Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Aztek

Go To
Meet the new Savior of All Mankind.

"A hero for the New Millennium... if he lives that long!"

Aztek was a DC Comics superhero, who appeared in Aztek: The Ultimate Man and for a while was a member of the Justice League of America.

He was created by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, and debuted in 1996, at the tail end of The Dark Age of Comic Books — against which he stands as a reaction. Aztek is The Cape: brightly dressed, noble to a fault, the kind of superhero who will happily take the time to search for a lost pet or fly halfway across the country to persuade a sick child's favourite celebrity to come and visit.note  By way of contrast, Aztek: The Ultimate Man drops him into the kind of violent, crime-ridden urban setting one would expect to see a '90s Anti-Hero striding through. (It does, in fact, have a '90s Anti-Hero striding through it — up until halfway through issue 1, when he gets blown up by one of his many enemies.) Much trope-juggling ensues.

Uno was raised by a secret society to be the Champion of Quetzalcoatl and defend the world from the prophesied return of Tezcatlipoca; to this end he has been equipped with Charles Atlas Superpowers and a nifty white-and-gold supersuit. In the first issue of Aztek: The Ultimate Man, having finished his training, he arrives in Vanity City to await the fulfillment of the next part of the prophecy; after witnessing the explosive death of the city's official superhero, he adopts the identity of a man who was a collateral casualty of the explosion, and decides that superheroing would be a worthwhile use of his abilities while he's waiting for his true purpose to come knocking. In the second issue, the new hero is invited to become the city's new official superhero, and is dubbed "Aztek" by the media.

The series has a developing subplot about who really pulls the strings in the Q Society, and how they intend for Aztek to spend the waiting time.

Aztek: The Ultimate Man lasted only ten issues before being wiped out in The Great Comics Crash of 1996, but by then Aztek had already been established as a serious enough player to be invited into the Justice League of America, and his story continued in JLA (1997) (which, not entirely coincidentally, was being written at the time by Aztek's co-creator Grant Morrison). In the pages of JLA, Morrison finished out the string-pulling subplot, and ultimately had Aztek, the Justice League, and every other superpowered person on Earth unite against a world-threatening menace which was identified as the fulfillment of the Tezcatlipoca prophecy.

Years later, Steve Orlando continued Aztek's story by creating a new version of the character named Nayeli Constant in Justice League of America. Nayeli became Aztek after the helmet crashed into her apartment, updating her on everything that occurred with Uno and motivating her to move to Vanity City to finish his work. She later teams up with Wonder Woman so they can stop Tezcatlipoca from making a return (a nod to how Wonder Woman twice fought the god in the Pre-Crisis continuity Wonder Woman).

