Sentinel Squad O*N*E #2

Issue Date: 
April 2006
Story Title: 
Tin Can Heroes: part 2: Growing Pains

John Layman (writer), Aaron Lopresti (pencils), Norm Rapmund (inks), Chris Walker (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters), Nick Lowe (associate editor), Sean Ryan (editor), Mike Marts (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

James Rhodes observes Alexander Lexington’s first virtual reality test. Lex hates the test, even though he successfully manages to defeat a simulacrum robot of Galactus. However, he gets cocky and ends up defeated himself by a simulacrum version of the Silver Surfer. After the test, James admits to Valerie that he has some problems with Slayton and Winston. He wants to keep trying to improve Slayton, but wants to see Winston fired. Valerie doesn’t think so, reminding James that Winston is on the program on special request to his high intelligence. Later, the squad gets to go on their first mission: they have to guard and protect the life of a US Senator, whose committee funds the Sentinel Squad O*N*E* program, but has become the target of Hydra after he started sponsoring anti-terrorism programs as well. Working together with SHIELD on the job, the troops eventually spot three operatives. They apprehend two of them, but one of the operatives blows himself up and reveals Hydra’s newest secret weapon: the Growing Man! The troops do their best to defeat the stimuloid, but he is stronger than they suspected him to be, and Slayton’s Sentinel is torn apart during the battle, causing him to lose his legs. Briggs also doesn’t know what to do anymore, as his claustrophobia tears him apart, due to the small sitting place inside his Sentinel. Lex has had enough of it, and decides to secretly use his mutant powers. He charges up the Sentinel with an incredible amount of energy and Growing Man ends up defeated. However, the area around gets destroyed as well, displeasing General Lazer. He demands Valerie to find out what went wrong, and she demands to see the squad first thing tomorrow.

Full Summary: 

James Rhodes observes on the battlefield, while Alexander Lexington is busy fighting none other than… Galactus! Lex uses his Sentinel unit to give the planet devourer a hard punch, and also a blast. Rhodes informs Lex to hit Galactus hard before he has a chance to recover. He mentions that Galactus also has a ranged attack that will melt Lex’ Sentinel’s circuits like butter in a microwave. The blast hits Galactus, whose helmet gets destroyed, but he’s still standing.

Lex has had enough of Commander Rhodes ongoing notes, and smirks that he’s trying to save the universe here, and can’t concentrate when he keeps talking like that. Lex gives Galactus another blast, and now he stays down! And to make him stay that way, Lex snaps Galactus’ head! Rhodes warns Lex not to look so pleased with himself, as apparently, he forgot all about Galactus’ Herald: the Silver Surfer! The Surfer reveals himself and soars right through Lex’ Sentinel, and takes him down for the count. Rhodes explains that Lex got cocky and dropped his guard. That got him killed.

Lex thinks that’s a good thing, as he was getting tired of this virtual reality simulation nonsense. He asks someone to get him out of the training device. Rhodes congratulates Lex though, as he did pretty well up there, although he reminds him this was supposed to be an exercise in defense combat technique. Lex apologizes for it, but admits that with all that firepower, it made him hard for him not to get enthusiastic. Slayton laughs at that. Rhodes want to know what he has to say.

Slayton wants to know how much longer it will take before they will get to operate a Sentinel for real. James explains that maybe, the recruits will be ready for the real thing when this squad can get through a training scenario without someone dying, like what happened to Lex today if the situation were for real. James believes that might be a good starting point.

Slayton agrees, but wants to know what all the other training is about. He wants to know why they are learning all the hand-to-hand combat if they are going to be controlling a giant robot in the near future. Rhodes thinks Slayton doesn’t get it. They aren’t training this squad to control a Sentinel. He reminds Slayton that when he is in the command core of a Sentinel, the commanders expect him to be the Sentinel. James reminds that a Sentinel is only as fast as the reflexes of its pilots. The Sentinel’s combat skills are the controller’s combat skills. He wants the troops to understand that this is not like driving a tank or flying a jet fighter.

