When this comic first appeared back in April 2013, there was quite the buzz surrounding it. It had both Mark Millar writing and Frank Quitely drawing, so it was naturally going to draw some people to it. I decided to hold off on reading it until I could get my hands on the first trade. Cut to April 2015, the first trade finally arrives (which only consists of five issues because the artist is so slow) and after all this time, we must ask two questions: Was the first arc of Jupiter’s Legacy worth the wait and, most importantly, is it good?
Jupiter’s Legacy Vol. 1 (Image Comics)
The year is 1932 and the Great Depression is running rampant throughout America. One day, Sheldon Sampson gets this vision of an island near Africa and travels there with a bunch of his friends and his brother, under the belief that going there will give them the opportunity to bring America out of this dark time. Going there grants them superhuman like powers (essentially making them superheroes) that gives them the opportunity to help the world and make it a better place.
Cut to 2013 and the world is about the same. There are still tons of economic issues and other types of problems that plague this world, though there are superheroes now, so there’s that. Sampson has since become this Superman-expy known as the Utopian and holds on more traditional, heroic views, not interfering with politics and letting others solve more normal issues (the kind that don’t require superhero assistance). His brother, Walter, is not as nice and wants to be more proactive, wanting to interfere with politics and help “fix” the world’s more difficult problems. There’s also Chloe and Brandon Sampson, the Utopian’s troubling making kids, who also have their own problems. Anyways, something bad is about to happen and you can probably guess where this may be going.
I dunno dude, I think I see someone else who is a bit more cynical than her.
Jupiter’s Legacy Vol. 1, after all this waiting, is an alright comic. It’s not great or amazing, though it is pretty good. There are plenty of things to like and find enjoyable, but there are also plenty of problems with it that hold it back from being anything too special or noteworthy in the long run. Let’s break this down overall.
The story of Jupiter’s Legacy Vol. 1 is a solid one: it starts off as a tale about aging ideals vs. modern ones when it comes to superheroes and dealing with real problems, with characters from different generations butting heads over what is the right way to do things. You see this through the Sampson family as the different generations talk, complain, confront one another, or espouse their own ideas about how to make things work. It’s ideas we’ve all heard before honestly (especially in some Millar comics) and it’s a bit slow-going at first with how much people talk and how much setup there is to establish with this world and its characters. None of it is bad, but it doesn’t feel like the most exciting way to start. However, things really start heating up and the story undergoes a massive change in the third chapter that’s pretty exciting.
The last two chapters of the book are where these themes are lessened and not discussed as much (they’re there, but it’s not as heavy as previously). The story’s focus at this point moves to Chloe and her new family in 2022 as they try to live under the new regime that Walter and Brandon have forced upon the world. The story is not as slow here as it is in the first half, even with the fourth issue just being more setup to establish the new status quo (which a lot of is tossed out of the window in the final issue of the volume). It again picks up in the last issue when things start getting exciting once more, but the ending feels a tad anti-climactic after such a hectic issue.
Oh my god, that woman with black hair has no nose!!
There are two last points to address with the story itself: its greatest strength and also probably its biggest weakness. The best thing the comic has going for it is the family aspect of the story with the Sampsons. Their dynamics and interactions with one another are pretty good for the most part (wish we could have seen more of what they were like before this point). You can see and understand why the kids are the way they are, what motivations each of them have and what they believe in, and you can sort of see everyone’s point (at least initially with some) with where they are. They feel really good and well developed, especially with what Chloe’s family is like in the fourth and fifth chapter. You can really see how much they care about one another in their interactions, leading to some really fun and heartwarming bits to really do hit home and work with me (love the soccer game scene).
On the other hand, the biggest weakness is probably the predictability and how uncomplicated the comic is and or becomes. There are quite a few plot points where one can easily call the moment, leading to the book feeling very unsurprising or not that shocking. Not all of the book is like that, but things do feel telegraphed in areas, like with the brother being “bad” and eventually going against Utopian. The big themes of old vs. new feel like they lose all shades of grey over time. At the beginning, Sheldon and Walter are arguing about what to do about the current world situation. Walter argues that the heroes should get involved more; Sheldon advocates letting the government and the people do their jobs. At this point, both sides are making pretty sound, reasonable arguments, allowing you to see and understand their sides. However, once we hear of how Walter’s plan actually works, what it does, and what he has to do to achieve it…any complicated or interesting discussions are immediately lost. It loses all sense of depth to it, even more so when we have a time skip and see how badly this plan worked out, and the story becomes more of a good vs. bad, who’s ideals are really misguided kind of story. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of story, it’s just it’s a bit disappointing with a comic as ambitious as this one.