Aztek's adventures provide examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Only the major plot arc was continued into JLA; somewhere up to half a dozen subsidiary arcs dropped out of sight when Aztek: The Ultimate Man was canceled (although they weren't completely aborted; the implication was that they still played out off-panel). The final issue of Aztek takes the time to explicitly Sequel Hook every one of them, in what might charitably be considered a reminder that Aztek's story wasn't ending just because the series was (or, less charitably, as an annoying tease).
  • Ancient Tradition: The Q Society has existed for centuries and created people like Aztek to prepare for the eventual fight against Tezcatlipoca ever since.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Julia Frostick's fiancé in the eighth issue responds to the claim of Dr. Curtis Falconer being Aztek by joking that he is Impulse and that they're later going to team up to fight Bane.
  • Arc Welding: In a late issue, it's retroactively announced that many of the events of the series to that point were set up by the Q Society's backer to turn Aztek's life down a particular path. This is not entirely plausible in the details.
  • Body Horror: Coldsnap and Heatstroke were lovers who couldn't touch each other due to their powers. An experimental procedure to rectify this went horribly wrong and fused them together in one grotesque body, making them "Heatsnap."
  • The Cape: Aztek is a noble and idealistic hero who dresses in bright colors and does things like fly halfway across the country to persuade a sick child's favourite celebrity to come and visit.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Even without his helmet, Aztek has powers at the peak of human capability due to his life-long training regimen.
  • Clark Kenting: Subverted. When Aztek reveals his dual identity to the female lead Dr. Julia Frostick, she tells him she'd already figured it out, and points out that he doesn't change his voice or body language at all. Apparently, the only reason more people haven't figured it out is that most of the people who've met Curt Falconer haven't met Aztek, and vice versa.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: His helmet gives him his powers.
  • Comic-Book Time: The late Curtis Falconer is established to have been active as the supervillain the Piper during the 1960s, and his letter to his daughter at the end of the first issue has him reminisce on battles with Elongated Man and the Atom, neither of whom showed any indication of aging at the time.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In issue 7, there's a promotional poster of a boxing match between Bibbo Bibbowski and Ted Grant.
    • In the final issue of Aztek, it is revealed that the JLA has a ceremony of sorts for new members, which involves the costume of the Crimson Avenger, "the first of [their] kind".
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Q Society's main sponsor is Lex Luthor.
  • Crossover: Aztek has several team-ups with other DC heroes, including with Green Lantern and Batman, leading up to Aztek's induction into the JLA.
  • Dark Age of Supernames: Bloodtype and Death-Doll (who used to be Mr. America and Liberty Lass before their lives took a dark turn).
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Aztek's civilian identity, Curtis Falconer. He witnessed the death of the real Curtis Falconer shortly after arriving in the city.
  • Disposable Love Interest: Nurse Joy Page has the start of a romantic relationship with Curt/Aztek before being horribly killed by the Lizard King.
  • Distaff Counterpart: In issue 8 there's a female training to be Aztek's "backup". She never appears again in regular continuity, but has a guest appearance in the Bad Future of the "Rock of Ages" storyline featured in Grant Morrison's run on JLA (1997).
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: After being blinded by Mageddon and reviving Orion to continue fighting, Aztek helped deal a mortal blow against Mageddon by detonating his suit inside the core to try to free Superman.
  • Evil Running Good: In the present day, the Q Society is heavily dependent on financial support from a wealthy sponsor who is revealed partway through the run to be Lex Luthor. To be fair, he genuinely wants them to succeed in their task of saving the world from Tezcatlipoca, but until Tezcatlipoca shows up he intends to take full advantage of effectively owning his own superhero.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The Q Society's main sponsor is Lex Luthor, who is no keener on seeing the world destroyed by Tezcatlipoca than any of its more altruistic members.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The Q Society is actively maintaining the secret of Aztek's origins, and is not above sending in a Memory-Wiping Crew if someone learns something they shouldn't.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Bloodtype and Death-Doll were both patriotically themed superheroes who initially came to Vanity looking to spread a little hope before they were in an accident that destroyed most of their bodies and their minds. They were later reconstructed by the CIA, though Bloodtype was still covered in bandages and Death-Doll thought she looked like a giant Barbie doll.
