Mark Millar, Davide Gianfelice and Francesco Mortarino turn their attention to the early days of Union cofounder George Hutchence, a.k.a. Skyfox, in "Jupiter's Circle" #5. Millar plays up the drunken, prankish, flirtatious yet largely heroic nature of Skyfox, who gets into no shortage of altercations with his teammates but still nabs the bad guy, albeit by rather unconventional means. His behavioral patterns fit the classic anti-hero archetype, but Millar ensures that he's not a total scumbag; there's still a do-gooder beneath all the bluster, and that dichotomy is what carries the exploration of the character.
Skyfox as a good guy might seem like a surprise to followers of the previous series, "Jupiter's Legacy," where he was revealed to be a supervillain, but -- by establishing both the crazier nature of the character as well as a potential catalyst for his eventual transformation -- Millar initiates a completely plausible development. The playful, antagonistic relationship between Hutchence and Walter Sampson, brother of the Utopian, is especially played up, which also sets the stage for the dynamic already established in the previous series. It's essentially a continuation of what Millar has done so well in past issues of "Jupiter's Circle," in that he provides new insight on these characters while also shoring up the status quo already established in "Jupiter's Legacy."
The issue is largely framed through the narrative of Sunny, a woman who is clearly close to Hutchence but whose unflattering anecdotes to a somewhat surprising listener indicate a troubled history that's ripe with conflict potential. As structured by Gianfelice, the abrupt scene transitions deliver both shock in some places and laughs in others; Sunny's description of Hutchence's sobriety -- or lack of it -- gives way to an appropriately comical series of panels afterwards. Similarly, her comments about his lack of accountability transition to an almost surreal image of Hutchence's life of excess. Gianfelice uses this technique throughout the issue, keeping the mood light despite the underlying sense of foreboding.
Gianfelice and Mortarino deliver a relatively clean and simple set of panels that evoke a bit of a Silver Age feel without putting the art in conflict with the decidedly adult themes of the issue. In keeping with the mid-20th century setting, colorist Ive Svorcina keeps the tones flat but bright, mostly staying away from any kind of gradients or fancy color transitions.
"Jupiter's Circle" #5 is a terrific chapter in what has been a terrific series, adding dimension to the already-completed companion series but also working as a perfectly viable and well-constructed series on its own.