Retro Review: Aztek The Ultimate Man By Morrison, Millar & Harris For DC Comics


Editor’s Note:

This is a timely retro review since “an” Aztek character has joined the Justice League of America (JLA) in its DC Rebirth era recently (full spoilers here). So, thanks for this one, James!


Retro Review:

Aztek: The Ultimate Man #1-10 (August 1996 – May 1997)

Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar

Pencils by N. Steven Harris

Inks by Keith Champagne

Coloured by Mike Danza

Spoilers (from twenty-one to twenty-two years ago)

The next series I was going to write about in this column was going to be Aquaman, but when I went into my longbox vaults, and was grabbing up issues of Peter David’s run of that title (which is still going to be my next set of columns), I pulled out an issue of Aztek, the unique DC title that was as short-lived as the partnership between its writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, I changed my mind.  Aztek, as a property if not the same character, just made a return in DC’s Justice League of America title, and I realized that the town that Ray is from in that book, Vanity, was the setting of this title.  I figured it was an opportune time to revisit this gem from the dark 90s.

I remember liking this book a lot when it came out, but I’m hard pressed to remember many of the details.  I liked Aztek’s look, and N. Steven Harris’s art a lot.  I was very familiar with Grant Morrison at that time, but think this might have been my first exposure to Mark Millar’s writing.  I remember being intrigued by the high-tech Aztec concept, and irritated that Lex Luthor became involved at some point.  Beyond that, there’s very little I recall.

To provide some context, this book came before Morrison took over JLA, by a few months.  

Let’s look at who turned up in the title:

Villains

  • Piper (#1)
  • Synth (#1-2)
  • Mister F (#1-2)
  • Mister B (#1-2)
  • Other unnamed gangster types (#1-2)
  • Mindy Falconer (#2)
  • Death Doll (#3)
  • Fixit (#3, 6-7)
  • Lizard King (#4-5)
  • Scrappers (#4)
  • Joker (#6-7)
  • Heatsnap (#7)
  • Bloodhound (Dial V for Villain; #8)
  • Tattoo (Dial V for Villain; #8)
  • Deathgrip (Dial V for Villain; #8)
  • AWOL (Dial V for Villain; #8)
  • Lex Luthor (#8-9)
  • Doc Parasite (#9)
  • Professor Ivo (#10)
  • Amazo (#10)

Guest Stars

  • Bloodtype (#1)
  • Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner; #2, 10)
  • Batman (#6-7)
  • Alfred Pennyworth (#7)
  • Superman (#9)
  • Maggie Sawyer (#9)
  • Flash (Wally West; #10)
  • Wonder Woman (#10)
  • Aquaman (#10)
  • Martian Manhunter (#10)

