Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are two of the most dangerous people in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Universe. These self-made weapons of mass destruction, better known as the Hulk and Iron Man, respectively, have fought against each other, but when the six-issue “Ultimate Hulk/Iron Man” miniseries by writer Warren Ellis and artist Cary Nord begins in 2008, they’ll be forced to do something neither of them wants to do: work together. CBR News spoke with Ellis about the series.
“[Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Joe Quesada asked me to write it for him, and when Joe makes a direct pitch like that, I don’t like to say no,” Warren Ellis told CBR News. “Joe and [Publisher] Dan Buckley have become good friends to me over the years. So when they ask me for help on something, I try to make it happen. Simple as that.”
In recent years, there have been two unexplored yet huge developments for Bruce Banner and the rampaging Id monster into which he transforms. At the climax of issue #11 of “Ultimates 2,” Bruce Banner appears and, before he transforms into the Hulk, reveals that he’s gotten in touch with his inner sociopath. The “Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine” miniseries looked like it might reveal exactly how Banner did that, but the project was never finished. Some readers might be wondering if Ellis’s series touches on either of these developments.
“I know nothing of this ‘Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine’ story, and Marvel hasn’t sent me copies, so I guess it doesn’t apply,” Ellis said. “I did, however, query that ‘inner sociopath’ line of Millar’s with the office, and apparently there’s no follow-up on it planned. So I take it to mean that Banner finds it easier to make the transformation now, and is at least reconciled to the massive property damage that ensues. He’s less about ridding himself of Hulk cells, now, than he is about controlling the transformation and getting some reins on the rampant Id that takes over.
“And, as far as he’s concerned, the answer to this was staring him in the face all along,” Ellis continued. “Tony Stark’s body is riddled with machines smaller than cells –the nanobots that allow him to interface with the Iron Man suit. Machines that small can manipulate cells — even Hulk cells.”
With his agreement to become the financial backer of the now independent Ultimates, Tony Stark is another character whose life has changed significantly. “Without wanting to color whatever’s planned for ‘Ultimates 3’ and beyond,” Ellis said, “I conceive of it as childhood’s end, finally, for Tony. He no longer has the time to sit and take in the world, to immerse himself in simple pleasures and just enjoy whatever lifespan is left to him. The first time we see Tony in this story, he’s just looking out the window. The final interview with British writer Dennis Potter, before his own death from cancer, had him talking about the vividity of everything in life, how knowing that you won’t be around long enough to continue taking everything for granted made everything incandescently, nostalgically beautiful. And now he knows the time he has left will be subsumed into running the Ultimates, and so being interrupted from just sitting at the window watching birds fly by seems like time stolen from him….”
Based on their wildly different experiences and the perceptions, Stark and Banner may seem like two very different people, but not everyone sees things that way. “Bruce conceives of them as the same person, except that Tony got the breaks and he didn’t,” Ellis explained. “Which tells you all you need to know about Bruce — Tony’s got terminal cancer, lost the love of his life, seen the closest thing to a family friend get shot dead in front of him, drinks to dull constant pain from the freak neural tissue scattered across his body, and now, at the end of what will be a radically shortened lifespan, is having to put all his money and time into a superhuman planetary defense team. And Bruce thinks Tony is the one who caught all the breaks.
“But he does have a point,” Ellis continued. “Bruce is a biologist and Tony’s an engineer, but they’re both in the business of human enhancement. And that’s how Bruce reaches Tony: by offering him a gorgeous puzzle. Can the Iron Man operating system be used to control Hulk transformations?”
Banner grabs Stark’s attention with his offer, but as they set out to work together, the duo attracts the attention of someone else, someone sinister, someone who will be making his Ultimate Universe debut. “We all know, from ‘Ultimates,’ that Bruce Banner has never been the only person playing with supersoldier enhancement,” Ellis stated. “Just like we know that many countries, and many organizations within those governments, have played with psychic warfare, chemical enhancement and technological assistance over the years.
“We’ve met James Braddock of Great Britain in his role at the European superhuman initiative. Now we meet one of his competitors, a senior member of the British intelligence community who operated his own superhuman initiative. One that didn’t get backing and funding — even after that person had had the first tests conducted on himself. Now he lives in an abandoned nuclear bunker in Southern England, just waiting for a time when Bruce Banner and Tony Stark were away from the Ultimates and outside the kind of security they get in New York. And when Bruce and Tony travel to one of the more remote Stark test locations, the Ironworks, this man — whose name you know, but who goes by the title the Leader — sees his time has finally come.
“He needs their blood, you see.”
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