The Sentinels

  • The Sentinels – Misty: #01 (04 February 1978) – #12 (22 April 1978)
  • Writer: Malcolm Shaw
  • Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

In an area called Birdwood there stands two large blocks of flats, which people have nicknamed the Sentinels. While families happily live in one of the buildings, the other is left abandoned due to strange things happening like people disappearing or seeing ghosts.  Jan Richards’ family are about to become homeless and her father sees their only option to stay together is to move into the abandoned block. On there first night there while looking for her dog, Jan runs into a double of her father, she is naturally confused.  Later she once more goes to look for Tiger, She sees out the window the school on fire and she runs into Tiger, but he seems to be scared of her and bites her when she approaches him.

   

The next day Jan finds the school hasn’t burnt down and Jan’s mother has an encounter of her own. Her parents are angry thinking Jan is trying to scare them to move out. Jan later goes looking for her younger siblings and notices one of the flats has 2 doors. She goes through and sees the school burnt down and decides to take a closer look. She runs into Tiger who is being all friendly again. She also meets her friend, Sally, who tells her she shouldn’t be out in the open. They get chased by helicopters and escape into the sewers. They are attacked by rats but Tiger defends them, he gets left behind to be eaten by rats while the girls escape. At Sally’s house, Jan learns all about the Nazis winning the war and Britain being a colony of Germany now. Sally’s parents give up Jan, but the girls escape back to Jan’s world. She is upset to learn her father disappeared when he went looking for her and she realises that he was captured in the Alt-World.

While Jan’s family move into council B&B temporarily, Sally learns that the council are planning to demolish the troublesome Sentinel and she will be trapped in this world. Jan thinks they should tell someone, but Sally thinks its too risky. Sally runs into her brother Terry of this world, this is upsetting for her as on her world, Terry was killed in her world.

They sneak back into the Sentinel only to be captured by the Partisons  (rebellions) of the Alt-World. These Partisons include Jan’s Alt-father. It seems they have a plan to escape the Nazis by replacing people from Jan’s world with their own. Fergus the leader of this idea soon backs down as he knows it makes him no better than who they are fighting against. They devise a plan to help Jan’s father. Richards only solution is to exchange himself with Jan’s father. Alt-Jan is quite upset at this.

The plan works and there are some tearful goodbyes, Alt-Jan gives Jan her dog. The rebels blow up the Sentinel on their side, to stop anyone using the gateway. Jan’s father recovers in hospital, he says there will be no problem with the Sentinel and he volunteers to move into Sentinel, to prove his point. While things may work out for Jan’s family, she only hopes that things will also be okay for her alternate family and friends.

Thoughts

Misty wasn’t a comic I grew up, but I can see why it is given so much praise. Even reading it now, I found myself really caught up by the stories. This is my favourite story, I’ve read from Misty. I do like stories that explore parallel worlds, but beyond that, this story also has well developed characters, tension, drama and action. I found myself really invested in the characters and the outcome.

This is only 12 issues long and the pacing is well delivered. The build up is good, the premise is creepy even before we get to the parallel world, the towers are depicted as something unsettling and ominous  When we get to the parallel world, it does portray a nightmare possibility, even when the Sally and Jan are back in Jan’s world, this contrast is still evident. Sally gets upset at meeting her brother who died as part of the rebellion in her world and also notes supermarkets filled with goods and people’s freedom to buy things without having to use coupons and being heavily restricted. With the threat of the Sentinel being pulled down, time is also of the essence for Jan to get her father back. Even when they get back to Alt-world, the tension is still built up that they may be too late to save Jan’s father. It is a thrilling and exciting read.

The art wonderfully depicts both worlds, and doesn’t shy away from showing some dark stuff, such as the severely beaten Mr. Richards.  It is great throughout the story, though I particularly like how some of the opening pages are done. Often the first page has a recap,and Capaldi uses this opportunity to be a bit more artistic with the framing and using the majority of the page to pull in the reader.

    

While clearly the Nazi world is a nightmarish world, Britain is not shown as some lucky paradise either. There is a depiction of the hard social times Britain was going through, reflected in this story. The Richards find them in the Sentinel, due to lack of housing, there is clear hardships and money struggles. It is a tone I’ve found reflected in other stories, from Misty even if it wasn’t the main focus. It is a clear product of it’s time and is interesting to see.