James explains that, as they have already explained to the troops before, once the Sentinel Squad Program is underway, pilots will be expected to serve a minimum of a three-month tour of duty within their Sentinel, with only a very small dormitory area to retire to. Of course, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Electrocurrents in the command suit will stimulate musculature to prevent atrophy and there will be some limited bi-weekly R&R time. When hearing that, Briggs starts to sweat, but nobody notices it.

James knows that most of the recruits will think that’s a small price to pay. He is also aware that they have all been handpicked to be one of the next generation of American super heroes, and it doesn’t get much better than that. But James warns them not to be too eager to get inside that cold, cramped hunk of metal. He can say that from experience, and promises there will come a time when they may be literally dying to get out of the suit. He orders the troops to get over to the hand-to-hand arena and see if they can’t punch away some of the frustrations they have. Nixon praises Lex for snapping Galactus’ neck like that.

Rhodes sighs, as he is approached by Valerie, wanting to ask if there were any problems. James admits he’s only having problems with Jake Slayton at the moment. He explains that he’s a loudmouth, with more muscle than brains. Valerie reminds James that she has given him complete discretion to remove any recruits from the Sentinel Squad who aren’t working out, and he’s free to use that. James is aware of that, but doesn’t want to go that far. James realizes that Slayton has some rough edges, but what’s really bothering him, is that Slayton may be right.

James believes that training for the other squads was nowhere near this intensive. He thinks that putting them up against Galactus right out of the gate may not have been the right thing to do. After all, he remembers he used to be Iron Man, and he never even had to train for something like that. When one considers the injuries he sustained already back then and the recruits who dropped out because of the pressure, it seems to James that they could all use the manpower they can get, instead of just giving these troops the permanent run-around. Or, he wonders, would this have something to do with Meld who was recruited into the Squad?

James looks at Meld training below him. James is aware that Meld’s real name is Jeremiah Muldoon. He thinks it’s funny how they were in such a big hurry to have him on the books, but are dragging their heels when it comes to trusting him with any actual responsibility. Valerie defends that General Lazer has his reasons for that. When Lex approaches him, Meld congratulates him on the nice job with Galactus, but Lex coldly orders Meld to mind his own business.

Valerie wants to be straight with James. She explains that she and the General have reservations about this entire unit. She mentions that Lex is without a doubt an accomplished and utterly lethal soldier, but he also has a bad attitude and a disciplinary record as long as her arm. Rajani Dhama isn’t much better. Her IQ is almost off the charts, but so too is her temper. Valerie is aware that Dhama physically assaulted one of her fellow recruits within hours of entering the program. James reminds Val that she also gave him discretion to keep whoever he wanted on this squad. He has noticed that all of these recruits have made tremendous progress, especially when one considers what they have been thrown at. But he does have someone in mind he wants to see fired.

Val realizes who James is talking about, but she won’t allow it. She reminds James that she already told him that Professor Emil Winston is here under special circumstances. He’s got one of the most brilliant minds in the world in the field of cybernetics and artificial intelligence. James calls him a nutcase. Valerie reveals that Winston agreed to work on the Sentinel Squad program only if he could actually be in the program! James believes that, despite its dysfunction, he will still stand by this team. He realizes that, right now, the team is good at what they do, but they could be the best. He wouldn’t be wasting his time there if he believed otherwise. And he doesn’t think it’s fair Valerie is wasting their time. James thinks that he needs to have a word with Lazer. Val tells him to give it a rest, as she’s actually there to send the team on a mission. James thinks that’s about time.


The Sentinel troops have been assigned into Sentinels… to guard the live of a Senator! Lex really hates it and asks for permission to say that out loud. James orders Lex to keep his mouth shut, explaining that the Senator they are guarding is one of the program’s biggest supporters. But now, all those anti-terror bills he has been sponsoring have earned him a big red bull’s-eye painted on his forehead. Lex admits he thought Hydra was SHIELD’s jurisdiction. James confirms that, and explains they are working with SHIELD on this job. And they got firm intel about an assassination attempt on the senator by Hydra.

