After joining forces with Netflix in 2017, Mark Millar (of Kick-Ass and Kingsman fame) now brings the graphic novel he created along with artist Frank Quitely in 2013 to the small screen, with all 8 episodes are now available to stream.
Spanning 90 years, Jupiter’s Legacy is an epic story of six ordinary people who gained incredible superpowers back in the 1930s before going on to form The Union of Justice. Leader of The Union, Sheldon Sampson, AKA The Utopian (Josh Duhamel) insists that all members abide by a system of checks and rules known as The Code – stating that heroes must only ever use their powers in the service of others, not to govern and never to kill. But times and attitudes have changed considerably over the decades. With more heroes, more villains and different threats, the next generation of Union members are now starting to push back against The Code and what it stands for.
Having kids of his own, co-creator Mark Millar was interested in delivering a more family-focused superhero story when it came to delivering Jupiter’s Legacy. “You never see Superman or Batman or Spider-Man feeding a baby late at night. What would it be like if somebody as cool as Superman married somebody as amazing as Wonder Woman and then they had a couple of kids?” he said, when describing the origins of the story. And episode one kicks off by introducing us to that interesting family dynamic he was aiming for, showing just how difficult it can be for the kids of superheroes to live up to their parents’ expectations and legacies. It’s something that is very much at the heart of Jupiter’s Legacy throughout, with a flashback showing us Sheldon with his two children, Brandon and Chloe, in happier times as young kids, when both of them idolised their father. But back in the present, Brandon is the superhero Paragon, in training to become the next Utopian but struggling to live up to his father’s mythic legend, while Chloe is now a rebellious party girl, rejecting everything that her parents stand for.
Both Sheldon’s brother Walter, AKA Brainwave (Ben Daniels) and Sheldon’s wife Grace, AKA Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb) are still actively operating as superheroes with Sheldon, and are also founding members of The Union, along with three others who we learn more about as the season progresses. Frequent flashbacks take us back to 1929, a time where Sheldon and Walter both worked for the family steel business and Grace worked as a reporter, with none of them having any powers at all. These two timelines play out alongside each other throughout the season, as we learn what brought such ordinary people to the position of power they’ve now held for decades.
Concluding episode one is a huge, impressive fight sequence involving our key heroes and a few supporting heroes facing off against a big bad. Think Thanos and the Avengers, throwing everything they’ve got in order to try and get the gauntlet off of him. But, while Jupiter’s Legacy is first and foremost a superhero show, it’s also, as I mentioned before, a very grounded story about complex family dynamics, so don’t count on too many more bouts of cool CGI action like that. Don’t worry, there are still plenty to be found, in smaller doses here and there, but much of the episodes that follow are more about coming to terms with the fallout following the battle and its effects on the Sampson family, not to mention The Code that its founding members hold so dear.
The back and forth between the present and the past continues, still without any sign of how the superpowers were acquired back in 1929, and with Sheldon now struggling to deal with strange visions that are dominating his life. It soon becomes clear by around midway through the season that we are in for the most drawn-out origin story I think I’ve ever seen, and it’s not the most interesting one either. When Sheldon heads out in search of a windmill he’d seen scrawled on some paper while experiencing his visions, it leads to further mystery and, if I’m honest, a bit of confusion as to what exactly is going on. But then, Sheldon discovers some coordinates! They’re in the Atlantic Ocean! And Sheldon must gather together the group of people that, according to his vision, are to go with him on his expedition in order to find… something!
When discussing the origins of Jupiter’s Legacy, Millar says “My one and only ambition was to create the biggest and best superhero story of all time. A big, self-contained Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones with superheroes”. Having worked at Marvel for 10 years, before tackling Superman at DC, Millar wanted to take all of the skills he’d picked up while reinventing these classic characters and employ them to create the biggest franchise he could possibly imagine. It certainly is an admirable idea, and there are glimmers of that throughout. However, Jupiter’s Legacy tries to do far too much too soon, with much of what we’re introduced to barely managing to find a foothold before we’re hit with something different. Just as we are coming to terms with the family dynamic in the present, coupled with the muddled origin story playing out in the past, things suddenly take a sidestep as we are introduced to a gang of supervillains and a subplot involving them.
I cannot help but compare Jupiter’s Legacy to Invincible, which concluded its first season on Prime Video just last week. Dealing with superheroes, supervillains and plenty of tense family drama, Invincible also managed to successfully juggle vast numbers of characters, while providing equal quantities of emotion, entertainment and incredible, bloody action. Invincible dealt with all of that effortlessly, in a way that Jupiter’s Legacy doesn’t quite manage to hit until its final few episodes. By then, both timelines are reaching an interesting junction and the finale leaves us with burning questions unanswered while delivering a plot twist and a great cliffhanger. Jupiter’s Legacy takes a while, but eventually, it does begin to feel exciting. It finally begins to feel epic and left me very interested to see where season two takes us next.
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