Jupiter’s Circle #1 is a prequel to Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s Jupiter’s Legacy, a superhero family saga with an epic sociopolitical scope. It shows what Utopian, Walter, and their friends in the Union were up to in the late-1950s during the time of Eisenhower, the early seasons of Mad Men, and the Silver Age of Comics when superheroes returned to prominence. Artist Wilfredo Torres captures the bright, cheery, and yes, cheesy feel of this era with the characters’ garish costumes, wacky gadgets, and the giant space squid (colored in an electric blue from Ive Svorcina) the team fights. However, writer Mark Millar goes beneath the lantern jawed faces, form-fitting tights, and fisticuffs to explore the heroes’ personalities. There are six members of Union, and there simply isn’t enough time to develop each character in a single issue, but Millar wisely spends most of his time focusing on Blue Bolt, a Starman-like superhero with a power rod, who happens to be a closeted gay man.
Jupiter’s Circle #1 introduces three new superheroes while also debuting the younger Utopian, Walter, and Lady Liberty, who sadly doesn’t get much to do. The most charming of the bunch is billionaire, non-powered hero George Hutchence (the father of Hutch in Jupiter’s Legacy), who gets witty one-liners and saves the day in the most bombastic way possible as Svorcina turns on the blues for his sonic boom device. Millar also gives him a laissez-faire attitude toward working with the government, which is similar to Tony Stark when he first debuted in the 1960s.
But the most original thing that Mark Millar and Wilfred Torres do in Jupiter’s Circle #1 is having an LGBTQ superhero in a period piece, who actually gets characterization beyond a few fleeting references like Silhouette in Watchmen. Millar draws an obvious parallel between being in the closet and having a secret identity and riffs on it even more by attacking the overly chaste nature of Silver Age DC Comics heroes, who were afraid of even heterosexual romantic relationships and the high moral pedestal public figures were put on then and even now. Torres’ art brings Blue Bolt’s feelings to life as his thoughts transitions from small town North Carolina to a post-coital cigarette and finally a superhero battle. Torres shows a kid give Blue Bolt his power rod back showing his vulnerability as well as his willingness to trust people.
Wilfredo Torres has nice range as an artist going from a stately superhero style in the opening pages that show the Union’s old headquarters and museum to a Rockwell-esque art style for the diner in North Carolina and then finally a thicker, shadowy line for the conspiracy thriller bits of the issue. He also fully commits to the Silver Age aesthetic of the superheroes and their foes. (The superhero fight is a wonderful tribute to the Justice League’s first fight against psychic starfish Starro.) Colorist Ive Svorcina makes the color schemes of these costumes different from other DC/Marvel/Charlton heroes of the time while still using them to tell readers something about the hero. For example, George’s costume is grey on grey with a wolf logo showing that he’s the most “edgy” of the bunch and isn’t afraid to use his superheroing to make a buck and win fortune and fame. (It’s also an obvious riff on Batman costume with Iron Man’s helmet as a mask.)
Since Watchmen, there have been a variety of superhero period pieces, including DC New Frontier, The Golden Age, Marvels, Project Superpowers, and more. Mark Millar and Wilfred Torres takes bits and pieces of these stories, especially the government conspiracy plot line and applies them to wholly original characters. However, they also play these Silver Age superhero stories straight with heroes kindly talking to bystanders and defeating extraterrestrial threats with no casualties. These are men and women who truly care about truth, justice, and the American way.
But Millar and Torres also acknowledge the problematic elements of this time, and Jupiter’s Circle #1 goes from good to great with their handling of the gay superhero Blue Bolt. Blue Bolt gets the most screen time of all the Union members, and Millar and Torres don’t shy away from showing the pain and pleasure in his personal and costumed life. He is a hero, who is forced by the fears and hatred of society to hide who he really is, and Millar and Torres don’t hide his life as a gay man under metaphors, which makes Jupiter’s Circle a much more personal and emotional than others that have dealt with similar things. Jupiter’s Circle #1 is Mark Millar’s best bit of social commentary since The Ultimates, and Blue Bolt is his best original creation since Hit-Girl. The comic is part Silver Age nostalgia trip (thanks to Wilfredo Torres and Ivorcina’s unflinchingly bright art work), part intimate character study, and a great superhero comic in general.