These days, they’re competing titans of the comic industry, but once upon a time, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were writing partners in the DC Universe.  As you’d expect, though, their stories occupied one of the weirder corners of that world…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Aztek, The Ultimate Man #1 awaits!


Writer: Grant Morrison & Mark Millar
Penciler: N. Steven Harris
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Mike Danza
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.75
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Aztek, The Ultimate Man: Though the Crisis On Infinite Earths made major changes to the DC Universe, it was the madness of the Zero Hour Crisis that really threw things into disarray.  Batman had been crippled, Superman killed, Wonder Woman replaced by Artemis…  Vigilantes with high-tech weaponry and no mercy whatsoever patrolled the streets, and even heroes like Robin and Green Lantern had embraced a more lethal modus operandi.  Into this world came the man who would be known as… Aztek!

In the city of Vanity, a mostly retired super-villain named Curtis Falconer meets with the local kingpins of crime…

After having the gall to mock his old-school villain garb and gimmicks, Falconer’s new “friends” explain to him that his daughter, currently in their clutches, will be safe so long as he follows their instructions.  As The Piper, he will go on a mission for them, discovering that Vanity is, in his own words, “not a nice place at all.”  Elsewhere in the city, another newcomer to Vanity is getting used to his new stomping grounds…

Having been dispatched to the city as part of his ultimate mission, a goal for which he had trained his whole life, the man called Uno has to find himself an identity, a job, and a place to stay, hopefully well under the radar, so that he can monitor the menace that is rising in the city’s labyrinthine streets…

Making his way through the city, he finds it cramped and hostile, but even Uno can’t believe that what happens next is a coincidence.  Entering a local bank, he encounters The Piper in the middle of a robbery, only to have the entire thing interrupted by local vigilante/murderous thug, Bloodtype!

A brutal gun-toting 90s-style hero, Bloodtype is more than a match for Piper’s ambulatory Meerschaum’s, destroying the tiny walking pipes (their screams are pretty terrible, to be honest) and critically injuring the villain in a show of excessive force.  It’s the kind of thing that would make a real hero get involved, if one happened to be present.

Funny thing about that…

Piper takes the distraction as a moment to escape, only to be cut down by a fusillade of Bloodtype’s bullets.  Uno immediately steps in, only to be targeting by a volley of explosive shells from the “hero” of Vanity.  His armor proves up to the task (and by the way, Champagne and Harris make his armor look *amazing* in every panel, all the while undermining the tropes and costuming excesses of the 90s era) and he once meets Bloodtype’s aggression with equal skill and power…

Uno uses his powers cleverly, causing Bloodtype to take HIMSELF out in a non-lethal manner, using the vigilante’s weapons against him, cementing himself as a hero who doesn’t subscribe to bloody vigilante justice (a refreshing change of pace in the 90s, even in the DCU.)

Amazingly, our hero turns his attention to the badly injured villain, only to find his injuries too severe.  The Piper, for his part, has a desperate plea to the shiny new hero…

Before anyone can respond, though, another walking pipe appears, one that Piper doesn’t recognize.  The creature detonates, destroying the bank and causing massive mayhem, including massive injuries for Bloodtype and traumatic wounds to dozens of civilians.  Traveling with the first responders, Uno (now out of costume) helps to tend to the wounded, working triage as they arrive at the local hospital…

Having caught the attention of the doctors and paramedics, Uno identifies himself as Dr. Curtis Falconer, using the information that Piper gave him and his own healing training to take Piper’s place as the newest doctor in Vanity.  Having taken over the life of Curt Falconer, including his home and job, Uno realizes that he’s found not only one job to keep him occupied, but TWO…

Though he doesn’t yet go by Aztek in this issue, Uno’s story is a compelling one.  The nature of his mission (he’s been sent to stop the literal end of the world as an agent of Quetzalcoatl, with Tezcatlipoca somewhere in Vanity what might have been coincidence in these pages a literal Deus Ex Machina) is fascinating and weird among the heroes of DC, and his valor quickly earns him a place in the fabled Justice League Of America.  As first issues go, this one is a corker, and I remember both Otter Disaster and I being fascinated by it back in ’96, combining as it does Morrison’s love of secret societies and gods moving in the shadows with Millar’s love of irredeemable humans and their own follies.  Aztek, The Ultimate Man #1 is a winner that reads even better in hindsight, with strange-but-engaging art, a premise that eschews much of the then-current wisdom of how to do superheroes and a really great design, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  If you haven’t read this series, I recommend doing so as, even truncated by cancellation, it’s among the best work of either of its writers…



A compelling story, a weird setting and some well ahead of its time peculiar art make for a great first issue...

User Rating: 3.7 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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