Aztek: The Ultimate Man

I really like Grant Morrison’s comics, and I was really excited to see what sort of unique character he would create with Aztek.  I had exceedingly high hopes for this.  Maybe that’s the problem. I went in expecting too much.

This comic is really a bit of a mess.  It pains me to say that, because I really have enjoyed every other Morrison comic I’ve read thus far.  This story simply didn’t do anything for me.

Aztek is a somewhat mysterious hero, dropped into the fictional Vanity, a west-cost version of Gotham where crime runs rampant.  Descending from a long line of warriors based out of the Andes Mountains, Aztek is meant to sit and wait to protect the world when the prophesied apocalypse comes to pass.

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He has no meta-human abilities of his own; rather, he draws all of his power from the special helmet and suit he wears, which in turn gains its power from a 4th-dimensional source.

Much of this trade deals with Aztek (who adopts the alias of Curt Falconer, a deceased doctor) trying to find his place in Vanity’s society, fighting a series of villains and trying to figure out how to bide his time before the apocalypse strikes.

His character felt very derivative of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World creations, and seems as though he would have been more at home on New Genesis than on Earth.  Morrison clearly tried very hard to fit Aztek into the DC universe, having innumerable heroes and villains alike make special appearances in Aztek’s stories.

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Lex Luthor himself is bankrolling Aztek, believing it a sound business investment to ensure the continuation of life as we know it.  While a few cameos would have been understandable, they were nearly constant, with each issue featuring new characters to try to legitimize Aztek’s appearance in the DC universe.

The primary goal is to get Aztek into the Justice League, as is revealed by the great “powers that be” running the show in the Andes, monitoring his every move and controlling events from afar.  In the ten issues collected here, little detail is given about this group, or even about Aztek himself.

Perhaps this is the one fault in Morrison’s writing.  He is great at recreating characters and putting his own unique spin on them.  However, most of the time he’s working with previously established characters and backstories. He might tweak the details, but the core history often remains the same.  He’s given a jumping-off point, at least.

When creating a character from scratch, however, Morrison’s subtleties and drawn-out storylines are a bit of a hindrance.  There isn’t a ready-made fan base for the character yet, and so there has to be something to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading.

Morrison’s skills lie elsewhere, perhaps explaining why this 10-issue collection was the whole of Aztek’s run.  Some of the artwork was alright, particularly the depictions of the Joker.

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However, much of the artwork felt a little flat, and there was simply too much going on in this trade to follow along.  I never found myself too concerned with what happened to Aztek, nor did I ever feel like I understood who he was.  Developing some sort of emotional connection between your reader and the character, be it love, hatred, or fear, is key in creating a popular comic, and with Aztek Morrison fell a little short.

I don’t hold this against him, as there are plenty of other Morrison comics that I’ve absolutely loved, but as far as this storyline goes, it hardly feels essential.  If anything its sole purpose is providing a little context for when Aztek pops up in Morrison’s run on the JLA.

I was disappointed to have not enjoyed this comic more, having gone into it with such high hopes.  Alas, Morrison has simply proven that like all the greats, he’s not perfect, and is capable of writing a less-than-stellar comic.  Still, the rest of his work vastly overshadows this minor misstep, and I still maintain that he’s one of the best writers around.

-Jess

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