Comics has an accessibility problem. After decades of existence some books can be really hard to ease into. That’s why the infamous “jumping on point” was created — single issues designed to garner new readers and lure back old fans. Each week brave surveyors Luke Miller and Jamil Scalese will venture into the comics abyss and let you, the consumer, know just which series are worth JUMPING ON, and which are better left to be revisited at a later date.
Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 #1
(W) Mark Millar (A) Frank Quitely (C) Sunny Gho (L) Peter Doherty
Luke: This book did literally nothing for me. Reading this issue in its entirety enriched my life exactly as much as if I had read just the recap page. The recap page tells us that the children of former superheroes killed all the superheroes save a handful, so now the surviving superheroes are forming a team of super villains to fight them. We then get 20 some pages of lightning quick encounters between a recruiter and characters whose only attribute/characteristic/defining trait we learn is a code name and maybe a superpower. This thing reads like a mad lib. (Hero) meets (Name) with (Power) in (Location). Repeat ad nauseam.
This is the absolute worst kind of issue. I have no problem with someone “writing for the trade,” where the pace seems off in individual issues but reads fine when the story arc is read as a complete chunk. I do, however, have a problem with someone who seems like they were told “this trade needs to be six issues” and then mentally saying, “well, I’ve got enough material for four… Screw it. Let’s pad this thing out to burn that page count and hope no one notices.” In my mind, the only other semi-reasonable explanation for this comic’s existence is that it’s some sort of Andy Kaufman-esque piece of performance art, intentionally designed to evoke feelings of boredom and rage simultaneously, thereby giving the reader a unique experience they might otherwise never have.
Am I missing something here, Jamil? Aside from Quitely’s (typically) gorgeous art, is there any redeeming quality to this issue?
Jamil: To answer both questions: yes and no.
You’re certainly missing something, which is context on what happened in the previous seventeen issues in this franchise. But that’s not your fault, this is a #1 after all, and as per the unwritten laws of Comicdom you should have everything you need to understand, digest and enjoy this story within the pages themselves.
Does this issue have any redeeming quality? Related to above, that’s tough to say. In your case, no, this issue does a very poor job of (re)introducing the characters, establishing the setting, letting you know who’s who and what’s what and, ultimately, giving you something to come back for.
However, for someone like me, who has followed this series since way back in 2013, yeah, there’s some bits and pieces that provide some payoff.
When Mark Millar first announced this series back in 2013 he described it as a potential magnum opus, a story so grand and important to him that he would hold off selling the movie rights until it was completed just to keep his own vision intact. If you been following the career of Mark Millar over the last fifteen years you know that’s a helluva gesture. What’s even more impressive is that it took him a full two years to renege on that promise.
Right around the time I was really getting into comic reading Millar was hitting the mainstream in a bold and brash way. The Ultimates, Wanted and Ultimate X-Men were/are works I really loved and undoubtedly influenced my tastes. I have a love/hate relationship with Millar’s overt showmanship and amoral writing style, and in that way I consider him to be one of the important creators of the era, and that’s not even really taking into account his massive and sublime influence on comic books in regard to mainstream culture.
Jupiter’s Legacy was promised to be an epic, and with Quitely on the art there was plenty of incentive to check this series out. So I picked up the first few issues, an OK-enough familial drama, and then I kind of let the title stack up in my subscription pile at the LCS. Soon a prequel series, Jupiter’s Circle (drawn by Wilfredo Torres and others), replaced Legacy, and then another volume of Circle debuted after that. Yes, there have been FOUR number one issues for this series in roughly three years. I don’t necessarily dislike the modern volumic approach to comic book storytelling but damn, that is ridiculous.
The insipidness elevates when you take into account that both Circle series really had little to do with what happened in the first volume of Legacy, aside from adding extremely broad context. As you pointed to the recap on the inside cover of this #1 boils it down nicely, the children of the world’s superheroes (consistently depicted as the brattiest of all millennials) staged a coup and are looking to run the world, but the prequel books really didn’t inform that story much, at least not in a way that required you to read it. The rivalry between the Sampson brothers, pretty much the crux of the story, is barely addressed in that series and seemed to be way more focused on the feud between Walter Sampson/Brainwave and Skyfox who shows up in the opener of this series. In my opinion that is the issue’s strongest scene, but how would you know that if you just decided to pick this off the shelf blind?
Luke: No one would expect a viewer to jump into the second season of Game of Thrones and know what’s going on if they hadn’t seen the first season. If you’re looking at this issue as episode one of season two, I’ll concede that’s a valid point. However, even having the backstory explained to me and doing way too much Wikipedia research today, I still say this issue isn’t very good. The first scene was intriguing, and I imagine was probably a cool payoff or fan-service that delivered nicely. But the rest of this was literally team-member-gathering. I was about eighteen pages into this thing before I started to wonder when the actual plot was going to happen. No show would start a season this way. It might start the first episode after a midseason break this way, but they’d call that thing episode six (or whatever proper sequential number it was). The only reason to reset to a number one is to get a fresh start and/or bring in new readers. This book doesn’t even pretend to do either of those things so the #1 label is inexplicable to me.
I watch The Flash on a regular basis, and this reminds me of one of the episodes that was either a crossover with Arrow (which I don’t watch) or the first episode of the Legends of Tomorrow show (which I also don’t watch). With the former, I’m clearly missing something, but there’s enough there that I can piece together a coherent plot, with the latter you had to have been watching Flash and Arrow to really get what was going on. So, yes, I’m definitely missing something here. However, I feel like I would have been disappointed with this even if I’d been reading it as a whole.
Really, it felt like the above crossover episodes, and one of those episodes where they went “shit, we have 22 episodes in this season and only 19 good scripts… Um, you… writer guy. Throw something together please.”
I may feel differently if I decide to reread this in whatever final, omnibus form it takes, but as of now, this was nothing to me. It was worse than nothing to me. It was a waste of my time and expectations, and the talent of the creators.
Jamil: On the real, this issue represents a sorry milestone in the Era of Relaunch. What is the point of structuring the comic this way? You’ve pointed to the fact that the script does almost nothing to entice a new reader, framing the entire plot around a recruitment drive in which we’re offered a bunch of characters we’ve never seen or heard of before.
Moreover, the comic’s demonstrative of the series’ scattered focus. Why am I rooting for the villains-turned-heroes again? I’m not even sure Millar knows what the hell he’s trying to say with this work. I didn’t even really remember about the kid who shows up on the last page of this thing, and that’s the main hook! The lead characters of Legacy, Chloe and Hutch, are entirely forgettable, one began the series a petulant, drug-addled spoiled child defined only by motherhood, the other appeared handsomely from out of nowhere and has not produced a single definable quality to date. I’m supposed to be excited about their offspring fighting some random ninja lady?
The scope and focus of the overarching story never really reveals itself, in this issue or elsewhere. Are we at the back end of the story? Are we just getting started? Millar’s showmanship has made him one of the industry’s most successful creators, but the ringmaster overstepped his bounds with the Circle interlude. In trying to string readers along to maintain sales he deluded the product.
Every time I look to drop this series there’s a redeeming issue to win me back, so I’m not going to be too haughty and tell you I’m done-zo with Jupiter’s Legacy, but at this point I’m looking for Millar and Quitely to either successfully conclude this story in the near future, or start adding additional layers of plot, theme and character. Either way, stick the landing.