Jupiter’s Legacy 1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist/Cover: Frank Quitely
Colors: Peter Doherty
Published by Image Comics
In Jupiter’s Legacy, two legendary comics creators come together to tell a multi-generational superhero epic for the 21st century. The story isn’t as dark and dystopian as Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, and it’s not as sentimental as Kingdom Come. It is also is a bit of a slow burn with only one “fight scene”. Most of the conflict in this issue comes from clashing views among different “good” characters. And characterization is a strength of this issue which borrows from both classical mythology and modern American superhero comics with a splash of adventure stories at the beginning.
This issue had some of Mark Millar’s most well-balanced characters since Superman: Red Son. He is known for examining the darker side of iconic heroes, like Wolverine, Iron Man, and Captain America in his previous work, but in Legacy, Millar creates a character named Utopian and his brother Walter, who uses his telepathy to make villain takedowns less painful. Walter wants to use his power to make reforms in the government while Utopian wants to keep the status quo. They also chat a bit about their parenting techniques with Utopian’s wife Grace. I don’t think I’ve ever read a scene like that in a superhero comic. In contrast, the next generation of superheroes may seem more one dimensional with their partying, drug use, and aversion to any kind of heroic activities.
But Millar also does a great job of placing his heroes in the real world. The Great Depression and current Recession are real events that impact both humans and metahumans. The main hero, Sheldon Sampson, is a venture capitalist who loses everything in the 1929 crash and goes to a mysterious “dream” island in 1932. He lives up to his superhero moniker (Utopian) and trusts politicians and wants his hedonistic son Brandon to follow in his footsteps. Brandon and Sheldon are foils because Brandon thinks that his father, mother, and uncle have defeated all the big villains back in the “golden age”. This cynical attitude could be a small jab at comic book fans by Millar and Quitely that all the great superhero stories have already been told. Unlike in Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns, where the younger heroes are more violent than the older ones, Jupiter’s Legacy‘s youthful heroes-in-training are apathetic slackers and socialites. This could be a social commentary on the difference between the “Greatest Generation” that survived the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and the current generation which is said to be more entitled.
The plot in Jupiter’s Legacy 1 isn’t particularly action packed as the mystery of the island cuts to Utopian and his daughter Chloe waving to the press on a red carpet. However, there definitely is tension and conflict in this book. Quitely does a great job cutting panels to show the intensity of the political debate between Utopian and Walter. There are also smaller ideological debates like Walter’s son Jules getting demoted from the main superhero team for hooking up with a girl he saved, and Brandon losing endorsements because he doesn’t save enough people. This story just scratches the surface of the idea of what superheroes would be like if they lived in the “real world”. Basically, they’re celebrities, which is a concept that Millar explored in Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men and will hopefully flesh out more in this book.
Frank Quitely’s art is a real treat. He makes the older heroes (Utopian, Grace, Walter) look like Olympian deities with their chiseled jawlines, trimmed beards, and still strong bodies. These visual cues help solidify the mythological elements of Jupiter’s Legacy. Like Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Quitely uses a consistent panel structure. He uses widescreen panels, like his earlier work on New X-Men and Bryan Hitch’s work on Ultimates to cement the connection with 21st century superhero comics. Each panel moves the story forward, and he draws only one splash page which signifies the change between the Golden and Modern Ages of superheroes. Quitely uses subtle background elements, like news reports of financial crises, unemployment, and moral decline juxtaposed with partying superheroes, to add layers to Mark Millar’s script.
Jupiter’s Legacy 1 does a great job establishing the characters in a world, not unlike our own. If the plot picks up and Millar and Quitely continue to develop the themes hinted here, this book could be the first “epic” of the 2010s and supersede any big superhero event that Marvel or DC will put out