord, split into diametrically opposed beings and personas; Randall Nation, manipulative and mysterious puppeteer; and the Xorex - advanced agents of the feared Worldmind. Of course other sub-plots abound - Jameson the government liaison trying to hang onto power (shades of Peter Henry Gyrich from Marvel Comics); the villains on the loose who were previously snatched from an alternate reality; the impending threat of the Kur Bai, and interstellar race first seen in the previous volume, who are determined to banish the threat of Xorex, even if it means destroying the Earth. In all the stakes are high.

I liked this book as much as the first, which was to say more than the second. I felt Plexico neatly drew many exiting threads to a satisfactory conclusion, with resorting to obvious deus ex machina - the groundwork had been laid for some of his set-pieces since volume 1. All the while the author has left himself plenty of strands for future stories, without leaving too much 'dangling' as it were.

As I suggested earlier, I don't classify the Sentinels series as high literary art; it doesn't seek to deconstruct or subvert superheroes, or seek some essential truths. Rather, for me it is effective and more importantly enjoyable genre fiction, so something I would gladly recommend on that basis. And in that vein I found Apocalypse Rising to be a fitting end to the first trilogy.

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