Jupiter's Legacy, Book One [ePub]

by Mark Millar

1930s: Sheldon Sampson leads a group, including his brother Walter and girlfriend Grace, to an island that doesn’t appear on any maps and that he’s only seen in his dreams. They find it and gain superpowers from aliens - as you do.

Present day: Sheldon and Grace’s kids, Chloe and Brandon, are spoilt celebrity brats, leeching off of their parents’ fame, the two greatest superheroes that ever were. It’s tough to follow that legacy so they don’t do anything superheroic, preferring to do drugs, drink, screw groupies, and chase sponsorship deals.

Feeling emasculated after a public quarrel with his dad, Brandon jumps at his uncle Walter’s suggestion that they do away with Sheldon, the Superman of this world, who’s adamant that superheroes should stay out of politics, the economy, etc. But superheroes have so much more to offer than saving the world from Darkseid-esque villains... right?

The idea of “the superhero fixing real world problems from a position of power” has been done before, and better, in Warren Ellis’ The Authority (which Mark Millar wrote a few issues of, way back when), so Jupiter’s Legacy doesn’t really offer up anything original. In fact, there’s nothing original about this book! It’s a collection of other pop culture artefacts like the Star Wars prequels and Marvel’s Civil War (also written by Millar), with shades of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

I remember reading an interview before this comic came out where Millar said he was inspired by Carrie Fisher’s autobiography (another Star Wars reference!) where she talked about growing up in the shadow of two celebrity parents. The stress of feeling that she had to live up to them led her to find escape with drugs. Except Millar doesn’t really explore this angle enough with Chloe and Brandon. We see them partying while their parents are off saving the world, then later the parents and kids arguing, and that’s about it. Real insightful!

Millar then drops that idea entirely to do his Authority rip-off which, again, is surface-level only and unsatisfying. Duuh, turns out superheroes aren’t better at fixing the world than politicians! Then he turns to writing Civil War - again! The fast-moving story - and it jumps from the 1930s to the present day to 10 years from now really quickly - doesn’t help either so it reads like very superficial episodes barely strung together into a cohesive thread.

Evil uncle Walter uses young Brandon so deftly, manipulating him to suit his plans so easily, that it felt like the Palpatine/Anakin relationship in Revenge of the Sith. He’s clearly evil, why are you listening to him!? Why does Brandon - and every single superhero in existence - so readily agree to murder the Utopian and his wife? Because he was sometimes bossy and stopped his drunken son from accidentally killing innocent people? He’s Walter’s brother and Brandon’s father but they very casually decide to just kill him - it makes no sense! Unless you want to make the argument that Walter’s using his psychic powers to influence them all, a la the Emperor using the Force to influence Anakin’s decisions (if that was the case).

And, as if the Star Wars influence wasn’t already felt enough, one of the characters has a lightsaber - but of course it’s not called that, it’s a “power rod”!

Then, just like that, we’re right back into, arguably Millar’s most famous storyline, Civil War, where the Marvel Universe was divided into those who were willing to unmask and register their identities with the government (led by Tony Stark) and those who weren’t (led by Captain America). This aspect is almost worse than the Star Wars prequel stuff because Millar actually wrote Civil War and he’s simply repeating himself with his own set of cheap superhero characters. It’s so lazy and derivative!

As for the Man of Steel stuff, those are all spoilers so I’ll leave them out in this review, but the references couldn’t be more obvious and they come off just as dumb on the page as they did on the big screen.

While I largely disliked Millar’s script, I’ll give him this: Chloe and Hutch’s escape sequence was very exciting and well done – though that was helped enormously by the artist’s contributions.

Which brings me to the best part of Jupiter’s Legacy: Frank Quitely.

Quitely is one of my all-time favourite comics artists. Most comics, I’ll look for the writer’s name on the cover - Quitely is one of the few artists whose books I’ll pick up regardless of who wrote it.

I love the use of space in Quitely’s panels - not outer space but the room he gives his characters and their environment. There’s always a lot of room to breathe, they’re never over-cluttered - it’s almost zen in approach! The action is drawn superbly, the characters’ expressions are almost unnaturally real in how arresting they are, Walter’s psychic constructs were beautifully rendered in showing how they’re “built”, and I loved the futuristic designs of the totalitarian flying craft and the aliens.

If I have one complaint about Quitely’s work on this comic, it’s the superheroes’ outfits. Utopian’s costume looks like pyjamas and nearly all the women dress like strippers. For reference, think of Emma Frost in New X-Men - that.

Jupiter’s Legacy (who’s Jupiter?) is Millar’s best comic of the last couple years but that’s not saying much considering his output has been poor to abysmal (Kick Ass 3, Secret Service, MPH, Starlight). It’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of Quitely’s art and the story doesn’t bore all of the time, but it’s not a great comic either.

03.09.2010

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