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The Justice League has long been home to many of DC’s greatest heroes. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Elongated Man. Real legends. Of all the comics dealing with these characters, Grant Morrison’s run on JLA has always been at the top of recommended lists. So, being a Morrison fan, I grabbed them all.
In its overly muscled, electric Superman, 90s-stained pages, I found a character I had never seen before (or, oddly enough, since): Aztek. He had a weird costume and what seemed to be the standard DC power set. He seemed to be an original Morrison character, mainly because he was packed-full of weirdness. A four-dimensional suit, trained from birth by a secret society who worships Quetzalcoatl, meant to stop a god of darkness and death. And on top of all of this, it’s discovered that Lex Luthor had a big hand in his creation!
I was into this character. He didn’t get a ton of play in JLA and it was a bit of a bummer. Then, a few weeks ago, in my local comic shop, I see it. Aztek: The Ultimate Man. The entire run of Aztek’s standalone title. Written by Morrison himself. What a find, I couldn’t wait to see what he did with this guy’s story.
A whole bunch of nothing. It was so boring. First off, it starts with Aztek arriving in a big ol’ city named… Vanity. I assumed the name had some symbolic significance, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. It’s not like there’s an arc with Aztek dealing with overcoming an ego or, maybe, underestimating his powers. He is, actually, the ultimate man. Anyway, Vanity is a blatant Gotham City clone. Except, in about every issue, it’s pointed out that Vanity is actually even more crime ridden than Gotham.
There’s a thread that the heroes in Vanity are the cliche 90s ultra-violent murder types, but it’s dropped almost right away. After one such “hero” is killed in the line of duty it returns to pretty much your typical cape book. There’s even a scorned “previous Chosen One” (unlike, for instance, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, or Green Lantern) that Aztek has to fight to keep his mantle. Batman even swings by to give him the usual “Welcome to the Neighborhood” team-up. Then, weirdly, the run just… ends.
Other than a brief few scenes with Luthor, the run didn’t really touch on anything from JLA. Looking into it, I guess JLA came out after the standalone title. Which means the little bits of information that we get in those pages are what Morrison had planned to come out later. Basically, when he cut out all the chaff, he was down to the actual interesting parts.
Unfortunately, the character survived for a few arcs until he sacrifices himself to stop a gigantic squid/dark god/ultimate darkness/Tezcatlipoca. So, ladies and gentlemen, he’s just done. And it sucks. It sucks! There’s so much undiscovered potential there. It was a cool blend of Mesoamerican mysticism and technology. There’s nothing really like that around DC! It was such a fresh take on a character.
They start him on one of the blandest, most vanilla runs of all time, it gets cancelled, then they rush him through JLA. I can’t believe it. It should have stuck with the mythology it was rooted in. The major theme should have been old-world-mysticism meets cutting edge modern science (get ready for the word quantum).
Please, Mr. Morrison, I know you’ve got a penchant for bringing back characters. Please, please, bring back Aztek. Give him another shot. Give us the awesome quasi-magic hero that we always wanted.