I read some distressing news recently. The Netflix original, Jupiter’s Legacy, has become another one-and-done series for the streaming giant. It’s not the only Netflix series to receive this treatment, of course; but, when I look at the list of other Netflix one-and-dones, this is the only series I actually watched.
For those of you who have browsed my posts and decided I am just another aging comic book geek, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a fraud. My geekdom is concentrated in a relatively narrow portion of comic book chronology, mostly from the late 1960s to the very early 1980s.
I’ve ventured into some later stuff, such as the early Image titles and well-known graphic novels such as Watchmen, Y: The Last Man and Preacher, and certain cherrypicked runs, like the Snyder/Capullo Batman. I also read Robert Kirkman’s entire The Walking Dead saga, but not until after watching many seasons of the AMC television series. But, most of this wasn’t until I reached this elder status euphemistically known as middle-aged, which suggests I have as many years to live ahead of me as I have behind (statistically, this is unlikely, which is why middle-aged is a euphemism).During the past decade or so, I’ve experienced a certain comic-book Renaissance, due in no small part to seeing some of my favorite comic-book properties brought to life in movies and on television.
The bulk of my superhero consumption during the past couple of decades has been through live-action adaptations. Some I have enjoyed (like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and most of the MCU); some I didn’t enjoy as much (Josh Trank’s execrable Fantastic Four and much of the X-Men franchise). If you’re a fan of superhero comics, this has been a pretty great century in which to live so far. We have been so inundated with superhero content, in the movies and on television, that I no longer feel that I have to watch it all. For instance, I have yet to watch a single episode of Batwoman, Stargirl or Superman and Lois, and—at this juncture—I don’t believe I’ll ever feel compelled to do so.
On the other hand, I’m looking forward to the upcoming Y: The Last Man television series.
Jupiter’s Legacy was based upon a 2013 Image Comics series created by Scottish comic book writer Mark Millar and his equally Scottish artist friend Frank Quitely. I have been a fan of the podcast I Sell Comics, hosted by Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, for several years now. Millar’s name seems to come up frequently, even if the topic of discussion is whether it’s pronounced “Miller” or “Mill-LAR.” Among comic book aficianados, his name is often mentioned (or mispronounced) in the same breath as Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan and Neil Gaiman. In the world of comics, he is a certified star.
And, I’ve never read a single one of his comic books.
There. That’s a load off of my conscience. I told you that—as a comic book geek, at least—I am a fraud.
I’m familiar with a lot of his work, however. I watched movies based upon his work, such as Kick-Ass, Wanted and Kingsman: The Secret Service, without knowing who wrote the source material. I also watched the animated versions of Ultimate Avengers. Millar’s influence upon the MCU is undeniable, through the Ultimates line and his Civil War series.
Now, I’m somewhat familiar with Jupiter’s Legacy.
I can’t, however, compare it to the source material, which I haven’t read. If you asked me today, I’d probably tell you that I’m unlikely to ever read the comic books this show was based upon. I said the same about Invincible, until my Amazon Prime membership offered me the opportunity to rent the first volume of the Image comic series without additional charge. Okay, if Amazon offers me the Jupiter’s Legacy comic book, I’ll probably read it. But, otherwise, I’m not planning to read it at all.
I took a flyer on this series because I watched Amazon’s live-action The Boys, enjoying two seasons so far, and the animated version of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. I was primed to watch more superhero content not set in the Marvel or DC Comics universes. The teasers and trailers for the show intrigued me. It was the origin story for a superhero team that had its beginnings during the Golden Age of superhero comics. Or, at least, during the same time period, the 1930s.
This eight-episode series has two main plot threads. One is set in present day, and deals largely with the super-powered offspring of superhero parents. The second story arc is set in the 1930s, following the stock market crash, and shows the viewer how the famed superhero team, The Union (more Justice League than Avengers, in my opinion), received their powers on a mysterious uncharted island.
For me, the “flashback” portions of this season were more interesting than the present-day story. That portion of the origin story reminded me of all of those hundred-year-old adventure stories, such as those written by H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne. It also reminded me of King Kong, perhaps because travel to a mysterious uncharted island is a big part of the story.
A more recent association would, of course, be the television series Lost. Because the island is more than it initially appears to be.
In the flashback, Sheldon Sampson (Josh Duhamel), his elder brother Walter (Ben Daniels), Sheldon’s future wife Grace Kennedy (Leslie Bibb), Fitz Small (Mike Wade), Sheldon’s best friend George Hutchence (Matt Lanter), and Richard Conrad (David Julian Hirsh) travel to the island, conquer a series of tests, and are then rewarded with superpowers and unnatural long lifespans. These original six become the superhero team known as The Union.
The present-day story involves the offspring of the original superheroes, including Sheldon and Grace’s children Brandon/The Paragon (Andrew Horton) and Chloe (Elena Kampouris). Also George’s son, Hutch (Ian Quinlan), who has no superpowers but uses a teleportation rod to commit crimes while he attempts to locate his father, who has become a supervillain since the 1930s.
The story in the present becomes a bit of a confusing snarl of events, involving cloned supervillains, super-family drama, and a Big Secret that doesn’t seem quite so big or surprising after the reveal. I would have been more interested in a story about the formation and history of The Union through the decades, without the jumping from past to present in every episode. But, that’s just a personal preference.
After watching the final episode of the season, I was looking forward to watching more. In part, this story seems to be a meditation on Superman and Batman’s “Thou Shalt Not Kill” credo, and whether or not those principles still apply in the modern world. While mildly interesting, this sort of conversation about superhero morality is designed for an even more niche audience than your run-of-the-mill superhero fan.
In all, however, it was an interesting season. We should have gotten more.
Firewater’s How-It-All-Ends Report Card: A
Sure, it had a few problems. Some of present-day plot, and a few bad hair choices. But, I enjoyed each episode, and each seemed to go by very quickly. I think the show would have really started rocking during a second season.