Supporting Characters

  • Hector (one of the Q Foundation; #1, 8, 10)
  • Joy Page (nurse; #2-5, 9)
  • Wally Mosely (doctor; #2-6)
  • Julia Frosticks (hospital administrator; #2-10)
  • Helena Perrier (police chief; #2, 6-7)
  • Forbes Cleveden (doctor; #3-9)
  • Curt’s unnamed potential replacement (#8, 10)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • The first issue opens on Piper, a rather odd looking villain whose ridiculousness is being pointed out to him by a gangster type whose name we don’t learn.  What we do learn is that this gangster has Piper’s daughter, and he introduces Synth, a former corporate superhero whose brain is undergoing constant change, explaining this guy is looking after Piper’s daughter, until Piper does a job for the gangster.  The hero who will become known as Aztek (we don’t learn his real or superhero name in the first issue) is flying around Vanity, the rough city where this series takes place, narrating an initial report.  From it, we learn that he’s new to the hero game, having undergone extensive training in virtual environments.  We also learn a bit about his abilities – density control for example, and that his abilities are given to him through his armor.  He’s having a hard time establishing a life for himself in town, lacking money, identification, and a job.  When he goes to a bank, he jumps the line, not knowing proper banking etiquette.  While he’s there, the Piper arrives, accompanied by little black creatures that later get referred to as “pipes”.  They don’t look like robots, and they speak, and are kind of confusing.  Vanity’s 90s exxxxtreme superhero, Bloodtype, intervenes, and gives Piper a beating.  He is about to kill him, after uttering his catchphrase, but our hero steps in and tells Bloodtype to stand down.  90s posturing ensues, but since Morrison and Millar are kind of pointing fun at 90s posturing, it’s all good.  When Piper tries to run away, Bloodtype shoots him in the back, so our hero starts to fight him.  This lasts for a bit, but our hero brings him down.  When he goes to check on Piper, the dying reluctant villain tells him that his name is Curtis Falconer and that he was supposed to start a new job as a doctor.  He also tells him that his daughter is in the Urthona Tower, and that ‘they’ are planning something.  At this point, one of the Pipe things, which Piper claims is not his, explodes.  Our hero is not harmed in the explosion, but is taken to the hospital with the other victims.  There, we see that Bloodtype lost a leg and arm (he dies off-panel on the next page), and that lot of other people are badly injured.  Our hero goes to a woman named Sheree who is hurt, and heals her with his abilities.  This is seen by a lot of people around him, so he identifies himself as Curtis Falconer, and tells them that he’s their new doctor (which, of course, doesn’t explain how he healed open wounds).  He finishes his report by talking about how he plans to spend his time while in Vanity, and we learn that these reports are being listened to by some people in a mountain somewhere, and that they have prepared him to deal with a ‘shadow god’.  We learn that one of the at least three people there is named Hector, and that the extinction of life on Earth is a possibility if our hero fails.  In all, an effective first issue.
  • A group of thieves rob a department store after gassing everyone in it.  As they run outside, the run right into Major Force, who has crushed their getaway car into a cube.  The group of gangsters we saw last issue discuss the fact that Major Force is making a play for Vanity now that Bloodtype is dead.  These gangsters seem to call each other by the first letter of their names (Mr. B and Mr. F are the only ones named so far), I guess because this is not long after Reservoir Dogs came out?  They suspect that our as-yet unnamed hero is also a new supervillain.  They also decide, since Piper is dead, that they should just have Synth kill his daughter.  At the hospital, our hero, who has assumed Falconer’s identity, watches a news broadcast about the fact that Falconer’s daughter is missing.  He talks to a nurse, Joy Page, who flirts with him, and a doctor, Walley Mosely, who lets him know that the hospital administrator, Julia Frostick, wants to talk to him.  Mosely gives Curt a map of Vanity, mentioning how the city is always changing, after Curt asks for directions to Urthona Towers.  He ducks into a supply room and flies out the window.  At the police station, the chief talks to Green Lantern Kyle Rayner about Major Force being in town, although he is supposed to be dead.  They also show GL our hero’s photo, as they think he might be a villain as well.  Our hero flies around, and asks some construction workers for directions, but finds himself trapped in a green bubble.  GL has caught him, but our hero fakes him out and escapes, after pretending to teleport away.  