Trope: The Five-Man Band

As defined by TV Tropes, the Five-Man Band is a trope which consists of a team of exactly five members who each occupy contrasting roles. The five members of a Five-Man Band are:

  • The Leader: The character who leads the rest of the group.
  • The Foil: The character who contrasts The Leader.
  • The Smart One: The character specialises in intellect and knowledge.
  • The Strong One: The character who specialises in physical power.
  • The Heart: The character who keeps the team together.

Click on the individual links to learn more. I’ve decided that it would be fun to see how the various superteams of Sentinel Comics match up to this trope. Thus, my musings are listed below.

I’ve excluded the Southwest Sentinels / Void Guard, as they have only four members (Although maybe they’d work as a Four-Temperament Ensemble?), as well as the Paradigms, Guise’s Neighborhood Watch, G.L.O.B.A.L., and the All-New, All-Different Prime Wardens because I don’t know enough about them.

Perhaps if there’s a Troper reading this who thinks any of these are remotely accurate, you may consider adding them to TV Tropes’ Sentinels page?

The Freedom Five

  • The Leader — Legacy
  • The Foil — The Wraith
  • The Smart One — Tachyon
  • The Strong One — Bunker
  • The Heart — Absolute Zero

The Prime Wardens

  • The Leader — The Argent Adept
  • The Foil — Captain Cosmic
  • The Smart One — Tempest
  • The Strong One — Fanatic
  • The Heart — Haka


  • The Leader — Expatriette
  • The Foil — The Harpy
  • The Smart One — NightMist
  • The Strong One — Mister Fixer
  • The Heart — Setback


  • The Leader — Rockstar
  • The Foil — Headlong
  • The Smart One — Muse
  • The Strong One — Aeon Girl
  • The Heart — Muerto

Well, what do y’all think? How’d I do? What would you have done differently?

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I don’t think they line up terribly well to the trope.

Legacy is definitely both the Leader and the Heart, and everyone else takes turns being the Foil in different contexts. If they had to line up 1:1, I’d be more inclined to put AZ as the Foil and Wraith as The Heart.

Even though Haka is the physical powerhouse, Captain Cosmic might fit best as The Strong One, since he’s easily duped and doesn’t try to solve problems in any way other than “create a thing or blast energy.” But The Foil is the hardest one to peg on the Prime Wardens, since the whole team is deliberately about contrasts. Fanatic isn’t very heroic, Haka is warm but patronising, Tempest is angry and defensive, and Captain Cosmic is flighty and avoidant.

As for Dark Watch, Harpy being the latecomer shows here. Setback is definitely intended to be both The Heart and The Foil to Expat, because in her case those two things are the same. But since Fixer stopped having a personality, I think Harpy picked up some of The Strong One trope, as someone who just breaks down and smashes things with birds as a common solution.

Headlong and Rockstar are overtly co-Leader/Foils. Muse is The Smart One, for sure. But I think Aeon Girl, as the innocent powerful one that the rest of the team has to rally around to protect, covers both other roles. Muerto is too self-absorbed to keep the team together and not particularly strong or dumb.

I think Void Guard works at least as well as the others. Medico is The Leader, Mainstay is The Strong One, Idealist is The Heart, and Writhe is The Smart One. Mainstay and Writhe split aspects of The Foil. Not ambigious at all, IMHO.


I would call Absolute Zero the foil for the FF, with Wraith as the heart, Tachy the smart one (though Wraith also qualifies), and Bunker the strong one apart from Legacy.

Fanatic is not just the foil to Argent and the other Prime Wardens, but to pretty much the world in general; she literally rejects your reality and substitutes her own. Oddly they don’t have a particularly smart member… Captain Cosmic is probably the brightest, pardon the pun, but it seems more fitting to call him the heart, since this helps make sense of why the team has two support heroes, one of whom is the lead. Haka may have a lot of heart, and he’s probably filled the role of the heart once in a while, but overall he’s obviously the strong one, even if not stereotypical. That leaves Tempest for the missing “smart guy” slot, but that doesn’t really fit all that well.

I have absolutely no argument on Dark Watch, they fit this trope far better than any other Sentinels team, and Fjur nailed it perfectly.

Daybreak I only know from two podcast episodes, but I didn’t think Rockstar was really leadership material. I would have pegged her for the strong one, given what her powers are, even though Aeon Girl is obviously far stronger. I would call her the Foil instead, because she has such an alien perspective as a newly minted lifeform. Muerto as the heart feels wrong, but I don’t really have an alternative in mind, other than Muse, who is kind of a heart but clearly more of a brain, and I also kind of thought she was the leader, since her involvement with the heroic world predates the others (except pre-Muerto Thiago). I honestly have nothing in mind for Headlong, since about all I know about him is that he wants a paycheck.

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Rockstar and Headlong are explicitly co-leaders of Daybreak, and Tempest is a scientist as well as a diplomat.

