Jupiter's Circle #4

Mark Millar, Chris Sprouse and Walden Wong wrap up most of the unresolved plot developments from the end of last issue in "Jupiter's Circle" #4, which breaks from the series' usual trend of loosely-connected standalone stories. The story continues to reflect the tumultuous 1960s, a time that also turns out to be among the Union's most troublesome times, present day notwithstanding. The Vice President remains a hostage, even as mod super villain Jack Hobbs easily steals away the heroes' powers one-by-one.

Millar gives his "Jupiter's Legacy" prequel some weight by involving real world political and social events; it's not some fictitious politician who's been captured -- it's Hubert Humphrey himself, real-life United States Vice President. He adds to this with the discovery that one of the team's own has done the kidnapping in an attempt to blackmail the U.S. into pulling out of the Vietnam War. Skyfox's fall from grace and the character's anti-establishment motives play well with the mood of the time period; his counterculture tests the strength of the team, just as it tested society's resolve during the time.

Millar balances this with the period's pervasive sense of simplicity, particularly in the Union's outward and freely-given support of the government. Millar combines a Stan Lee-esque sense of wonder with the more edgy, modern kind evoked by Alan Moore in his homage-based work, providing a story that's fresh, yet evocative of the Silver Age stories that inspired it. Sprouse has a lightweight, yet realistic style that ideally suits Millar's story; its period imagery recalls the Silver Age, yet with a glossy, big-budget finesse in Walden Wong's ink line.

Sprouse's pages rarely exceed four panels apiece, but the larger-than-life scope of Millar's story readily supports that kind of expanse without seeming like it's being padded or prolonged. These pages give plenty of room to Millar's script, which is tight and efficient, and ensure that Peter Doherty's word balloons don't clutter Sprouse's layouts. Ive Svorcina's colors are similarly non-intrusive; the rich tones don't detract from Sprouse's lines, only enhance them. Bill Sienkiewicz's striking cover captures only one scene from near the story's end, but puts a beautiful spin on these events and easily sells the issue.

The showdown between the Union and Hobbs is a bit pedestrian with no real tension or surprises, but Millar and Sprouse establish a mood and setting that makes this barely noticeable. "Jupiter's Legacy" #4 is another terrific installment in Millar's story about a group of superheroes who take over, and it's a skillful chapter that plays a role in those future events.

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