They talk to each other, and quickly establish that they are both heroes, and Curt explains he is looking for the kidnapped girl.  They talk about how Curt doesn’t have a superhero name yet, and how the city seems to be affecting Kyle’s power ring.  They go to Urthona tower, where they see that Major Force has brought Mindy Falconer to a meeting with the crime bosses.  Kyle wants to jump into the fight, but Curt insists they wait.  As it turns out, Mindy has convinced Synth to shapeshift into Major Force’s identity, and she explains that she is taking over their business.  She has been manipulating things all along, and had wanted her father killed.  Our hero jumps in, and Synth takes on his form and begins to fight him.  GL brings the police, and tries to help our hero in his fight.  He uses the four-dimensional energy that powers his suit to take down Synth.  Curt starts to lecture Mindy, and Synth, recovering but now stupid (his intelligence fluctuates at midnight) shoots Mindy dead by mistake.  Later, Green Lantern and our hero talk, and Kyle recommends he pick a name before the press does.  At the newspaper offices of Vanity Press (awesome name), two reporters come up with names for our hero, and settle on Aztek.  The gangsters, having got out of jail already, see Aztek’s name in the paper.
  • A number of local supervillains have turned out for Bloodtype’s funeral, as has his sometime girlfriend Death Doll, who has been working in black ops for a while.  One villain talks to her about trying to get some work, but she is only interested in tracking down Aztek.  We see Aztek interrupt a mugging in an alleyway, and when the muggers argue that heroes never do anything to help them, Aztek gives them all of his money.  One of them tags him with a type of green spray before they run off.  Curt heads to meet Joy for their date, and realizes he’s given all of his money away.  When he meets her, he says he left his wallet at the hospital, and she agrees to cover him.  Death Doll goes to a guy named Fixit – a Tinkerer like character, who we realize was the mugging victim a few pages earlier.  The spray that the muggers, who were part of a set-up, sprayed on Aztek is actually a tracker, and Death Doll gears up to come after him.  We also learn that Bloodtype and Death Doll were once known as Mr. America and Liberty Lass, and we are left with the impression that Vanity just ruins people.  Death Doll, who was covered with experimental CIA plastic after a mission went bad, stiffs Fixit for his expenses.  Curt and Joy eat at a Western-themed restaurant, and Curt talks about how it’s his first time ever eating out.  They spot the hospital’s administrator, Julia Frostick, eating with her fiancée, Forbes Cleveden.  It turns out that Forbes knows the real Curt Falconer, and tells Julia that that’s not who is in the restaurant.  At that moment, Death Doll teleports into the place, and in the craziness that follows, Aztek flies her out of there.  He drops her into a cemetery where she’s arranged all of Fixit’s men to blind him with bright lights when he uses his infrared lenses.  Death Doll gets Aztek down, and is about to kill him but one of the goons steps in and stops her, because Aztek had given him money earlier and shown him some compassion.  Aztek catches Death Doll in a net, but she teleports away.  The thing is, the goon had damaged her teleporter, and she gets stuck in Bloodtype’s gravestone.  Joy calls Wally to complain about her date, and says some mean things that Curt, sitting outside her apartment, overhears before flying away.
  • A man is strapped to a number of machines that are extracting the goodness from him.  An shadowy figure talks to him about how he is using the man and his daughter as “pilots” to help him get a job that he wants, even though it is already occupied.  Aztek finds a lizard in a decrepit area.  He’s spent the entire night looking for it, even though the press thought he should be looking for stolen goods.  When he returns the lizard to its elderly owner, he finds that she’s slit her wrists in the bathtub, although she’s still alive.  At St. Bart’s, Wally talks to Joy, who is still upset about her date with Curt the night before.  Curt is looking after the old woman when he is confronted by Julia.  She accuses him of not being who he says he is, and he refuses to explain.  Inexplicably, she gives him the choice of explaining or quitting by the next morning, and then storms off, leaving him to CONTINUE BEING A DOCTOR under false pretenses.  Seriously.  Wally tries to convince Curt to ask Joy out again, even though he knows she’s not the least bit interested.  Curt thinks about things, and is suddenly confronted by two robotic figures put together with scrap metal, who tell him that the Lizard King wants him dead.  