Lex agrees to do the job, but he still thinks it’s a colossal waste of all their times. Briggs tells Lex to shut up. He believes that if SHIELD says Hydra has some new mystery weapon that they want to use, it’s up to them to make sure that won’t happen. Briggs’ claustrophobia starts kicking in and he gets all sweaty, but doesn’t admit it to his teammates. Instead, he asks for Lex’s status. He doesn’t understand why Briggs is asking it, but explains it anyway. Rajani recon model knows everything already, as it monitors system functions of the entire squad, and who knows what else.

Rajani suddenly spots two Hydra operatives! And they are standing right next to Lex. She has scans indicating accelerated heart rates and high body temperatures. There’s also magnetic resonance readings showing concealed weapons within them both. The two operatives start walking away, but Lex quickly intervenes and grabs them! Another agent, carrying a small man in his arms, starts moving closer to Slayton. Slayton notices and tries to attack, but the operative starts running away. Rajani asks Briggs if he knows what the operative is carrying, but he’s too sweaty and can hardly say anything. Slayton doesn’t care and moves in, but the operative goes to sit on his knees, and reveals the explosives taped on his stomach. And they go off!

Luckily, Slayton’s Sentinel survived the blast and doesn’t even have a scratch on himself. And he’s pretty sure they found the “mystery weapon” as well. The thing the operative was carrying appears to be a man, and he starts to grow. As the man starts to grow, he punches the Sentinel down! He quickly gets back up again and isn’t impressed by the villain’s power. They start punching each other. Rajani explains to Slayton that she’s got information in the Sentinels’ database: the man they are fighting is actually an android, better known as the Growing Man. He absorbs kinetic energy and converts it into size and mass.

Slayton wishes Rajani informed him about that sooner, as now, the Growing Man is already bigger than the entire city! The Sentinels work together in the hopes to take them down, but neither of their blasts bring any damage on the villain. He even tears one apart! Lex asks Briggs for explanations what to do, but his claustrophobia gets worse and worse.

Lex flies in, secretly planning on using his mutant powers to end this madness. He also remembers that Meld is aware of the fact that he’s a mutant, but doesn’t want to think about the risks right now. He activates his powers, and his entire Sentinel gets covered with energy!
Rajani notices the energy flux and wants to know what’s going on, but Lex lies that he just came up with something. He attacks the Growing Man with his powers, and he gets defeated! Nobody understands what just happened…


General Lazer and Valerie have arrived on the battlefield. Lazer really doesn’t like the look of the mess. He angrily tells Valerie that she assured him the team was up to the guarding task, both she and Commander Rhodes confirmed it, actually. Now, he demands to know what went wrong and that she takes immediate action against it. She walks over to Briggs and demands to see his entire team in her office tomorrow morning. She thinks they’ll need a report to determine whose fault this mess is. Briggs apologizes, claiming his communications must have shorted or something and wasn’t able to communicate with the other members of the squad.

Rajani angrily calls him a liar, as she knows his Sentinel was perfectly fine. She knows this because she can monitor the Sentinels’ functions. Lex tries to calm her down. Briggs defends that Rajani can’t manage that recon unit from a hole in the ground. He wonders when she is going to explain how Lex’ Sentinel issued that power surge. Valerie tells the troops to stop arguing among themselves, reminding them what happened to Slayton. He lost half of his legs, and is being carried into an ambulance.

Characters Involved: 


Dr. Valerie Cooper

James Rhodes

General Demetrius Lazer

Alexander Lexington, Emil Winston, Nathaniel Briggs, Jake Slayton, Meld, Randall Nixon, Rajani Dhama, Tracy Skylark (all O*N*E* recruits)

the Growing Man

Hydra operatives (all unnamed)

as simulacrum robots:


the Silver Surfer

Story Notes: 

Both Meld’s and Slayton’s real names get confirmed in this issue.

Growing Man is actually a stimuloid, created by aliens on behalf of Kang the Conqueror. He first appeared in Thor (1st series) #140. He was revealed to be working for Hydra in Thunderbolts #5.

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