There are some serious dark moments, for a comic aimed at young girls. This is probably one of the reasons the book was praised so much, it wasn’t afraid to be dark and scary and didn’t try to talk down to the audience. There was a definite sense that there may not be a happy ending.  The dog getting eaten by rats, the father getting beat up, close to death by Nazis, are quite horrifying. While Jan’s family may have some future, the alternate world ends up on quite a grim note. While there are rebels still fighting and the they hope to rescue Mr. Richards, it is also pointed out that Mr. Richards will likely be killed and the family have to go on the run.

All of the characters are well developed, and although Jan is the main character, I felt myself most invested in Sally. She risks her life to help Jan, she is practical about keeping the gateway secret and when she breaks down after meeting her brother and seeing how Jan’s world is, she comes off as very sympathetic. Her goodbye to Jan, is sad, when she says she would have liked to have stayed in Jan’s world if it was possible.  So Sally is my favourite character but like I say all the characters are well portrayed, even smaller characters like Fergus, Jan’s family and the other Sally all get their moments.

This is a story I’d love to see this reprinted and re-released, there are so many other good stories as well, that I think could still be appreciated today.

13 thoughts on “The Sentinels

  1. Did you also notice the hint about the Holocaust in episode 12, page 2, panel 7? As Jan and her father leave Gestapo Headquarters they note a bunch of prisoners, one of whom is a child, being led away by the Nazis. “Look at all those poor people,” thinks Jan. Poor people is right – it ominously looks like those people are on their way to a prison camp – or maybe even to….

    Very brave of Misty to sneak that in when most girls’ comics delicately avoided the subject of the Holocaust in their WW2 stories. Later Misty went a step further and actually produced a Holocaust story, “Mr Walenski’s Secret”. Mr Walenski is a Holocaust survivor in search of his lost daughter – who bears a striking resemblance to Anne Frank, and it didn’t go unnoticed by readers either. John Armstrong, who drew the story, admitted in an interview with Misty Halloween Special 2 that he couldn’t resist the Anne Frank reference.

  2. “It’s just superstitious nonsense, all that talk about the Sentinels…there must be a logical explanation [for the disappearances],” says Mr Richards in episode 1.

    So straight off we get the feeling that he will be the one to suffer the most out of the Sentinel. And, sure enough….

    I hope his double did escape from Gestapo Headquarters, just as he did. If it had been me I would have sneaked in a gun or something for a fighting chance.

    1. Yes there was lots of great details in this story, I also liked that Sally tried to pay a cab driver with coins that had Hitler on them! Definitely sympathised with Alt-Richards, with his fate being left up in the air! Really seemed that the rebels were getting to a desperate point and had no good options left.

  3. Maybe someone will do a fanfic to address the fate of alt-Richards.

    By the way, did you notice that the Gestapo interrogator said something about “accursed flu” that was keeping all the army doctors busy? I presume he meant a flu strain on a par with the 1918 epidemic. If so, maybe it is the key to liberating alt-Britain from the Nazis.

    1. That’s a good catch, I thought it was quite convenient to have all the other doctors busy, but yes it could be the opportunity the rebels were waiting for.

  4. One of the reasons for the housing shortages in Birdwood, long waiting lists for council flats and the Richardses being homeless has to be nobody daring to live in the troublesome Sentinel. If it was not troublesome it would be meeting those shortages, as it should be doing. Which gives you a hint as to where things will go with the Sentinel in the end.

  5. We shall see if “Return of the Sentinels” in the upcoming November special will answer the question of what happened to alt-Richards at Gestapo HQ (did he get rescued or did he get tortured and killed?). Or what happened to the Nazi world for that matter. If it does, let’s hope it’s good news.

  6. Really cool way to tie up the loose end of what happens to alt-Richards:

    1: Alt-Richards tells Gestapo if they want answers they’ll have to go into empty Sentinel.
    2: They take alt-Richards along because they are secretly scared of the Sentinel and also to have insurance against funny stuff.
    3: The Sentinel blows up, taking alt-Richards and Gestapo with it.

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