Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
Release Date: April 24, 2013
To the Roman Empire, Jupiter was a sky-bound god who dominated pagan belief until the rise of Christianity in the fourth century. Like his Greek predecessor Zeus, this theological nexus commanded an entire society’s mindspace by absorbing prayers and sacrifices while navigating a winding mythology of excess lovers, jealous wives, and rebellious children. When the Romans spied a massive hydrogen sphere that illuminated the night, they named it Jupiter. How could they not? And just like their god surrounded by a tangled celestial family, this great planet supported a churning halo of satellites — the largest family in the entire solar system. These satellites were some of the first objects to appear in a telescope; two of them are larger than the Earth’s moon. Jupiter and its warring bodies governed creation both in ideology and physicality for an incredibly long time on an absolute scale.
Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s smart new venture, Jupiter’s Legacy, is also about gods, children, and satellites. The first page opens with a troop of adventuring academics seeking to end The Great Depression through an expedition to a mysterious island off the coast of Cape Verde. The caravan finds the island, inexplicably gains superpowers, returns to America, and saves everything and everyone they can. The entire Golden Age of comic books takes three panels to explain before bleeding into the destitute modern age, or in Millar’s case, the postmodern age. Though the old guard, led by stalwart Superman analogue The Utopian, maintains its vigilance and integrity, their equally-powered progency fights for lucrative endorsement deals and interstellar cocaine. The kids definitely aren’t alright.
As with his best work in The Authority, Superman: Red Son, and The Ultimates, Millar skillfully manipulates concepts and analogies into engaging narratives. His muse is the news; behind Millar’s Technicolor parade of spandex lays the headlines and social sinew of reality. At his worst, the Scottish author defaults to anarchistic superhero exploitation, relying on vulgarity and ultraviolence to reflect a punky nihilism as deep as a baby pool (exhibit alpha & omega: the last page of Wanted). Jupiter’s Legacy definitely embraces the former, and while it may dabble in the latter, it does so smartly and with reason.
The quarter-life trust-fund fodder of Jupiter may be disgusting, but it’s not difficult to empathize with them. The Utopian’s children Brandon and Chloe make terrible decisions, abuse their power for sex and drugs, and avoid the heroic conflict their parents pursue. But they’re certainly not happy, and their inactivity isn’t without reason. After whoring out for an endorsement, the panty-strutting Chloe puts it best as she describes her inert relationship with her Super Mom: “I thought she’d be pleased about my charity foundation, but all she wants is me punching people in the face. I’m not going to hurt someone because they contradict our belief system.” And is she wrong? The greatest super-generation may have thrown haymakers at ornate super villains, but the economic decay of 2013 mirrors the same terminal discord of The Great Depression. What lasting change did “superheroes” create? One of the veteran elite even states “The Global Economy’s hanging by a thread and we’re still just out there wrestling like children. Doesn’t this give you a horrific sense of impotence?”
None of these queries is particularly new. Mark Millar has even addressed these issues in comic books written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Frank Quitely (his work is phenomenal as always, by the way). But there’s a refinement, intelligence, and restraint (yes, even with that ending),that makes this introductory chapter feel big in a way few comics do. The characters are big, the conflicts are big, and most importantly, the questions are big. Jupiter’s Legacy continues the mythological themes that lie at its core with grace and intrigue, though we’ll see if Millar can bring the narrative complexity he produced in his younger days and if Quitely (and Millar) can maintain a monthly schedule (Image has clarified that Jupiter’s Legacy will run on a bimonthly schedule). As is, Jupiter’s Legacy can’t help but suck you into its trajectory the more its characters drift apart.