The Authority‘s Mark Millar and Frank Quitely have teamed up again to dissect the superhero genre as well as the American family and economy in Jupiter’s Legacy.
Issue #3 of the ten issue series drops on Wednesday, September 25 from Image Comics.
This edition of Cosmic Treadmill takes a look at the first act of Millar’s unusually lengthy mini-series that dips into the Golden Age of comics at the same time it looks at the present and how comic heroes might act under present conditions.
Back in April, I presented this review of issue one.
I wasn’t that thrilled with what the first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy had to offer, in fact I had some harsh criticisms about the introduction of Chloe and her drug overdose at the end of the issue. After reading some interviews with Mr. Millar and reading the next two issues, I still stand by what I said about this being a tough introduction to the storyline, but found more to enjoy from the story after reading issues #2 and #3.
Before delving into the plot points and sophisticated deconstruction of the genre we’re shown in the book, let’s note the artwork. We all know Frank Quitely beautifully renders clothing and costumes in a realistic way, and in an expansion of his talents, Jupiter’s Legacy gives us a wide-screen view of some sophisticated scenery and fight scenes with effortless detail, complex backgrounds and even a bit of gore.
Pacing throughout the books, with Millar’s trademark huge beat cliffhangers at the end of issues #2 and #3 are spectacularly drawn pinups making you crave the next panels to move the story along.
Long haired anti-hero and son of Utopian Brandon Sampson looks eerily similar the artist as a young man, almost as much as his Dick Grayson likeness.
Great to see the artist in his work, all complimented by colorist, letterer and book designer Peter Doherty (2000 AD) on these pages for a soft tangible feel to the world, coupled with naturalistic tones on for the backgrounds.
Mark Millar’s works are among the best in comics in the past twenty years. His success bringing Wanted and two adaptations of Kick-Ass to the big screen, plus numerous rights options to his recent properties like Nemesis, Secret Service and Supercrooks continue to prove his stories can exist beyond the page.
Looking at Jupiter’s Legacy, I personally don’t see such an easy translation to the big screen, mostly because the premise might be hard to pitch to Hollywood. “Its a parody of a mix between The Avengers and Man of Steel if they were all on the same team and had kids, and now the kids are grown up and have powers of their own”. That wouldn’t do well in a Paramount executive office.
Jupiter’s Legacy serves and talks to the language of comics and creates dynamic meta-commentary on the whole. Morrison did this with his Action Comics run, Kirkman continues to do this with Invincible (month after month) and other indie creators, such as the crew at ComiXTribe tackle this existing outside of the mainstream bundle. I don’t picture Millar pitching this to anyone besides comic book and superhero fans and fans of his work.
The series introduces heroes getting powers in the 1930s after going to an island west of Cape Verde. Inexplicably, everyone on the trip leaves the island with costumes and powers.
Flash forward to the present day and the two leaders of the super hero team are brothers that went to the island together.
The super strong Utopian, Sheldon Sampson and powerful psychic brother Walter Sampson lead a superhero team against alien forces and advise the government on how to get out of a deep recession, respectively. Some of their sons are following suit with the family business but Utopian’s daughter Chloe has gotten knocked up by the son of the world’s first super villain, and his son Brandon has chosen a life of drinking in clubs and complaining and troublemaking rather than being a hero.
The book reads much like an event book, with large scale battles in every issue, plenty of conflict and real consequences to everyone’s actions. The analog characters to our familiar heroes in the Marvel and DC universes make it easy to mentally replace the Utopian with Superman, etc., and just go along for the ride. Books like Paul Jenkin’s Deathmatch or Peter Tomasi’s The Mighty do the same thing (see also, Mark Waid’s Irredemable and Alan Moore and Eric Larsen on Supreme) to take the good-guy-gone-bad trope to the next level. Not only is Millar commenting on good guys vs. baddies in comics but also extends this further to comment on how we read universe spanning event books and try as readers to follow the comic book industry carrot.
As issue #3 introduces major conflict going into the second act of the story, references to The Kent Farm, Reed and Sue’s kids, and the savage ending to this year’s Man of Steel sit side by side to pages seemingly torn out of Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, albeit with a humor and bloodlust of Mark Millar’s intricate storytelling.
My first impressions of issue #1 are now colored by the tapestry laid out before us, like the map of the mysterious island shown in Utopian’s dream. I see a complex world being created and torn down in Jupiter’s Legacy.
The series is commenting on the industry—intentionally or not—and since reading and understanding Morrison’s Supergods I have a greater appreciation for work like this. That’s not to say you need to approach this book with any pretense or intellectualizing at all. This is an action packed superhero fight book with a conflict between interesting heroes and antiheroes at the source. You won’t be able to grab this on ComiXology day and date so head to the store to get caught up on Jupiter’s Legacy.
We’ll be back in a few months with an update as the story goes along.