November 27th, 2013
Jupiter’s Legacy #1-3, by Marky “Mark” Millar, Frank Quitely and Pete Doherty
Forgive me for the somewhat less than timely review, but fuck me – three issues in this is still a startlingly uninteresting book, from pig (Millar) to lipstick (Quitely) and beyond (???).
It should go without saying that this response is merely a product of the reaction between the lines on the page and those etched into my long-suffering brain, but that in no way makes this a good or even halfway entertaining comic. So while it’s true that both Millar and Quitely have thwarted all expectations here by failing to irritate and innovate respectively, the only real problem experience poses for Jupiter’s Chegacy is that a lifetime of reading and watching stories will train you to spot a tired duffer like this miles off.
Familiarity itself isn’t the issue here, per se: the old power/responsibility theme could easily survive yet another regeneration, and there’s no reason why a story about the famous children of rich superheroes couldn’t be made timely and interesting. It’s the old world vs. the new, the people who made the world vs. those who have to limit in it, and surely that’s an easy sell in this post moneygeddon landscape? The problem, at least so far as this cynical critic is concerned, is more that no one involved in this comic seems particularly interested in how they’re saying anything:
Page after page of dialogue mounts up to little effect, with passionate arguments sitting on the page like undeveloped notes from the plot breakdown, lacking either the vanity of realism or the courage of true artifice. This is a comic full of gestures, which would be forgivable if we were dealing with the mangled mitts and marvelous manifestations of Ditko-era Doctor Strange. Instead, Jupiter’s Children nods absently towards a half-busy suburban street in the daylight, hoping that you’ll find something interesting there and mistake dumb luck for careful planning.
In the spirit of increased generosity, I won’t pretend that there’s no value to be found in this book. The fact that Beta Beard (note: this is not the character’s real name) thinks he should rule the world because he can make Power Point happen with his Mighty Brane™ is worthy of a quick chuckle, until you realise that the real selling point of his worldview is probably either mind control or tax avoidance. The chase scene in issue #3, meanwhile, is well conceived enough to temporarily distract from the question of whether or not the dialogue in the same issue was bad because Beta Beard was secretly controlling most of the cast, or whether it was just another sign of Millar’s half-arsed aesthetics:
It shouldn’t be surprising when an action sequence in a Frank Quitely comic turns out to be a highlight, but compared to the masterclass in composition that Quitely provided in We3 and All Star Superman, this is pretty tame stuff. Quitely’s talent for conveying huge amounts of information through composition seems to have temporarily abandoned him here, perhaps because it would have been wasted on this material anyway. So far the only sequence that’s threatened to stay with me has done so more because of a fluke collision of art and memory than anything else:
Now to be fair, this sequence from the first issue of Jupiter’s Chegacy is the most visually arresting part of the story so far, as David Brother’s explained in his write-up of the first issue:
Part of the reason why I think Quitely is such a good artist is that he draws everything, and the small touches are sometimes more amazing than the more sensational touches. The incline of the hill that all the heroes are fighting on in the real world is reflected here in this psychic painting. The memory that these two men are walking around in maintains visual continuity from the fight beforehand. There’s something fascinating about that to me. I’m no Frank Santoro, so I couldn’t tell you what it means exactly. If I had to push, I would say that it has something to do with establishing place and realism for a world, and that maintaining those rules when you change locations keeps the reader believing in this world you’ve created. That incline is a small thing, but it’s more visually interesting than people fighting in a city or on a plateau. It adds just a little more flavor than normal to the fight scene, and that carries through to the psychic painting as a kind of transition from the real world to the mental one.
You should really go read David’s post in its entirety if you haven’t done so already, he highlights the paucity of imagination on display in this comic with his usual speedy efficiency. Still, while David’s observations are accurate, the real reason this sequence resonated with me was because the specific angle of the hill matched up with a non-specific hill in my memory, on which all childhood scraps and play fights occurred.
Gory as the scene in question is, its excesses and contradictions actually amplify this effect. David has already highlighted the fact that what Beta Brain (still not his actual name) tells the poor guy at the bottom of the pile up is happening doesn’t match up what we see; the distance between what we would actually do as kids (roll about like gimps, take gimp kicks, throw gimp punches) and what we would claim to be doing (dragon punches, deadly praying mantis strikes, the works) was based on a similar level of distortion:
Such memories alone are no more capable of saving a bad comic than they would be of dooming a good one, of course, but that makes it all the more apt here. Jupiter’s Legacy provides no interest other than that which you brings to it; comics as collaborative art is a wonderful idea, and as a reader I’m all for getting involved, but it tends to work better if there’s more there on the page to help you on your way…