Julia and Forbes talk about Falconer, and then Julia sees him fall out of a window below her, put on his helmet, and turn into Aztek.  Aztek fights the robot things, which we realize are the man and daughter from the first pages.  He stops them, and then realizes that there were people inside their shells.  Later, he finishes the report that has served as narration for this issue, revealing that whoever made the robot things was trained by the same people who trained him, although he can’t tell if that person serves the Shadow God or not.  Four people listen to his report, and talk about how they believe it’s their “brightest pupil” who sent the robot things.  Curt receives a phone call at home.  His caller tells him that he won’t need to face the Shadow God, although Curt has a hard time hearing over the shouting in the background.  It turns out that the Lizard King has kidnapped Joy and is using her as bait.
  • The Lizard King tells Aztek that he’s prepared a death trap for him, and that he has an hour to come to him or he will kill Joy.  The LK tells him he wants his helmet, and while he talks, Aztek uses the tech in his suit to track him down, showing up in his lair in minutes.  The LK tells him that Joy is in the next room, but that if he enters it with his helmet on, a bomb will go off killing her.  As he talks, he keeps mentioning the Shadow God, and talks about how he is the champion of the god Quetzalcoatl, and that the Shadow God is Tezcatlipoca.  The LK wants to stop the Shadow God, and doesn’t think Aztek is up to the job.  Curt takes off his helmet, but uses his suit to blow a hole in the wall, revealing that Joy is not there.  The Lizard King attacks him and they fight, with the LK going out the window temporarily.  He begins to talk about the Q Foundation, the people who trained Curt.  Catching his interest, he has Curt look through his eyeball tuning fork VR contraption (ah, Morrison), and we finally get an info dump explaining the concept of this series.  The Lizard King was trained to be the second to Aztek’s father by the Q Foundation, a group that has been preparing warriors to protect against Tezcatlipoca’s return for generations, using the helmet that Aztek wears.  Aztek’s father and LK were sent to Vanity, where the Shadow God is prophesied to return, but once there, Aztek’s father fell in love with his mother.  The Q Foundation, then called the Q Group, wanted the father killed, and when the Lizard King refused, they attacked him mentally.  As he talks, the Lizard King puts on the helmet, and then starts hitting Curt, and mocking him for his lack of experience.  Curt keeps asking him to take off the helmet, while he knocks over machinery spilling weird fluids all over the place, that LK says taste like Joy.  As they fight, the LK keeps telling Curt that the Q Foundation is corrupt and can’t be trusted.  LK starts bleeding out of the helmet, and Curt explains that the experiences and minds of all the warriors who wore the helmet before him are contained within it.  LK burns up, and Curt explains that he was given a mental puzzle to occupy the previous warriors, allowing him to wear the helmet safely.  He starts wondering about Joy again.  At the hospital, Wally is talking nonsense with a nurse when Aztek collapses in front of them, clutching a bundle.  He is rushed into the hospital on a gurney, and we learn that he’s clutching a shrunken Joy, on a page that’s a little hard to fully understand.  Somewhere else in Vanity a man named Lawrence Rodman says goodbye to his wife, squashes a bug, and starts smiling and crying, while convinced that everything in the world is wrong.
  • The Joker arrives in Vanity, trailing destruction and hysterical laughter via his gas behind him.  At the hospital, Aztek freaks out when the doctors want to remove his mask.  Julia takes him to a room where they are alone, and tells him that they’ve taken Shrunken Joy to their special wing.  He reveals his identity, and she reveals that she knew that.  They start to talk when they hear that the Joker is in town.  Aztek, despite being in rough shape, leaves to find him.  The Joker’s gone to see Fixit, who has built him robot crickets.  This is Grant Morrison’s Joker, of the shifting personality and indeterminate gender identity.  We learn that Joker’s gone to Vanity on vacation.  Aztek checks in with Chief Perrier, and they can see that the locations of the Joker’s attacks so far make up the letter A on the map.  Aztek patrols.  Julia checks in on the patients from the Joker’s attacks, and finds Forbes, who is supposed to be making an antitoxin, sipping champagne.  Aztek finds Joker and some of his dancing crickets, and just before they begin to fight, Aztek experiences some kind of weird vision.  Joker explains that the crickets can affect people’s mental state, and gives Aztek the choice of finding all the crickets in the city, or stopping him.  Aztek flies off, just stopping a woman from hurting her daughter in a cricket-induced dementia.  The woman, once stable, reveals that the Joker came and wrote or branded the letter S on her shoulder.  Forbes also experiences cricket-induced dementia (CID), but Aztek helps him too.  He has the antitoxin already prepared somehow.  Word comes that the Joker’s been caught, so Aztek flies off again, in time to see Joker being loaded into a paddy-wagon.  He cryptically announces this is part of his plan.  Aztek flies around, and sees that city lights spell out “Ha ha.”  Batman surprises Aztek.
