Review: Jupiter’s Legacy #4

Surprisingly for a writer whose other duties have made him less prolific at this point in his career, Mark Millar has two books dropping this week: the vanguard of his Millarworld project, Starlight #1, and the subject of this review. These books share a lot of similarities: old heroes struggling in new worlds and the decay of golden age ideals, for example; however, only one of them was noteworthy ... and [SPOILER] it wasn’t Jupiter’s Legacy #4. I’ll get to the ins-and-outs of why I was less than impressed with this issue in a minute, but it should be mentioned now that the last time we got a Jupiter’s Legacy book was last September, so a little over five months ago. In the quiet words of appreciative gynecologists everywhere, that’s quite a gap!

To their credit, I think the creative team has tried to handle this significant hiatus relatively well with the structure of the story this issue. It begins by taking a deeper look into the strange and, until now, unseen origins of how the team of adventurers led by Sheldon (later, The Utopian) and his brother Walter (whose given name is apparently too cool to be subsumed by a superhero alias) got their powers from a peculiar island, and the even more bizarre things that “people” it.

It’s an interesting cursory look into the adventure that started this whole thing, and a decent way to capitalize on a long break as a sort of “zero issue-style taster,” but I’m not convinced it went as far as it needed to in order to keep “regular” readers’ interests piqued. If we have to wait another half-year before the next issue comes out, I doubt this will be enough to maintain the book’s narrative pulse.

jupiterslegacy4-coverAt the same time, and most likely to the same end, the actual story has jumped significantly in time to the year 2022, where the now more responsible Chloe (daughter of The Utopian) and her fellow-banished boyfriend Hutch (son of the world’s greatest supervillain) secretly raise their super-son, Jason, whose powers and youthful sense of justice are beginning to develop in worryingly revelatory ways.

Again, this is a cool way to play off of the series’ long break, and the interaction between this family, which is desperately trying to stay below the radars of Walter and Brandon (the traitorous son of The Utopian, who now rules the increasingly-bankrupt and decrepit world after murdering his father), is pretty great in its Romeo & Juliet-meets-The Kent Family treatment, but there’s one significant problem: Jason.

This kid does not sound like a kid, and as always, that bugs the absolute hell out of me. I understand that, as heir to the enhanced abilities and superior intellect of his grandparents and parents, he wouldn’t necessarily sound like your normal youngster, but his use here as an overly-articulate recap/filler-spitting plot device is transparent and unnervingly stiff. It’s pretty clear by the end of this book that Jason is being propped up as the namesake of this series’ title, so he’s going to play a big role going forward, but Millar needs to better establish and make more organic his voice, otherwise that lynchpin will wobble and the whole story might fall apart ... well, more than it already has, anyway.

The art here is your classic Frank Quitely, which is to say, pretty stellar, even on his worst day ... but saying that, it also feels like he’s having a pretty bad day. It’s not that his work in issue four is “bad,” but it does feel much more rough and rushed than one might have thought after such a significant time to tweak, retouch and finalize. It’s far from his best work and certainly not the stuff that made him a modern-day icon in my view, with a few panels looking oddly unfinished.

Speaking of unfinished, this book has only 20 pages of actual story, and in that time - both in its aesthetic and narrative - not a whole hell of a lot happens, so as clever as this issue is in using its suspension (intentionally or not) to catch the reader up, there just isn’t enough here to adequately validate its break, and as a whole, that makes this issue feel especially disappointing.

Honestly, even though it’s been done (by Millar) several times before, I like the concept behind Jupiter’s Legacy, with “villains” achieving a tenuous sort of victory over their altruistic rivals, and last issue’s balls-out overthrow was exciting, fun and gruesome in equally arresting measure. But now, this book - both in the execution of story and the seemingly apathetic approach to its release schedule - feels decidedly like an afterthought.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Frank Quitely Colorist: Peter Doherty Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/5/14