Anghus Houvouras reviews the first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy…
“The comic-book event of 2013 finally arrives as superstar creators MARK MILLAR and FRANK QUITELY give us the superhero epic that all future comics will be measured by. The world’s greatest heroes have grown old and their legacy is a poisonous one to the children who will never live up to their remarkable parents. Unmissable.“
One of the aspects of modern comics that I find the most interesting is the meta style analysis of superheroes. Modern writers have spent a lot of time and effort analyzing the medium. There’s a lot of comics out there that break down the medium to a microscopic level finding stories that say as much about the people writing them (or reading them in some cases) than the characters portrayed in them.
Mark Millar is a writer whose work I enjoy. Though there are familiar patterns woven through his work which are ridiculously easy to spot. First off, he’s a pop culture guru. He’s keen on working in a lot of references that let you know his fingers are close to the cultural pulse. Second, he greatly enjoys skewing the medium and analyzing it to an almost microscopic level. His latest title, Jupiter’s Legacy, is no exception.
Like Kick-Ass and Wanted, Jupiter’s Legacy has that familiar feeling. The word “meta” seems very appropriate. From the opening panels, you have a feeling that you’ve been here before. We’re introduced to Sheldon Sampson, a man determined to find a mystical island that haunts him. After the stock market crash of 1929, he feels the need to help revitalize America, which he believes to be “the best idea the world ever had.” He brings a crew of friends and colleagues on a journey and discovers this secret destination. Something happens on the island that grants the visitors special abilities. From this event, superheroes are born.
After a chunk of exposition, we’re transported to modern times where we see the children of these great heroes living a privileged life of entitlement. As the offspring of the world’s greatest heroes, they are instant celebrities and live the kind of life you would expect a child of someone famous to have. They drink, party, and hang out in the VIP section of clubs. Unlike their parents, Chloe and Brandon have no moral compass compelling them to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.
Meanwhile, their more socially conscious parents fight a villain named Blackstar and we get a glimpse of the Super Hero team that has protected the world for the last eighty years. Sampson is now The Utopian, the proverbial Superman of the bunch. They take down Blackstar with some innovative tactics including the reality bending powers of Sampson’s brother Walter. After defeating the villain, an argument ensues about just what these super powered beings should be doing. The Utopian is a line towing icon who believes their job is to serve the elected officials and let the system work itself out. Walter suggests that they should be using their powers to steer the course of human history instead of merely serving it.
I liked the first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy, though I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that this felt like oft travelled territory. The kind of story that Millar has delved deeply into before with mixed results. Kick-Ass analyzes the idea of real people as superheroes. Wanted was a dissertation on fandom. So many of Millar’s stories fall into that Elsewords/What If mold. Jupiter’s Legacy feels like it will fall into that same pattern. I’m not sure if I should fault Jupiter’s Legacy for feeling so familiar. You know this is Millar from the first few pages. His trademark is all over this title. If you’re a fan of Millar, this is no brainer. If you don’t dig his meta-style approach to storytelling, you might check out early.
And let me just say that Frank Quietly is the greatest artist working in comics today. His panels have so much life and energy. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how much I dig his style. For Quietly alone I’ll continue to read this book.
I enjoyed Jupiter’s Legacy. Solid writing, fantastic art, and an interesting if not horribly original premise. It’s still way early, and the potential is there for Millar to take this to some unique places. But there’s part of me that is starting to tire of this all too frequent deconstruction of the medium.
Reservations aside, Jupiter’s Legacy is worth checking out.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the graphic novel EXE: Executable File, is available from Lulu.com.