  • Issue seven might just be the most Grant Morrison issue of this series yet.  Fixit is selling a combination freeze gun flamethrower to a villain called Heatsnap, who is an amalgam of two people, not quite properly merged.  Batman and Aztek show up looking for information about the Joker, and after Heatsnap tries to fight them off, unsuccessfully, they have a chat.  The Joker has left a book of children’s poems and an envelope of words cut from the newspaper.  Batman references William S. Burroughs’s cut-up method, and Heatsnap explains that he used to be two villains – Heatstroke and Coldsnap – who loved each other and wanted to be fused into one body, although it went terribly wrong.  Fixit explains that at sunup, the Joker toxin already infecting many people in Vanity will mutate and kill them.  Batman and Aztek ride in the Batmobile, and Batman schools him on the Joker, his shifting personality, and how his crimes are about patterns, not details.  A poster on a wall gives Batman a hunch.  At Arkham, the guards beat on the Joker.  Arriving at an abandoned theatre, Batman asks Aztek to step out so he can call Alfred.  Alfred tells him that his father had met with the Q Group when they came looking for funding.  As they talk about things, including how Batman wants to fund treatment for Heatsnap, a computer virus infects the Batmobile.  Aztek finds Chief Perrier in the theatre, entranced by one of the robot crickets.  He frees her.  The virus affecting Batman’s car allows him to track the Joker’s transmission.  Aztek joins him, warning that a blimp over the city will rain down more toxin on the populace when it explodes.  Batman uses an anti-gravity field generator he got from Fixit (a little too convenient, that), and Aztek starts to two the blimp away.  It explodes way above the city, but I guess things are fine now.  Aztek, exhausted, goes to the hospital where we find that Forbes has neutralized the Joker toxin in people.  Julia tries to speak to Aztek, but he goes to check in with Batman instead, where they talk about the Joker again, who we see is laughing and bloodied in Arkham.  Aztek returns to Julia, who is upset that he’s been posing as a doctor.  When he takes his helmet off, he collapses.
  • Issue eight begins with a recap of how the first vessel of Quetzalcoatl defeated Tezcatlipoca centuries ago, and how after the light god left, the Q-Society (working under different names) maintained his helmet and prepared for the eventual return of Tezcatlipoca, in an apocalypse.  Curt, revealing that his name is Uno, is narrating this while being operated on back at the Q Foundation’s headquarters, while Julia watches.  She is being talked to by a couple of the Foundation’s leaders, including Hector, the only one to be given a name as yet.  He says that Uno/Curt is about to be removed from his mission because he hasn’t been very successful.  Uno/Curt starts to freak out when he realizes he’s returned home, yelling to Julia about how they murdered his father.  A woman who hasn’t been named puts the Aztek armor through its paces, while talking to someone about how she’s ready to replace Uno.  Uno/Curt reviews the Foundation’s files on his armor, and is met by Julia, Hector, his wannabe replacement, and others.  Julia tells him that he is to continue being a superhero, and Curt insists on flying Julia back to the States himself, since he doesn’t trust the Foundation.  They’ve given Julia instructions but fear she won’t follow them, so they call in some of their supporters.  Curt drops Julia off at the hospital, and she tells him that he can’t continue working there.  He goes home, but finds other people in his apartment.  They give him keys to his new place, and say that a benefactor gave them his place.  He goes to the new spot, and discovers it’s been outfitted by Lexcorp.  On the TV, he learns that a group of villains have taken some disabled children hostage at Vanity’s Wax Museum.  These villains, four typical 90s villain types that are part of Dial V for Villain, are sitting around talking, revealing that Lexcorp has paid them to take the kids hostage, just so Aztek could stop them.  He shows up and does that, along the way finding a statue of him near the JLA exhibit, with a note saying it shouldn’t be added there for two months.  Aztek behaves humbly with the media, but they report the incident with great hyperbole.  At the hospital, Julia discovers that her employee records have been changed to make it seem that Curt is the real Dr. Falconer.  Forbes has no clue what she’s talking about, and we see that he may have had his mind altered through some form of surgery or something.  In Metropolis, Lex Luthor orders the Dial V group assassinated, and enters into a secret meeting with Q-Foundation affiliated people, to announce that their plans are underway.