  • Fish out of Water: Aztek is a noble idealistic superhero in a cynical urban setting more suited to a '90s Anti-Hero. He was also raised in a remote secret lair, so he's out of touch with a lot of modern society. In one issue, it has to be explained to him that a restaurant menu is a set of options, not a description of the entire meal.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: After Aztek: The Ultimate Man was cut short, the main storyline was wrapped up in Grant Morrison's run on JLA (1997), where Aztek eventually gave his life to save the day in the concluding "World War III" arc.
  • God in Human Form: When Quetzalcoatl returns, he'll possess Aztek, who was trained to be his "vessel".
  • Good Wears White: The titular hero wears white and gold.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Lizard King, on realizing the "truth" about the Q Society, becomes a mentally disturbed wreck.
  • Hair Color Dissonance: It's unclear whether Uno has blond hair or light brown hair.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Heatstroke and Coldsnap loved each other but couldn't touch, so they stole money for a procedure that ended up turning them into Heatsnap.
  • Last Words: "Tell them I did my duty."
  • Legacy Character: Nayeli Constant, the new Aztek following Uno in the post-Rebirth universe.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Lampshaded and subverted in issue 2 with Kyle Rayner.
    Aztek: Good, well, now that we've passed the predictable fight superheroes are obliged to have when they first meet and established the fact that I'm not a villain, maybe we can get down to business here. Friends?
  • Lobotomy: Julia Frostick is concerned when her fiancé suddenly has no memory of Aztek's real identity, and then notices he has a rather large scar on the side of his head giving an idea of what the Q Society's Memory-Wiping Crew is capable of.
  • Mad Scientist: Fixit invents dangerous weapons that he sells to supervillains.
  • Malicious Misnaming: The sixth issue has the Joker refer to Aztek as "Ass-tek".
  • Mayincatec: Aztek's backstory and costume design. During the conference where Aztek gets his name, one person points out that his costume resembles Incan, but everyone else decides on Aztek because Inca doesn't sound cool.
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: The Q Society has members whose job is to erase memories of witnesses, which occasionally gets sent in to reinforce The Masquerade.
  • Missing Mom: Aztek's mother made a brief appearance in issue 10. She's is alive and well in the suburbs of Vanity.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: While waiting for Curt for their date, Joy gets bothered by a guy thinking she's "hustling".
  • Mood-Swinger: Piper's daughter set up her kidnapping and is working for the mob. She apparently has no love for her father, but in the first issue she was there when her father died and walked away in tears. She ends up getting killed by her boyfriend Synch.
  • Mood Whiplash: The comic switches between drama and humor.
  • Mythology Gag: The seventh issue reveals that the Joker was using the Burroughs cut-up technique to commit crimes by flinging around words cut out of a magazine and committing crimes depending on what the words spell. Morrison had used the Burroughs technique in his first two Doom Patrol arcs.
  • Nightmare Face: Heatsnap. They were once two people, Heatstroke and Coldsnap, before they were horribly merged into one body. They now share a head, among other things.
  • Nineties Antihero: Parodied with Bloodtype, deconstructed with Death-Doll.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In issue 7, near the Bibbo vs. Ted Grant poster is another poster promoting K. Rielly The Album.
  • No Social Skills: Aztek, who up to the start of the series has spent pretty much his entire life in the Q Society's secret lair. In one issue, it has to be explained to him that a restaurant menu is a set of options, not a description of the entire meal.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The voices the Lizard King hears from Aztek's helmet.
    "It conjures up devilish faces or"
    "A boy named Juan may thwart a witch"
    • Whatever happened to Mr. America and Liberty Lass that turned them into Bloodtype and Death-Doll.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Julia Frostick, the main female character, fits the role that would normally be the love interest, but already has a boyfriend and isn't interested in ditching him for Uno. The series sets up a couple of Ship Tease/Will They or Won't They? moments only to immediately subvert them.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mrs. Rodman's reaction when her daughter-in-law mentions her husband dreaming about an "imaginary brother".
  • The Order: The Q Society (also known as the Q Foundation and the Q Brotherhood).
  • The Pawn: The storyline involving how Aztek and the Q Society are being manipulated by the Q Society's main sponsor, which comes to a head in the JLA series.
  • Profanity Police: One of the Piper's robotic pipe minions berates a civilian for swearing.
  • Psycho Prototype: One of the villains Aztek fights, the Lizard King, turns out to be an earlier failed candidate for Champion of Quetzalcoatl.
  • Remember the New Guy?:
    • Mr. America and Liberty Lass, superheroes that were never mentioned in the DCU before until the first issue.
    • Curtis Falconer is forced to resume his supervillain identity the Piper, who is said to have been active during the 1960s and to have fought Elongated Man and the Atom, when there was no indication he existed prior to his debut in this comic's first issue.
