You know what, we had high expectations for this- after all, it’s a creation of Mark Millar, author of classic Grov’s like Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Nemesis to name but a few. But truth be told we were more than a little disappointed with the end result because Jupiter’s Legacy felt like a chaotic mish mash of a hundred other comic book stories all trouser-pressed into one.
We read somewhere that Millar came up with the story after reading Carrie Fisher’s autobiography and it seems like a rumour that has some plausibility to it given the echoes of Star Wars mythology that permeate the novel (for that read: children not living up to their parents expectations, right and wrong duking it out in far flung locales etc etc.) We know some will argue that the novel actually tries to flip the usual superhero trope of the tragic past/murdered parents on its head, eschewing the orphan loner origin story for something different but to be honest all we kept thinking when we were reading it was how formulaic things felt. How clichéd the family dynamics seemed despite the author’s best intentions.
Which is not to say that there aren’t some prescient ideas hidden within the narrative regarding the insidiousness of global surveillance and the current trend of glorifying celebrity and hedonism. Comparing the modern economic position of the USA to the post 1929 years is actually an interesting idea… the problem is that it quickly gets buried under a slew of mechanical rescues and fistfights. And every subsequent glimmer of any kind of intelligent concept peters out in the same way finding itself replaced by tiresome family drama and well- worn angst.
We will say this though. Frank Quitely’s artwork truly is the star of the show, outshining the story it is trying to tell. The fine detail on the characters faces (especially the older superheroes) is fantastic and actually it makes a nice change to see the physical consequences of a life dedicated to heroism shown in such muscular close up. The openness of the panels where the lead artist has clearly resisted the urge to overfill the space given to him is also a delight and brings a visual freshness that the tired story wouldn’t have had otherwise.
On a side note, we’re definitely not a fan of the slutty clichéd costumes that he gives to some of the female superheroes but we guess that’s probably forgivable when the rest of Quitely’s work is so enjoyable. And though surprisingly gory (Jupiter’s Legacy is not one for the faint of heart by the way) we love that the novel pulls no punches with its bloody reveals. In fact the scenes describing Walter’s mental manipulations/cerebral attacks are an absolute standout and the artist’s decision to design these panels in a kind of unfinished drawn-by-hand style (representing a false constructed world) shows both talent and smarts. Hell ,if you want an example of the novel’s gruesome nature and of Quitely’s innovation then all you need to do is check out the page showing Grace’s death- it’ll kick you neatly and violently in the nads (or tubes.)
That’s it for the high points though we’re afraid. Unnecessarily jingoistic and predictable the story ends with the introduction of the superheroes kid and their genetically passed on powers- somehow managing to tell this chapter in an even more earnest way than the events that came before. And to wrap things up with such a cheap over-used narrative device (and we really can’t express how much we hate it when writers insert a child into their tale to add a sense of peril or emotional drama) just left an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with the whole endeavour.
We’re talking some serious despondency here, people. Not something we ever thought we’d say about a Mark Millar offering. But the world is full of disappointments so they say and I guess we’ll take this one on the chin for now. And who knows, maybe if it makes it to the small or the big screen the sciptwriters can fix some of these many flaws. It’s not outside the bounds of possibility.
But damn. You know?