After starting strong, the punch of this prequel to Jupiter’s Legacy, which follows the universe’s heroes in their mid-century prime, has for me significantly dwindled. The nice thing is, in a story like this, which offers a two-and-done model of near-anthology storytelling, is that next issue, it’s almost certain we’re going to be following some other new facet of this world. But the downside is that this second story feels too neatly wrapped, and unfortunately, too neutered to be effectual as a new narrative piece to the overall puzzle Millar and co. are building with this title. This time, The Flare (Millarwold’s Ray analogue) tries to use his superheroic swagger to get his brand new arm candy, the unpowered April, into his clique of superfriends. But after first perceiving himself slighted by a satanic Liberace (YUP!), he soon finds himself afoul of his own insecurities, the indirect results of which prove to be more paralyzing than he (or anyone) might expect.
Like in his first story, Millar has set up something very interesting with this mini-arc: a family caught in the turmoil of expectation, a vengeful son on a mission (for me, perhaps, the most intriguing background noise) and a light but interesting study of the softer side of superheroism. But in this story, he has failed to deliver, instead being complicit in wrapping everything up in too tidy a package. All is forgiven, and even while physical consequences abound, the emotional ramifications are sadly without breaking-point impact. In fact, it begs the question of why tell this story in the first place, if all of the plot threads are suddenly cut loose.
Once again, I have to applaud Millar’s dialogue, and he genuinely gets some solid fun and even funny moments in there this time, but it all seems generally chucked together without much oversight as to what this series needs to do, or where it needs to go. Perhaps all of that will become clearer the nearer we get to its end and eventual fold-over into the Legacy universe, but it would be nice to see how exactly this will feed into the story proper, if at all.
Davide Gianfelice and inker Mortatino step in for Wilfredo Torres on art duties this time, and do a pretty spectacular job aping his thickly-lined, yet rough throwback style that lands somewhere just sketchy of a Bruce Timm feature. Speaking of which, it would be fun as hell to see this as one of those. Get on that, Millarworld! Especially applaudable was the artists’ treatment of celebrity cameos this time, with some old favorites (one as listed above) showing up to lighten (or darken, depending on your religious beliefs) the mood.
In any case, the team does a great job of parsing the mundanities of a superhero’s double life with its excesses, and all of the ridiculousness therein. Some might say that it feels stiff in presentation, but this issue proved that the style employed by Gianfelice/Mortatino/Svorcina’s is actually pretty versatile, jumping with ease between house parties (minus Kid ‘n Play) and extra-dimensional invasions. I also really enjoy how the heroes look at-once natural and ungainly in their outfits, especially as they smoke cigarettes and quaff scotch. That’s a perfect image for the entirety of this world as a whole, in fact: ill-fitting spandex.
Despite how it might sound, I’m still invested in Millar’s Jupiter’s Circle. Sure, as I’ve mentioned before, this kind of conceit has been done elsewhere, in places like Watchmen and Superbia, but while this feels less willing to make a statement after making such a big one in its first arc, the “other side of superheroism” approach still feels fun and interesting here. I may stop covering it after this, but I’ll probably continue keeping up with Circle, if for no other reason than to see when, where, how and why this folds into the Legacy story.