Let’s move to the characters themselves now. The Utopian is pretty much what you would except from a Superman-like stand-in, having all of the same qualities and attributes of the character: altruistic, humble but able to put the foot down when needed, and all of that. The same can be said for his wife, Grace/Lady Liberty, at least from what we see of her in the book. Both are very likeable and serve their purpose nicely. Walter is sort of your typical hero who wants to change and fix the world, but goes about it the wrong way and is delusional. He was at his best when his motivations and ideas seemed very genuine, reasonable, and understandable early on, to the point where you could easily understand his frustration about being stopped by his brother at many turns, especially when all he wants to do is to make the world a better place. After he turns against Sheldon, he becomes a lot less interesting and more of a stereotypical of kind “misguided” villain.
Yep, I see no problem with this at all.
Then there’s Chloe, Brandon, and Hutch (Chloe’s secret boyfriend). Chloe isn’t particularly memorable very early on; she’s more of character who’s not very confrontational and just doesn’t really get to do much. Most of her personality pre-time skip is told to us by her family and friends, instead of actually seeing these traits for ourselves. As such, she doesn’t feel really get all that interesting or engaging as a person until the last two issues. That’s when we get to see her develop more as a character in the pages of the book instead of being told to us, with how she interacts with her family and daily life. She definitely becomes more human as time goes along. The same thing can be said with Hutch, who really doesn’t come into his own until halfway through the book when he actually gets to do stuff. Brandon is a harder nut to crack. He comes across as a more cynical individual, one who could be a good hero, but doesn’t feel up to it or is all that interested since there is nothing really left to fight against. He eventually turns to Walter’s side and ends up killing his father. After the time skip though, his only real change (predictable as it is) is that he is wondering whether or not going along with Walter’s plans was a good idea. It’s fairly typical and standard stuff with him at that point.
There are sort of other characters in the book, but they are not as important except for one. Almost every superhero besides the Sampson family is interchangeable with one another and shows no real depth (I also find it hard to believe that all of them just automatically joined Walter’s side and wanted to kill the Utopian without any fuss like it is implied). Barnabas Wolfe, introduced in the final issue and actually gracing the cover of it, is just really forgettable in both terms of personality and appearance (he’s the definition of a mustache twirling villain if I’ve ever seen one) and is simultaneously killed off after getting a big introduction. He serves really no purpose to this plot and could have been filled in with any other generic hero/villain for his role. The only other person who matters is Jason Hutchence, the son of Chloe and Hutch, and there’s honestly really not much to say him about as a character. He’s characterized well and he has some enjoyable moments, but that’s it really.
Moving onto the writing, there’s not as much here to discuss. The pacing is a bit sporadic throughout the volume. It has a very slow and methodical approach in the first two issues and first part of the third issue in its handling of the setup of the world and characters. Then it kicks into high gear in the remaining part of the volume, really speeding up and even feeling like it rushes through some areas. The story structure isn’t bad overall, but there are some awkward scene transitions and jump forward in scenes that can throw you off for a quick second. The dialogue is alright and it has its moments, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression otherwise. The writing by Mark Millar isn’t too bad, but it has areas that could have used some improvement.
Will someone help find this poor man’s eyes for him?
Lastly, we look to the artwork by Frank Quitely. I’ll admit I’m not the world’s biggest fan of his, but even saying that, Jupiter’s Legacy does not feel like his best work. The line work and layouts are just so… average looking and don’t really leave much of an impression. The scenes flow fine from panel to panel, for the most part at least (there are some occasional weird jumps), but nothing feels too creative or eye-catching. Some of the perspectives and angles feel off in areas, like where Chloe looks so minuscule in comparison to a door in the fifth issue. The coloring is fine (a bit muted in some areas), the costume designs are okay for the most part, and I do appreciate that most of the panels and pages do have backgrounds to them.
Probably the weakest area of the artwork are the characters themselves. Maybe it’s a stylistic choice, but a lot of characters have squinty eyes or look like they are constantly squinting (someone please get them a pair of glasses or contacts), which does look a bit goofy at points and cuts into some of the facial reactions. Body proportions look off in areas, some people seem lumpy or wrinkly, and even some characters don’t look their age. However, what’s most noticeable is that at some points, the characters look less refined and detailed. The line work seems messier and less polished, faces seem smashed in or partially melted, and more. It could be because Quitely rushed himself a bit in areas, but when there is a dip, it’s noticeable.
Is It Good?
Jupiter’s Legacy Vol. 1 is a good comic, but one that could have used a bit more polish. There are good moments, good scenes, some good characters, and a decent enough story here to make for a comic that can be enjoyed. However, the ideas are really not that interesting, the villains lack depth or complexity, the writing is flawed, and the artwork is a mixed bag at times. After a two year wait for this trade collection, it was honestly not worth it. I’m not disappointed that I read this and I will say if you like Millar or Quitely’s work, you might like this. However, it’s not a high priority or a must-read at this point.