by Mark Millar, Frank Quitely and Peter Doherty
Mark Millar is a man of big talk, big promises, and many times, big stories. Millar built himself up with a series of fantastic, finite arcs for Marvel Comics, before moving on to release some off-beat stories through Icon. Since then, the luster behind Millar has faded a bit. The hype machine is less effective, and the stories are not always fantastic. Still, pairing such a name with an artist like Frank Quitely, and buzz was sure to be a plenty for the new Jupiter's Legacy from Image Comics. Looking at the first chapter, this new series has more potential than delivery.
The book opens in the 30's. It's Depression-era United States and the world is downtrodden. Readers are introduced in a very cinematic opening to Sheldon and his brother Walter. Two men who have amassed a group and traveled to Morocco, seeking out an island that has called to them. The island, Sheldon claims, contains the answer to the United States' current situation. The story then jumps to present day, never addressing the events on the island, instead quickly reflecting on the outcome of the trip, which resulted in those present obtaining powers. While the details of what transpired on the island might come later, it is disappointing to leave this setting as the pacing and art are stronger here than anything that follows.
The book picks up in present day with a series of scenes that are very familiar. There are sequences that address the offspring of Sheldon and his brother. Millar handles the "children of the celebrity" in ways that feel tired and predictable. He sneaks in some interesting commentary on the state of the world both regarding politics, the media, and even some reflection on the place superheroes have in the day and age. All of these elements are merely mentioned before passing on to some other topical bit, though, and it is unclear if any serve a purpose. There is a fantastic scene in the present day portion where both the art and writing hit. It features an illusion created by one brother that is incredibly serene, while he explains the events ongoing in the physical realm, the juxtaposition of which is unsettling (though never visually graphic)to say the least.
The story ends with a lot of family drama and an underwhelming cliff-hanger. Most of the book feels unfocused, spending its time jumping from person to person, covering two separate periods all in a short opening chapter. It remains to be seen why the characters are super powered at all. While the book does rely on some powers at times, most of the subtext plays into roles of the celebrity in general more than the superhero specifically. As of the opening issue, this story feels as though it has a big picture, but little to offer in monthly installments.
The same confusion cannot be said about the visual side of the book. Quitely and Doherty combine to present a magnificent looking world. Quitely draws the early bits of the story in very simple ways, capturing scenes that appear quiet and sullen. Matched by the coloring from Doherty, the aesthetic of this earlier period mirrors the time in its muted tones and calmer panels. They tackle the time jump flawlessly, creating a completely separate world for the present day. The perspectives are a little less straight on, the colors a bit more bold or vibrant. Even the settings and dress of the characters are handled well, a very true depiction of each time.
There is a credibility to the creative team behind this title and, for now, that will keep even skeptical readers on board for another issue. While Millar may have a grand story in mind, he does not do much to clue readers into it here. Fans of his, though, as well as fans of Frank Quitely, will fall in love with Jupiter's Legacy. The rest will have to wait another month before making their decision.