Jupiter’s Legacy – Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

JupitersLegacy_vol1-1I wanted to review Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy Book 2, and realized that I probably should review his first volume. It does almost seem like a waste of time to review any new work by Millar. Basically, any review of his work should be: Millar has a new comic out, go buy it.

Let’s be frank: Millar is one of the stellar talents in the comic book world today. From Kickass to Secret Service to, well anything else he writes. This guy can do no wrong. Millar, although originally from Scotland, can’t properly be called a BritCom writer, though he did get his start in British comics. He’s another one of the guys who worked at 2000 AD and then jumped over to DC in the 1990s. One of my all-time favorites is The Ultimates for Marvel.

In 2004 he started MillarWorld to showcase his creator-owned comics such as WantedChosenThe UnfunniesKick-Ass and War Heroes, all published by different houses. It seems that just about anything he writes these days is either optioned for a film or has been turned into a film. You would think that at this point, his ego would inflate and he’d start turning out pretentious drivel like Woody Allen did. Thankfully, Millar has kept his head screwed on straight and continues to produce one outstanding comic after another.

Jupiter’s Legacy is no exception. Published by Image Comics, Millar has crafted an exciting story with dark overtones. The premise is fairly simple: the children of the first crop of super heroes don’t accept the voluntary restraints placed upon them. They want to rule the world by day and party all night. The leader of the first generation is Sheldon Sampson, or “Utopian”. He sees himself as a man working within the system, and refuses to believe that his powers place him above everyone else.

An apt historical analogy would be Scipio, the man who defeated Hannibal and saved Rome. With Hannibal’s defeat Scipio became larger than the Roman Republic, and could have become a dictator. But he believed in the Roman system and instead retired from public life. Caesar on the other hand saw himself greater than the Roman Republic and broke it. Time and again, we’ve seen men arise who believe that they are greater than the society that produced them. They don’t listen to advice and don’t seek to study the problem before announcing the solution. Stalin and Mao lacked any understanding of economics or agriculture, so came up with devastatingly bad ideas which, between the two of them, killed more than 90 million people.

In Jupiter’s Legacy, some of the heroes suffer the same blindness. Sheldon Sampson’s brother, Walter, also super-powered, is convinced despite evidence to the contrary, that he’s a genius who can solve all the world’s problems.  Sheldon has the humility to understand that one person doesn’t have all the answers and that no one should use might to enforce his will on others. Walter and the new generation look upon Sheldon as being arrogant, unable to see their own arrogance. Walter co-opts Sheldon’s son, a pathetic excuse for a man who, unfortunately, has powers of his own. Brandon feels that life and his father in particular have cheated him, and that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Walter exploits that and gets Brandon to kill his father. From there Walter, pulling the strings, installs Brandon as “President.”

In this respect the story has Greek tragedy overtones. But it is also a story of redemption. Sheldon’s other child, Chloe, is just as worthless as Brandon. She has had several drug overdoses and has recently gotten pregnant by supervillain Hutch.

Chloe and Hutch have to learn to grow as people if they are to keep their son safe. This then leads into Volume Two. Their son has been freelancing as a hero and when Walter sends his goon squad to capture him, Chloe and Hutch must find the strength to be heroes.

Through parenthood, Chloe and Hutch have learned responsibility. One can view their journey as a metaphorical hero’s quest. Where the hero must go to the underworld and battle demons before emerging into the light to fulfill his destiny. Chloe and Hutch bottomed out with drugs and their reckless lifestyle; having faced and defeated those demons they are ready to be heroes.

Millar has cleverly brought together themes of responsibility, duty, hubris, love  and sacrifice into a well-written superhero adventure. While most people would not read a comic of Joe Stalin’s arrogance in killing 30 million people, he has taken the same failures and woven them into a compelling comic book.

Once again, Millar has hit it out of the park. I can only hope that this gets turned into a movie as well.