Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I love Sentinels. Okay, I don’t love sentinels in the “rah rah, go Sentinels, kill those mutants” way. I just always liked to imagine them as the quintessential threat in the Marvel Universe. Now, I know that I’m reaching here- after all, every comic has its own mythology complete with formidable foes and obligatory alternate future timelines and whatnot. Usually, the biggest threat to the Marvel Universe has to do with the comic your reading in your hands- if it’s Fantastic Four, then Doom and Galactus are some of the biggest and baddest. If you’re reading Dr. Strange (and boy, I wish you were- even though there is rarely a running Dr. Strange comic book at any one time), than it's guys like Baron Mordu and the Dread (and difficult to spell) Dormammu. On the other hand, if Punisher and Daredevil are your thing- than it’s the Kingpin of crime whose subtle influence reaches from the depths of the seedy Marvel underworld and ensures that no matter how many criminals the heroes put behind bars, organized crime is here to stay. As for timelines- well, there are too many to count. What if comic books, Earth X, the Marvel Universe 2099, the M2 line, “The End” series…and that’s just a start. Usually, every individual comic features some sort of glimpse of the future- the Hulk is worried that he might transform into a being called the Maestro, who rules the entire planet with an iron fist (and I have to say, World War Hulk might have been a subtle nod towards that storyline for the hardcore fans). And at some point in the distant (and I mean DISTANT) future, Apocalypse and mutantkind ascend to power and lord over the human race. But for me, growing up, it was all about the Sentinels. I think Days of Future Past was one of those storylines that redefined the entire landscape of comic book writing. I still remember the impact of reading it as a kid and kind of realizing that the Marvel Universe had more of science-fictioney feel than a straight-up superheroey feel. I loved the idea that the Sentinels weren’t just a threat to the X-Men; they were a threat to every superhero living in Marvel Earth. Everybody thought the X-Men were pseudo-terrorists (even the Avengers had their doubts) and the Sentinels were these safe, government sponsored protect-the-peace machines. It was so tragic. See, the X-Men weren’t just battling to reduce prejudice because they wanted to make the world a nice, happy place to live (I mean, they do, but that isn’t the point). They were trying to warn the human race before it was too late. The government needed to stop building weapons, stop beefing up it’s military technology in the name of “containing the mutant threat” because if it didn’t, it was going to give birth to terrifying new form of life. It wasn’t about the quality of mutant civil rights for the X-Men, it was about avoiding an apocalypse that no one even knew was coming but them. While were on the subject? I think Days of Future Past wins my award for “first comic book series ever written that literally scared the beejesus out of readers.” I mean, the concept that the human race might develop technology that ultimately leads to its demise- or at least, changes society and the environment so radically that life as you and I understand it no longer exists. But the series played around with themes and ideas that creeped me out (okay, I was like thirteen or something, but still). Before I go any further, I’d be negligent to not point out that Terminator was a pretty popular movie among the comic and sci-fi dork crowd around this time period. It always seemed to me that Days drew heavily from this concept. But time…the nature of time, was freaky to me. Or was it time? Maybe it was fate? Could the X-Men do anything to stop Days from coming about, at all? In fact, did Kitty Pryde coming back in time to warn her former teammates set in motion the events that led to the Sentinels going haywire, terminating almost every superhuman on the planet, and forcing the rest of the human race to live in police states where they were selectively bred to minimize the emergence of mutations and so on? Nimrod and Bastion are a good example of this. Nimrod was kind of like the T-1000- the ultimate Sentinel killing-machine. And THAT was scary- I don’t quite recall the circumstances by which Nimrod ended up traveling back in time, but the X-Men were like jokes to him (it?). They couldn’t touch him. And he would just keep coming, and coming for them…no matter what. Eventually, Nimrod got sucked into the Siege Perilous. It’s a long story, but at some point the X-Men were appointed the guardians of a strange, dimensional gateway. The purpose of the Siege and its significance wasn’t really clear. Eventually, Nimrod showed enough sentience to believe that his orders were illogical- that mutants posed no threat and that sentinels were in fact, themselves, a mutation- and pushed himself into the Siege along with one of the Master Mold Sentinels that had been built in the past. The end result of going through the Siege is a kind of resurrection. At one point, a number of X-Men got sucked in and remerged all over the globe with little memory of their past lives (although one by one, they got them back). The problem was this- I guess, in the cosmic scheme of things, Nimrod had evolved to the point where “he” counted as “life” (another freaky point I’ll get to in a moment). So “he,” along with the Master Mold unit, were reborn into a human body. Still, that cold, mechanical purpose- the destruction of all mutants- drove him, even if only as a faint memory of the original program (or at least, at first). Bastion got involved in the upper echelons of the government and the military and set about putting a number of events/plans in motion that can only contribute to the creation of technology that would result in the emergence of independent, semi-sentient Sentinel thought. Now, lets us take a step back and look at the whole picture here. Maybe the entire creation of the “future breed” of Sentinels is…a paradox. Did a Master Mold send its most advanced warrior, Nimrod, back in time- only to lead to the creation of a man who would rally for technological advancement in areas that would eventually allow that Master Mold to overstep it’s original programming? So…Master Mold “created” itself? Even if that isn’t the case, the Sentinels of the future took steps to preserve themselves. They sent Nimrod to the past to make sure the timeline that led to their creation stayed intact. It’s sort of like they’re their own race now. Their own form of life, interested in their own survival. Ironically, you could think about it this way: the Sentinels are…a mutation. A glitch, a misestimation of the sophistication of the technology that was used to build them…or even some sort of cosmic loophole in time. Somehow, they came alive and decided they knew what was best for humanity. But the whole thing- this sort of cautionary tale- has this kind of Biblical quality to it. Mutants, the X-Men: they represent life, in all its varied forms. The Sentinels are created though…it’s like the human race played God, and gave birth to a mutation that really IS horrible and scary. Still, this form of life is always going to be mechanical, structured and planned. It’s half-life. So that’s what wins out, in the end- the order and structure of technology sort of “comes alive” and rubs out all the vitality and spontaneity of the human race. Epic, right? Like I said, I think it was breakthrough. I’ll never get enough of them revisiting this storyline. Tell me that wouldn’t make a good X-Men movie?