STK669378By Jarrod Jones. It’s become one of Mark Millar’s most ambitious and fully realized projects to date. Now how in the hell did that happen.

Jupiter’s Legacy could have easily been one of the standard “done in seven,” or “done in four” miniseries that seems to flow from the steady stream that is Millarworld (and god knows there’s enough of those already), but from the looks of things this mini-series is quickly becoming a rapidly expanding universe unto itself. (Though, perhaps the words “quickly” and “rapidly” need not apply when we’re discussing Jupiter’s Legacy.) And what’s more, this book is making the prolific comics writer’s last fully-realized series, Kick-Ass, look, well… Slack-ass, at least in terms of scope.

That’s why Jupiter’s Circle is so refreshing. Draw all the comparisons to Watchmen that you like — it’s completely natural to embrace those impulses — but to do so would dilute the enjoyment found in such a crackerjack first issue. All the questions that stem from Legacy (chief among them: “Why should I care about any of these people?”) look like they’re about to be answered here.

But answering questions and filling in blanks from its parent mini-series shouldn’t be the primary function of Jupiter’s Circle, and for the most part it isn’t. This premiere issue doesn’t look to sate expectations by jumping through the requisite narrative hoops. What it does instead is ably craft a stirring intrigue in the world of the Utopian and his cadre of super-friends by starting the series off at a time where a rumbling disquiet has already become audible.

Of course, familial unease is nothing new for Sheldon Sampson, and it’s certainly nothing new to the reader. Jupiter’s Circle casts deliberate echoes of Legacy‘s first batch of issues, at least as far as Millar’s less-than-subtle superhero/socio-political allegory goes: J. Edgar Hoover and his armada of G-Men are looking to get the Utopian’s be-cowled playmates to sign up in an official capacity as fully recognized officers of the government, utilizing the sort of grimy, underhanded methods that were historically afforded to ‘Gentleman Johnny’. Millar goes even further in exemplifying the more coercive, fascist aspects of the FBI by having Walter Sampson state that the covert organization had “some good ideas.” (Which, unsurprisingly, will later inform ol’ Walter’s ultimate betrayal.)

unnamed-11When the book isn’t busy playing the ensuing drama straight, it gives us some of the year’s finest artwork. Artist Wilfredo Torres takes co-creator Frank Quitely’s designs and allows these heroes to step confidently from a blend of ancient archetypes — think what happened on the day Zeus humbled himself to grace the skies of Metropolis. This gives the Utopian and Co. a grace that purposefully shrouds the fragile humanity that hides just underneath these pillars of strength. (I think we can all pour one out for the Blue-Bolt, that poor sonuvabitch.)

Wilfredo Torres — whose work on both Batman ’66 and Quantum and Woody is wholly deserving of all your accolades — tackles Millar’s melodrama with an earnest finesse that pays homage to both the Doc Savage strips that imbued Millar’s opener in Jupiter’s Legacy #1 with a pulpy pizzazz, and to the four-colored might that Darwyn Cooke provided Justice League: The New Frontier. Tossing out comparisons to Frank Quitely’s typically amazing work does a disservice to the feel Jupiter’s Circle is looking to provide. In Torres’ capable hands, Jupiter’s Circle effectively becomes its own beast.

For the armchair cynic, Jupiter’s Circle could be considered mandatory filler placed strategically in-between the primary Legacy books in order to give artist Frank Quitely enough time to complete issues #6 through to whenever. In that respect, the book would be Millar’s own Convergence: a cynical wheel-spinner thrown at the masses so that the mogul can get his publishing ducks in a row. But with the obvious creative strength at play here, even the most ardent Millar skeptic can’t deny that the writer’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place. What faults can be found in this book are nearly eclipsed by Millar’s ambition to set things right.

Image Comics/#3.50

Written by Mark Millar.

Art by Wilfredo Torres.

Colored by Ive Svorcina.

8.5 out of 10