“Redemption Story”

Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Cary Nord
Published by: Marvel Comics

Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are the “two halves of the push to post-humanity.” Both brilliant scientist, yet one has a lifetime mired in failure as much as the other has had success. So, in Ultimate Human, Bruce Banner has come to Tony Stark in the hopes of finding a cure for his condition. Warren Ellis begins to do for the Ultimate version of the Hulk what Peter David did for the mainline version of him – explore what truly makes him the Hulk, psychologically and physically.

“I’ve been sick my whole life and had to fight for everything I ever wanted. And never got it. Never.” –Bruce Banner

Like Bruce Banner, part of us realize that we live in a “failure condition.” We largely sleepwalk through life, wondering what’s it all about, why we are here, what we’re supposed to do and be. The idea reminded me of the book New Way to be Human by Charlie Peacock and how we all begin with a Story, a Story that God steps into. The story has four major arcs:

Creation – The story of all that is right and good about people and the world. We were created in His image, related to God, in right relationship with Him, under His rule and agenda. We were his servant-representatives in the world, responsible for one another and stewards of creation. Made for community and unbroken relationships, we were also created not only with intelligence, but also with a free will to choose.

Fall – The story of what went wrong, what is wrong, with them. With our ability to choose, we were intolerant of mystery and the gaps in our knowledge. So we sought our own way, disconnecting ourselves from the rhythm of life set out by God, becoming alienated not only from each other, but God and creation. This turning away from God to your own assumption of living life is the very definition of sin.

“Save me.” –Bruce Banner

Redemption – The story of the mission to restore. God unfolds His relational Word, in conversation, in Laws, in history, and, ultimately, in Christ. He seeks to rescue His people and usher in His kingdom, a new way of living.
New Creation – The story of the completion of that mission. One day we’ll see the end goal of perfection, of new heavens and new earth. That is the hope in which we live.

So being the ultimate human begins with repentance, exchanging your old way of life for a new way. One where we know the story and then live out the mission, centering around one simple idea: “”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Being the ultimate human is to participate in the story, embracing all aspects of life, but living with the goal of loving everyone and everything with holiness and imagination. It should impact how we work, how we play, and how we relate to one another; finding our redemptive mission in continuing the work He began to reconcile all of creation to Him.

Warren Ellis is great at playing in other people’s sandboxes. He respects the characters and fleshes them out even as he explores them in dark turns. The ultimate versions of these traditional heroes allows him to play with his full palette of science fiction tricks and jargon. The art mirrors the cinematic style that Ellis worked with during his run on The Authority, except this time it comes at the hands of a very capable Cary Nord. The book, like much of Marvel’s comic line these days, has the heady aroma of marketing opportunism (look for the trade paperback of this mini-series to come out in time for both the Iron Man and Hulk 2 movies), but Ellis keeps the story both interesting and relevant to the rest of the Ultimate universe.