The events in Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s “Jupiter’s Legacy” #4 jump nearly a decade into the future, and also eighty years into the past, as the origin of America’s super First Family is revealed, before moving ahead to the worldwide effects of their takeover of America. Millar’s origin for the team isn’t all that unique, but it doesn’t really need to be, as the origin isn’t really the point of the sequence, other than to make it clear that the team has one. Instead, the scene spotlights each character’s personality, and gives some insight as to their mindset, making it a great first issue for anyone just discovering the title.
In fact, it cleverly reads almost like a first issue, as the events from the past set up a framing sequence for those in the near future, where Millar bypasses all of the internal family politics that blew up over the past three issues and moves right into its aftereffects. Whether this flash forward will be the new setting for the series — or if it’s merely a peek ahead at what’s to come — is uncertain at this point, but it’s all the more intriguing because of it. Both present day and the near future make excellent backdrops for whichever story Millar decides to tell in subsequent issues.
The 1930s, pulp-ish, old school feel that starts off the issue falls within the context of a bedtime story that Chloe tells to her son Jason, and the boy’s head is filled with the wonderment of the good old days. Millar than juxtaposes this feeling of wonderment with the cold, fascist reality of the near future, a point boldly made by way of an imposing, full-page illustration by Quitely that contrasts the state of the world at this point in time versus nearly a century ago. Millar’s story goes on give a foreboding indication of the world’s state of uncertainty come the year 2022, playing Jason’s youthful, optimistic outlook against his parents’ subdued, more inward-looking concerns.
Like his parents, Jason has superpowers, but has to keep them concealed for his own safety as well as those of his parents, and his good-natured attitude about makes for a lighthearted story dynamic. His parents cheer a deliberately mediocre performance by their boy at a sporting event, for example, much to the puzzlement of onlookers. The lightheartedness is another contrast against the more somber, general backdrop of the sequence, also effectively put forth by Quitely, with subtle touches like a single, perfectly placed panel showing the drudgery of Chloe’s day job, as Jason isn’t the only one who has to keep his powers hidden.
“Jupiter’s Legacy” #4 finds something plenty worthwhile to wring out of the traditional superhero idea, and does so by dealing with the very questions brought forth by the notion of conventional superheroics in the modern day. Using the fundamentals of the genre, Millar rearranges them to make something truly fresh.