Is <i>this</i> the future of the Marvel Universe?

A few days ago, I noticed something...odd going on in both Captain America: Reborn and Invincible Iron Man: The giant flying robots with long tentacles presiding over the apocalyptic future glimpsed by Cap sure looked an awful lot like the possibly Starktech-derived "sentries" that have been bedeviling Tony Stark in the hallucinatory dreamworld he's been stuck in throughout his recent coma. My suspicions deepened when I saw The Beat's DC month-to-month sales analysis number-cruncher Marc-Oliver Frisch point the same thing out on Twitter -- the first time I saw anyone talking about it online. Then io9's Graeme McMillan took the ball, and the scanner, and ran with it.

So are we looking at the seeds of some post-Heroic Age event years in the making? Tough to say, but if you read behind the lines of what Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has said about Marvel abandoning the event-comics model following the conclusion of Siege, it sure sounds like the line-wide crossover is not dead, just resting -- waiting until such time as creators and readers alike are less ground down by the constant barrage of "this changes everything." And if you're gonna start dropping hints about some distant-future event, the final pre-Siege story arcs of titles starring key characters like Captain America and Iron Man make sense as the places to do it.

Now, Stark's belief that the robots may be derived from his own technology, plus the fact that they're called "sentries" and they follow the orders of a mysterious figure called "The Bureaucrat," helps the IIM sequences read like allegory: H.A.M.M.E.R. chief Norman Osborn using the groundwork laid and technology developed by former S.H.I.E.L.D. head Stark to create a fearsome new world order, using the Sentry as his chief enforcer. But there's really no such "it's just a dream" interpretation to be had with Cap.

I'm curious as to whether we'll see something similar go on in other titles -- Thor, say, just to round out the Avengers' Big Three. Also, the fact that they're giant hero-hunting robots whose name begins with the letters "s-e-n-t" makes me wonder if the X-Men will be involved somehow; given its basis in alternate futures, the upcoming X-event Second Coming could be a logical place to look. Finally, it can't be coincidence that the 'bots are called "sentries" in a universe where the Sentry is making the kind of waves he's been making lately, can it?

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