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I agree, Fjur. I think there’s a few other ways to break things down, depending on sub-teams (Termination) or events (Ra and Fanatic teaming up), and I’ll get to those later (kid needs to get to bed).

I would point out that “Powerhouse” is also a way to describe the “Big guy” or the “Strong One,” and it shows that physical strength isn’t always the necessary thing. The Powerhouse is the person that’s handling the horde of mooks while the Hero/Leader is handling the dramatic confrontation.

What I’m getting at is that Red from OSP describes most of the roles pretty well, in a lot easier way than the TVTropes pages. And I usually HATE videos instead of reading the text, so that’s saying something.
Five Man Band: Trope Talk: Five Man Band - YouTube
Lancers: Trope Talk: Lancers - YouTube
Smart Guys: Trope Talk: The Smart Guy - YouTube
Heart: Trope Talk: The Heart - YouTube
Powerhouse: Trope Talk: Powerhouses - YouTube
(There’s also a flow chart)

But there’s also a lot of give and take when it comes to roles.

Edit: Okay, here’s a few extra thoughts.
RA is going to be the Powerhouse (exemplified by Christopher’s playthrough with Penny Arcade, where he says simply “Ra sets things on fire.”) no matter who he’s with… except Fanatic or Setback, where he’s the Smart Guy in the Big Guy/Smart Guy pairing. For an example of why the Heart is important, I think Ra was the Heart (along with Powerhouse and Leader) when he got the Aenead to attack big O (everyone else was a lancer/foil).

Unity is basically the Smart Guy unless Tachyon is around, when she’s the Heart.

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Firstly, I’d simply like to say that, of course, lots of different combinations of the roles are all possible and valid; Alternate Character Interpretation is certainly a thing that exists.

Fair enough. I’m not saying that they do, per se, rather simply that I’m trying to match them to the trope, and I do recognise that some of them could be doomed to failure.

Very true—perhaps a better descriptor would simply be “the character who focuses on direct power,” rather than physical power.

Also, just to keep things organised, I’ve organised my responses by team.

Freedom Five

I agree about Legacy, but to me he is much more of a Leader than a Heart; everything about his deck just screams Leader. I also agree that Wraith, Bunker, and AZ can all be Foils to him, but I can’t really see Tachyon in that role.

I just can’t see the Wraith as the Heart; she’s too much of a Combat Pragmatist and The Cowl.

Absolute Zero definitely started out as a Foil, but I think he’s deserved becoming the Heart; after all, he is the Professor of Ethics at Freedom Academy.

In relation to the Freedom Five, I’d classify Unity as a Tagalong Kid and The Sixth Ranger. Her relationship with Tachyon (besides the obvious Mentor-Apprentice relationship) I think could fall under Red Oni, Blue Oni, with Unity as the reckless Red Oni and Tachy as the level-headed Blue Oni.

Prime Wardens

I hadn’t fought of CC being the Strong One before, and him being super easy to trick certainly does fit with that.

True… It seems that each of them (save Fanatic) has somewhat above average intelligence, but no one’s phenomenally smart—CC’s a barrister, Tempest’s a diplomat, Haka really knows his history, and AA has magical lore.

I do agree that Haka is definitely both a Heart and a Strong Guy; however, one of the reasons why I made him the Heart is because the Vertex Prime Wardens basically fall apart without him.

Regarding the Harpy, I think that she definitely counts as a Foil to NightMist, despite Faye not being the Leader.


Absolutely, but Rockstar’s drive, ambition, and arrogance are why I think she fits as the Leader more than Headlong. She’s simply more motivated.

I do think that she’s not very good at being DayBreak’s Leader, but it is nonetheless a role that she has claimed for herself.

Personally, I think that Muse is too busy dealing with her Inner Demons to lead the rest of the team.

Aeon Girl, though, is an incredibly impressionable blank slate, so I don’t think she could really be a Heart. And Muerto is certainly the most heroic member of Daybreak, no?

SW Sentinels / Void Guard

True, although I could also see Medico as the Heart, Mainstay as the Leader, and/or Idealist as the Strong One. The main reason I didn’t originally list them, though, is that there are not five of them. Which I know can be see as a silly reason, but I’m sticking to it!

However, if we were to codify them as a Four-Temperament Ensemble (as I mentioned above), I think that the Idealist would be Sanguine, Mainstay would be Choleric, Writhe would be Melancholic, and Medico would be Phlegmatic.


Dr. Blake Washington Jr. is certainly smarter than both Fanatic and Setback, but I don’t get the impression that Ra really is. Fanatic and Ra’s relationship doesn’t really look like there’s much contrast betwixt them. (There’s not much difference betwixt “BURN with the POWER OF THE SUN!!!” and “I shall SMITE YOU with THE POWER OF THE LORD!!!”) If anything, I’d simply describe them as a Battle Couple.

Setback and Ra, on the other hand, besides obviously being Buddy Cops, I think are best described as Red Oni, Blue Oni: with Ra as the headstrong Red Oni and Setback as the more cautious Blue Oni.