The Sentinels are some of the most iconic elements of the X-Men franchise. Introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in X-Men #14, the mutant-hunting robots have been reinvented and retooled countless times over the years, with their most powerful and dangerous incarnation, Nimrod, being a major antagonist in the current era of X-Men stories. However, there was one incarnation of the Sentinels that was specifically designed to all people, including the mutants of the Marvel universe.
These new Sentinels briefly became allies of the X-Men and had the distinction of being piloted by humans to try and keep the more deadly automated elements of the Sentinels from taking over. Sadly, this group was only used briefly during an especially dangerous time for the mutants. What happened to the Sentinel Squad O.N.E?
Spiraling out the events of House of M — where roughly 98% of the mutant population lost their abilities due to the reality altering power of the Scarlet Witch — “Decimation” saw major changes hit the Marvel Universe. This was further explored in House of M: The Day After #1 by Chris Claremont and Randy Green. Longtime X-Factor associate Valerie Cooper successfully convinced the United States Government that there needed to be an official defense force designed to protect American interests. With Tony Stark’s designs and James Rhodes — aka the heroic War Machine — briefly taking command of the platoon, the Sentinel Squad was officially sanctioned by the government.
However, following the events of House of M, the President of the United States repositioned the Sentinels to the Xavier Institute — which by this time had become something of a beacon for the remaining mutants. Although the X-Men were initially set to fight the Sentinels due to their antagonistic history, the O.N.E. Squadron proved themselves allies by helping combat the Sapien League. They became unlikely guardians of the remaining mutant population, with many of the remaining mutants seeing them as wardens rather than protectors. The Sentinel Squad O.N.E. often threw themselves into battle but proved to lack the cold ruthless edge that typically makes the Sentinels so dangerous.
One of their chief members, Nathaniel Briggs, was killed fighting against Vulcan in X-Men: Deadly Genesis by Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine. They tried to fight against William Stryker and his Purifiers in New X-Men #27 by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Paco Medina, only for his stolen Nimrod tech to shut them down with ease. Demetrius Lazer, the director of the O.N.E. program, eventually revealed intense hatred for mutants and tried to use the Squad and his connections to murder many of them, even successfully bringing down the Omega-Level mutant Mister M in X-Men: The 198 by David Hine and Jim Muniz. The Sentinel Squad was finally and ingloriously brought down for good in the “Messiah Complex” crossover, where they were turned against the X-Men and finally destroyed.
The concept behind the Sentinel Squad O.N.E., to turn a classic sign of oppression and horror in the Marvel Universe into a more heroic ideal, isn’t necessarily a bad one. Unfortunately, the new Sentinels proved ineffective in the long run, and were ill-prepared for the sheer scope of the threats the X-Men face on a regular basis.
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