  • A teenager named Mickey is in a coma in St. Bart’s hospital after being hit by a truck on a Superman-themed tourist trip to Metropolis.  Julia Frostick comforts the mother, and suggests that they find a superhero to speak to him (which she thinks will bring him out of his coma – clearly this is her medical opinion).  Curt is a little disturbed to find that he is getting calls reminding him to go to work, breakfast made for him, and that he has a car and driver at his disposal, thanks to the Q Foundation’s allies.  In Metropolis, Lex Luthor addresses this gathering of allies, and tells them that he is sending Doc Parasite out into Metropolis, to help manipulate a meeting between Aztek and Superman.   Curt is upset to see that while Joy is recovering, she’s doing so slowly.  Julia tells him that she thinks the Q Foundation is controlling the minds of everyone around her, so that they’ve forgotten the questions around Curt’s identity.  She also asks him if he can get in touch with Superman, because of the Mickey situation.  Aztek flies to Metropolis, and once there, comes across Doc Parasite (who is two people merged into one again, kind of like Heatsnap – it’s a weird theme to this series).  They fight, and while they’re fighting a woman gives Aztek a pair of her underwear “for luck.”  Aztek uses his power battery to disable Parasite, and he gets captured by the SCU.  Maggie Sawyer warns Aztek to stay away from Patty Celeste, the underwear lady.  He asks Sawyer to get in touch with Superman for him.  Later, at St. Bart’s, Superman arrives, and manages to wake Mickey up, although he’s freaked out by the fact that energy is pouring out of Supe’s eyes (this is just before he turns electric blue, because it is the 90s).  Luthor gloats to the others that he’s probably managed to make Aztek and Superman friends, which he figures helps line him up for membership in the JLA.  Their meeting adjourns, and they agree to meet again in twelve months.  In the Vanity suburbs, the wife of Lawrence Rodman, who we last saw before the Joker showed up, is talking to his mother about how strange he’s been lately.  Rodman’s mother is distracted by an image of Aztek on the TV.
  • Aztek is at the JLA Watchtower, auditioning for membership by participating in a virtual reality simulation that has him the only member of the League standing after a fight with Darkseid.  Green Lantern gives him hope for membership.  A few weeks later, Curt is working at the hospital when Professor Ivo is brought in – he’s been incarcerated without access to his immortality serum, and as a consequence, is dying.  Julia and Curt talk about the morality of not saving a super villain, but it’s idle talk.  They also talk about how Curt now has bodyguards provided by the Q Foundation, and how the JLA hasn’t gotten back to him yet.  Just then, the JLA (Flash, Wonder Woman, GL, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter) are meeting to discuss Aztek’s potential for membership.  Their meeting is interrupted by a hologram of Amazo, who explains that he’s encased the Watchtower in a plasma bubble powered by Hal Jordan’s ring and his immense willpower.  Amazo shows up in Vanity, looking for Ivo, and Aztek suits up.  The League is stuck in the Tower still, until Wonder Woman uses her lasso to take advantage of Hal’s ring’s weakness to the colour yellow.  Amazo is making short work of Aztek, but he fights back, and fries a number of his circuits.  The JLA shows up, and Amazo explains that his reason for coming to Vanity is to give Ivo some of his serum, stating that he wouldn’t want him to die, as he is Jerry to his Tom.  Later, we see that Ivo is recovering, and Curt weirdly tries to kiss Julia, feeling caught up in the moment.  She gets angry, reminds him she’s engaged, and storms off.  In a bit of a montage, we see that Patty Celeste, super-groupie, is talking to herself about targeting Aztek.  Lawrence Rodman is talking with his mother about the fact that Aztek is his brother.  Someone named the Quizler is planning on attending an upcoming supervillain convention in Vanity.  The woman set to be Aztek’s potential replacement tells Hector that she’s going to go to Vanity.  At the JLA Watchtower again, Kyle talks to J’onn about how the JLA uses the costume of the Crimson Avenger in their initiation rites, while Flash prepares Aztek to join the team.  

