by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
There have been some truly great deconstructions of the superhero genre. Watchmen set the bar in that particular corner of superherodom, but there have been countless imitators in the decades since. Indeed, there’d be enough to think that the very idea of deconstructing a superhero story has lost all meaning — but of course, in comics, any issue might be someone’s first, so any deconstruction might feel subversive to newcomers, even if the rest of us have seen it a million times. That was more or less my assessment of Jupiter’s Legacy when it started back in 2013; this was an attractive, well-observed series that ultimately felt decidedly familiar. But, of course, that was its starting point, not its raison d’être. The fifth and final issue of volume two clarifies that this series was about taking superhero mythology from that tired deconstructed wasteland and reconstructing its original spirit of optimism.
And I’ll be damned if it isn’t effective. Mark Millar and Frank Quitely pack a ton of satisfying action — good old-fashioned superheroics ripped from the pages of classic X-Men and The Atom — into this issue, but the most satisfying moment comes when we see our younger heroes: Chloe, Hutch, and Jason, taking up the mantles of their forebears.
Whatever cynicism they felt while their parents were alive has melted away, leaving them to discover the values of selflessness, sacrifice, and anonymity. And their embrace of those classic superhero tropes gives them newfound value. These aren’t faceless characters capitulating to convention, but flawed, nuanced people whose assessments of their own failures are something we can trust. They’re not wearing costumes or maintaining secret identities as a matter of course, but because they’ve tried the other way and found it lacking.
There’s a whiff of conservatism there — that our parents were right all along and we’ll come around sooner or later — that would make me uncomfortable if it weren’t so closely tied with a commentary on superhero comics. Of course, even then, “conservatism” might be the wrong word; these characters have found the wisdom in their parent’s choices, but they’re far from zealous disciples. Indeed, the hook for the next series, Jupiter’s Requiem, is that Jason is picking up his grandfather’s inquiries into just what it is that made Sheldon et al. super in the first place. Their generation may have had some of the answers, but there are still plenty out there for these characters to find.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?