  • Secret Identity: Played with.
    • Aztek, it turns out, isn't as good at keeping his civilian identity secret as he thinks he is, succeeding from a combination of the Q Society cleaning up behind him and the fact that most people really don't care that much.
    • Mr. America and Liberty Lass, in the backstory, were a married superhero couple who didn't know each other's secret identities.
  • Secret-Keeper: Julia Frostick.
  • Shapeshifter: Synch can shape-shift.
  • Shout-Out: One of the questions asked in the superhero registration in issue 2 is: "Have you been bitten by anything radioactive?"
  • Starter Villain: Piper, AKA the real Curtis Falconer, who is forced to commit a robbery to save his daughter and is killed in an explosion at the end of the first issue, but not before tasking Aztek with protecting his daughter.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: Bloodtype uses guns.
  • Super Registration Act: Kind of. It's established in issue 2 that, although superheroes in general don't require registration, becoming a city's Official Superhero entails filling out a standard registration form with questions like "Do you have any archenemies we should know about?". Even then, it's explicitly noted that the questions relating to secret identity are optional. There's also registration forms for extraterrestrial superheroes and former supervillains, and another form for if they're interested in seeking a teenage sidekick.
  • Super-Soldier: Aztek, his father and the Lizard King were all the results of a project intended to create a powerful warrior to fight against the Shadow God.
  • Tangled Family Tree: In addition to his mother, Aztek also has a brother named Lawrence (or half-brother if his mother's married, since her name is Mrs. Rodman). Lawrence is married and they have a baby. His wife mentions to his mother that he's been dreaming about an "imaginary brother"...
  • Technical Pacifist: According to what he wrote in his registration, he was "taught to respect ALL life", and would kill as a "last resort."
  • Tell Me About My Father: Uno wanted the Lizard King to tell him about what happened to his father. But the helmet killed him before he could say anything.
  • Together in Death: Very brutal, and very dark. In issue #2, after Bloodtype's funeral, his girlfriend, Death-doll, goes after Aztek to kill him in revenge. During the fight (which happens near Bloodtype's grave), a graverobber hits her wrists with a spade, which causes her teleportation devices to malfunction. After she tries to escape via her wrist devices, her body materializes inside the angel effigy on her beloved's grave, effectively killing herself.
  • Tragic Villain: Death-Doll, who is slightly more sympathetic than Bloodtype since we're able to learn their backstories through her.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Death-Doll supposedly died at the end of the third issue, but would later show up in Wonder Woman when most of the male heroes and villains were turned into animals by Circe, leading the female villains to go on a rampage while the heroines need to stop them. However, given that she was already in an accident and rebuilt by the CIA, it's possibly she was salvaged again.
  • Weirdness Censor: The Q Society employ active weirdness censors to help him out. Shouting out his secrets in the halls of his secret identity's workplace does nothing.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Lizard King fights Aztek and puts him through hell due to believing himself to be the more suitable opponent to face Tezcatlipoca.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": Issue three has Fixit refer to Death-Doll as a "witch" when complaining under his breath that he hates her.
  • Wretched Hive: Vanity City is explicitly described in one issue as being like Gotham City, only worse. It's hinted that the city's most influential architect deliberately included Alien Geometries in his work that cause mental instability, violent tendencies, etc. in the inhabitants. (This may have had something to do with the reason Aztek came to the city in the first place, but if so the series was canceled before the significance was revealed.) Alien geometries or not, it's certainly full of demonstrations of mental instability and violent tendencies, most dramatically with the city's former official hero Bloodtype and his girlfriend, both over-the-top '90s Anti-Heroes... who were both Patriotic Fervor heroes before they came to Vanity.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Exploited In-Universe. During its short comic run, Aztek teams up with Green Lantern (Kyle Rainer) and Batman (this time, against the Joker). Even non-electric Superman appears in an issue. Aztek's and Q Society's true sponsor, Lex Luthor, takes advantage of the situation to have three JLAers vouch for his membership in the last issue, which essentially makes him Luthor's plant inside the JLA.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Lampshaded and justified. The name "Aztek" is bestowed by a newspaper reporter, who deliberately spells it that way to make it 'cool'.
  • You Killed My Father: The Q Society killed Uno's father for falling in love with a woman. And tried to do in his backup when he refused to kill him, end up becoming the Lizard King as a result.