What if your parents were Superman and Wonder Woman – how big a burden would it be to live up to their legacy and what would that do to you? That’s the heart of this new series from writer Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Superman: Red Son) and artist Frank Quitely (All Star Superman, Flex Mentallo) in their first collaboration together since The Authority (unless you count their two record breaking successes at creating the fastest produced comic book with the most contributors back in 2011).
While obviously Mark Millar and Frank Quitely haven’t exactly used Superman and Wonder Woman, Sheldon and Grace Sampson are analogues of those characters, with Sheldon wearing a very similar-looking Superman outfit and calling himself Utopia Man.
The comic starts off promisingly in October 1932 where a gang of intrepid adventurers sit in a Moroccan bar trying to convince a captain to give them passage out to an island that isn’t on any maps. We meet Sheldon Sampson, a well-to-do young man who has been ruined by the Wall Street crash and is obsessed with finding the island he keeps seeing in his dreams. But when they reach the island the panels fade to white rather anticlimactically and we find out via voiceover that Sheldon, his wife Grace, and their friends all became what we now call superheroes.
Fast forward 80 years and we’re in 2013 Los Angeles where a pretty young girl is being photographed at a charity event. The girl is Chloe Sampson, daughter to Sheldon and Grace, while lurking in the shadows is her equally young but hugely jaded brother Brandon. This is a world where superheroes are viewed and treated like A-list movie stars. The two are lounging about an upscale LA club while their family of superheroes are far-away fighting a Darkseid-analogue called Blackstar and we catch up with Sheldon and Grace who’ve aged very well and continue to fight for truth and justice.
I’m a huge fan of Millar and Quitely both as a team and for their other works – they really are among the most gifted creators in comics, so I was really looking forward to Jupiter’s Legacy (previously known as Jupiter’s Children). As I put the comic down though I felt very underwhelmed with what I’d read. The opening 1930s scene was reminiscent of King Kong and I almost thought we’d get a 30s version of Lost (which would’ve been great), but the fast forward to a fairly unimaginative alternative 21st century rendering was a bit disappointing.
There’ve been a lot of popular superhero analogue stories in the last 15 years and I don’t think Jupiter’s Legacy really adds anything to the genre. Superheroes doing drugs? The Boys. Superheroes talking about taking charge of the government? The Authority. Superheroes abusing their powers? Irredeemable. There is potential here focusing on the children of superheroes but if all they’re going to do is behave like bratty, entitled celebrity kids today, like they do in this comic, it’s going to quickly become a very annoying and dull series. I’m hoping Millar and Quitely have a few more tricks up their sleeves for future issues and Chloe and Brandon become more likeable, or at the very least interesting characters.
Millar has said in interviews for this comic that he was partly inspired by Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical book Postcards from the Edge where she wrote about the pressure she felt having to live up to her famous parents, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The influence is very apparent as Chloe definitely comes across as a young Carrie Fisher, young and pretty but consumed with drugs and self-doubt.
Frank Quitely’s art is as beautiful as ever. His character design for Chloe is excellent, giving her this doomed waif look but with a hardness to her character buried beneath the surface in those black ingot eyes, and the superhero fight sequence between Utopia Man and co. vs. Blackstar captured the fast-pace and brutality of superhero hand-to-hand combat perfectly. Quitely’s experience on previous superhero books like All Star Superman and New X-Men really lifts this sequence up.
But overall the content of the comic – the superhero fighting, the drugs and sex – left me somewhat disappointed. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before and I’d expected Millar and Quitely to produce something more innovative and vibrant than what’s here. This is what Millar is calling the superhero event of 2013? Hmm. It’s early days and Jupiter’s Legacy is certainly not a bad comic, but it’s not a great one either – here’s hoping this series is a slow burn and picks up soon with the promised spectacle dazzling us all in the next issue.
Jupiter’s Legacy #1 by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely is available now at your local comics shop and online at Comixology
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