Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Jupiter’s Legacy v2 #1-5
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Frank Quitely
Decompressed storytelling in comic books rose to prominence in the 1990s and basically ended the “done in one” style of narratives that had dominated the medium since its inception. The original idea was that you could pick up issues of Superman or Batman and get a complete story, only needing to know the basic concept of the characters. Decompression took those stories and broke them into multi-issue arcs much the same way serialized television popped up in the 2000s with a move away from procedurals.
There have been many criticisms of decompression from fans of comic books, arguing that this stylistic device allows writers to get away with unnecessarily stretching out a storyline for half of a year. The apologists claim decompression allows for great character development and depth to the plot. It has led to the prevalence of the trade paperback or collection of arcs in a reprinted volume, giving the reader the entire story in one go. As a reader of comics, I divide my reading into two categories: the monthlies I can’t wait to read and the trade paperbacks I will wait for.
All of this is to say that for five issues, so much of Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 feels rushed. If you were to sit back and diagram the plot, it feels like enough content for maybe two issues. It’s stretched out, but without that depth or development supporters of decompression claim, the format brings. Most of the first couple issues are devoted to Chloe Sampson, her husband Hutch, and their son Jason globetrotting to gather together a coalition of supervillains to help defeat her brother, Brandon, and her uncle, Walter. The villains are merely background characters given no substantive arcs or personalities.
The second half is the battle between Chloe’s people and Brandon’s, which is a thrilling spectacle of artwork but shallow in terms of growing these characters. Once again, both sides have a host of supporting players who are voids, just colorful costumes without any sense of who these people are. So much of the character history referenced happens in the pages of Jupiter’s Circle, but you allegedly don’t need to read that to understand Legacy. I would argue with that point considerably as there is no way to understand the conflict between Skyfox and Brain Wave if you haven’t seen what went down in Circle.
This is written in the broadest of notes; it is decompression without depth, so why? There is a strong trend of writing comics as pitches for movies or television shows. Writer Jeff Lemire has been clear that is what Gideon Falls is, and Scott Snyder was upfront about his mini-series Wytches as being the same thing. I suspect Millar saw this concept as more something to be developed for the screen, and this is ultimately some concept art and a basic plot outline? As a comic, that makes it really weak and a disappointment.
Chloe, Hutch, and Jason have the potential to be really great characters. They are a superhero family adopting secret identities and trying to live a normal life while covertly helping others. We should have gotten more time to explore this part of their lives instead of introducing and then wiping it all away for the big final battle. There could have been some more time fleshing out the villains needed to help defeat Brandon, let us get to know them and see why they are critical to the mission. But in the end, it’s just an incredibly quick read you’ll likely forget about a few days later.