As much as the “House of X” storyline seems to be rehabilitating a lot of old X-Men foes into allies, there is one bunch that can never be friends to mutants, and that would be the Sentinels. Those largely giant robots whose sole purpose is to hunt down and possibly take out any all mutants that they can find aren’t the sort to become friendly. That said, there have been some “friendly Sentinel” stories out there, ranging from Sentinels that are basically treated like pets by more heroic figures or even one story I remember where a Sentinel gained sentience and decided he didn’t want to hunt mutants anymore.
But then there’s the case of the Omega Sentinel. She actually joined the X-Men.
Karima Shapandar was a police detective in India. She’d been asked to keep an eye on Neal Shaara, the wealthy son of a wealthy man. Neal was worried that his brother had gone missing and went looking for him. Karima followed, and they sure did find Neal’s brother Sanjit. Too bad he’d been turned into a Prime Sentinel by Bastion, a being that was a composite of the Master Mold and a Nimrod Sentinel from the future. Bastion was going around and turning ordinary humans into Prime Sentinels, a new breed of Sentinel that was, from the outside, a normal human being, but then when activated became a cybernetic being that only wanted to hunt down and kill mutants. Bastion had done the same to Sanjit, and he was trying to do the same to Neal and Karima.
He was only halfway successful because Neal had some latent mutant genes and became the most recent X-Man to go by the name Thunderbird. Karima, on the other hand, was not so lucky. So, while Sanjit had fought his programming to protect his brother, he died in the process when Neal’s mutant powers kicked in anyway. That, in turn, activated Karima’s own Sentinel implants, making her the Omega Sentinel. She managed to fight the programming long enough to tell Neal to run.
However, she got lucky. She managed to find her way to the then-destroyed island of Genosha. Once there, she was found by Charles Xavier and Magneto, and the two managed to basically disable her Sentinel programming, allowing her to be herself even if she still had all these Sentinel-weapons and mutant detectors grafted into her. And considering this is Marvel where it seems like 90% or so of regular people just hate mutants for no reason, the pair got off lucky that Karima was one of the other 10%.
Side note: I get that the X-Men are an (often heavy-handed) allegory for racism and anti-mutant sentiments are part of all that, but the older I get and the more I learn about how racism really works, the more silly the X-Men’s problems seem. Yes, the world fears and hates them, but that’s only how the most cartoonishly obvious forms of racism works. Real world racism isn’t always as obvious as men in white robes burning crosses. Sometimes it can be something more subtle and institutional. More serious creators have gone on to look at it as, if mutants are the next stage in evolution, then it might be something like ordinary humans feel some sort of biologically-based fear of their eventual replacements, and to be fair, Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men work is laying really heavily into that idea that mutants are the future and some of them are only just letting ordinary people live here for the time being because time is on the mutants’ side. Then again, I don’t buy the idea mutants are a different species as many comics seem to suggest because then they couldn’t really breed with humans any more and they clearly can, and Hickman’s work seems to be suggesting that machines like the Sentinels are a real danger to both humans and mutants. Huh. This side note just got a little more relevant…
OK, back to Omega Sentinel. Since she could control her abilities most of the time, Karima then joined the X-Men, going with a team to take on a group called the Children of the Vault, a group of beings trapped inside a time-distorting vault that allowed them to evolve without becoming mutants and having it in for both mutants and humans. From there, Karima would assist the X-Men, only becoming a problem when some outside force reactivated her Sentinel programming. Those times are always temporary.
Until House of X…
Told ya that side note just got relevant.
As noted above, Hickman’s work seems to be implying the real enemy to mutantkind is not human prejudice but machines like the Sentinels. Glimpses of the future showed Sentinels would always appear no matter what the mutants did and would also always turn on humanity as well. In the present was the Orchis Group, an anti-mutant bunch made up of rogue agents from every Marvel organization, ranging from AIM to SHIELD to Hydra and beyond. At the center of this was two Sentinels. One was Nimrod. The other was Karima, now fully onboard with taking down mutants.
Why? Well, it turns out that the above note that Karima’s Sentinel programming always kicks in when some outside force makes it happen was true there, too. Only in this case, the outside force was herself. House of X worked off the idea that Moira MacTaggert was a mutant herself, one gifted with the ability to relive her life ten times, accumulating knowledge each time, and in every timeline, she saw the mutants lose no matter what she did because the Sentinels would show up and do something. The current Marvel Universe is, apparently, her tenth life, and this time the mutants are trying to start a new nation and go from there. The difference here is something Moira doesn’t know: Krakoa will work. It will allow the mutants to survive and thrive. But Moira hasn’t lived through that. Karima, or a future version of her on the other hand, has. So, Omega Sentinel in the present was taken over by herself from a potential future to stop a future where the mutants win out over the Sentinels. It seems to me that Moira and Future Karima had the exact same plan. Both are looking to prevent a future where their own kind are utterly defeated.
That…is actually kinda cool.