Jupiter’s Circle, the prequel to the very cool but all-too-plagued-by-delays Jupiter’s Legacy, further fleshes out Millar’s treatment of a Watchmen-like story. This time, it explores his analogues in their relative primes as they ply Golden Age superheroics in their version of a Justice Society, way back in the halcyon year of 1959. What sets it apart from just being a Watchmen clone, however, is not just its Mad Men-meets-New Frontier approach, but the writer’s quick and atmospherically-charged wit. There ain’t much better than Millar when he’s switched on. And in Jupiter’s Circle, he is definitely that. In its first issue, we get some great foreshadowing of Legacy’s exploration into a superhero-led coup and eventual establishment of a global fascist state, but that’s far from the driving force behind this series, at least at present. More important is Circle’s character-driven story following Golden Age Starman analogue, Blue-Bolt, and his more multifaceted “double life” as a superhero whose sexuality, if leaked, could make him a social pariah. But what will happen if figures potentially even more powerful than superheroes find out, and seek to exploit his secret for their own gain?
Millar and his well-chosen artistic partner in Wilfredo Torres do a great job of injecting a fun, clean and intentionally campy “past-mosphere” into Jupiter’s Circle #1, framed as it is around a quick but satisfying superhero adventure, which, in another correlation to Watchmen, includes its own ravenous space octopus device. But in terms of narrative, this issue leverages most of its strength around a solid, natural dialogue cadence, which shows why Millar’s work has become so rife for cinematic plundering.
Like I have done above, some readers will compare this book and its budding story to other iconic ventures in comics past, but I think it stands out as its own narrative. Does it play some well-tread games with the duality of caped masculinity and mega-powered adventurism? Sure, but it does so in its own voice, which comes sometimes snarkily, while at the same time making interesting, if tentative conjectures into more pressing issues around the “Jupiter’s” universe, as well as our own social mores as regards heroes of the Golden Age. As such, much like a glass of scotch after a hard day fighting spacefaring cephalopods, or a young gentleman secretly expressing his forbidden desires by dogging at the park, it goes down smooth.
So too does Torres’ art; and in fact, his is the perfect visual style for the story being told in Jupiter’s Circle. It’s no surprise that Torres has appeared to great acclaim on books and covers like Batman ’66, Lobster Johnson, The Shadow and Flash Gordon, because it’s that same sharp, art deco approach that so beautifully illustrates and simultaneously undermines the outward “innocence” (read: conservatism) of the age beneath the microscope in this first issue.
And yet, Torres is also willing to dabble in extravagance, particularly with his monstrous octopus this issue, making it almost a flirtatious invasion of a harder-lined art nouveau style. On the other hand, there are a few times when Torres’ art falters in hastily colored and what looks like incomplete backgrounds. That might turn off a few readers, and I admit that in another story, it might do the same for me; but whether intentional or not, here it just seems like part of the style, rather than a hindrance to Circle’s grand design.
As much as I enjoyed this first issue, I remain wary about Jupiter’s Circle. Millar is very, very good at inaugurating titles, but has proven less deft recently at maintaining them. I hope, however, that he can muster his old magic to keep course with this book. Maybe I’m just a sucker for this kind of throwback story and style, but I genuinely think there’s real substance to be mined here, and I look forward to seeing how it may color the established world Millar is working with at large, and whether, indeed, it can come around full-circle.