And that’s the end of that series.  In the letters page, there is a discussion of how the sales numbers just weren’t there to support this book, and references are made to the problems the industry was facing in 1997, which is probably kind of laughable compared to the sales figures of today.  It’s too bad that DC books never seemed to publish average press runs, like Marvel books did.

Anyway, this was a great series.  I love the way that Morrison and Millar laid the groundwork for a long-running storyline, and slowly started building a strong cast and set of interpersonal relationships for Curt to work through.  The Q Foundation and the threat of the Shadow God was interesting, but working in the likes of Lex Luthor, and making the Foundation an Illuminati-like organization gave it so much more potential.  

Curt, as an innocent and outsider, while mildly clichéd, still gave him a lot of potential as a character.  I was a little confused as to what kind of doctor he was, as we didn’t really see any evidence that he had training or knowledge, especially considering he’s supposed to be 19 or 20 years old.  Still, leaving that aside, I liked his feelings of guilt around what happened to Joy, and his curiosity about Julia.  I was also interested in learning about his mother and (presumably) half-brother, although that story was stillborn when the book was canceled.

I enjoyed reading the work of Morrison and Millar in this setting.  It’s weird to think that at the same time that he was launching JLA, which was a giant of a title at this time, this other Morrison title was struggling for attention and sales.  It’s also interesting to look for anything that feels like Millar in this book, as I never got a sense of his humour or typical storytelling twitches in this book at all.  It felt like a Morrison title from start to finish, albeit a more conventional one.

Steven Harris is a great artist, but it seems like he never did as long a run as he did on this book again.  I know his name pops up from time to time still, but I’ve never felt his work had the same energy it did here again.  He reminds me a little of a very restrained Larry Stroman, and I like that about his stuff.

Aztek as a character only appeared in nine issues of JLA (I’m tempted to read those again – that might be a future column soon), so the initiation sequence at the end of issue ten feels a little premature.  He did show up from time to time again in the DCU, but never in a sustained role.  He’s a good guy to stick in the background of some scenes when there are a lot of heroes gathering.  I feel like Steve Orlando’s current Justice League of America series is going to perhaps finally get around to the Shadow God stuff, but that series, as part of DC’s post-Rebirth universe, is featuring a female Aztek.  Is she the replacement character that Morrison and Millar never named here?  Orlando is pulling out a lot of forgotten or rarely seen DC-owned characters (I’m writing this the same week that Prometha showed up in that title for reasons I don’t understand), but I’m not sure he’s planning on doing a whole lot with them.

Anyway, I distinctly remember liking this book a lot when it came out (at a time when I was reading Starman, JLA, and not much else from DC that didn’t have a Vertigo logo on it), and twenty-one years later, I still think these are fine comics.  They are, of course, diminished by the fact that no storylines were ever resolved, but anyone who loves comics to the core of their being are used to that.

Now it’s time to dive in (do you see what I did there?) to the books I’d originally intended my next column to be about.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you want to read Aztek, there is a trade that collects the whole run.  You can get it here:
JLA Presents: Aztek – the Ultimate Man

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