This second “Jupiter’s Circle” series has felt progressively odder with each new installment. By that, I don’t mean in terms of new foes or daring heroics; if anything, the stories within the individual issues have felt like very standard superhero stories. However, looking back over the past five issues, it feels like Mark Millar, Chris Sprouse, Walden Wong and Ty Templeton have taken the series title a little too literally.
After he quit at the end of the first miniseries, George comes back to the team in “Jupiter’s Circle” #5, and his return held a lot of promise. Considering Walter is still around after their conflict in the previous series, the character returns in a fun way: by saving the day after the others had their powers stolen. However, when Walter promptly admits to George that he’d used his powers to steal George’s wife away from him — and triggers another fight between the two — it undoes the step forward the series took in one fell swoop, steering the series towards the exact same status quo we saw at the very start of this miniseries.
To say that’s frustrating is an understatement. Having the two back on the team together had a lot of potential, regardless of whether or not George knew the truth about Walter’s actions. Similarly, having George away from the rest of the team and acting a threat to their way of thinking had a lot of story possibility. With one more issue to go, we’re exactly where we were at the start of the miniseries. While things could turn around, it doesn’t stop this installment from leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth. In many ways, “Jupiter’s Circle” #5 feels like it’s suffering from prequel-itis, adhering to the need to leave everything unchanged for the other core property. That’s too bad, doubly so when you consider there were other plot threads in earlier issues — like Ayn Rand’s philosophies threatening to change the way the team acted — that were left abandoned.
The art sure does look nice, though. Sprouse and Wong draw the bulk of the issue, and Wong’s inks over Sprouse’s breakdowns have the thin, clean lines and classical look one would expect from this duo. Even the little details — like Walter’s mustache or the familiar toys in the background while Sunny is on the phone — are carefully and meticulously drawn; the mundane leaps to life just as well as the heroics. Templeton’s pages at the end have a thicker, heavier ink line, but they’re a real treat; I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed his art. While Templeton’s overall style is very similar to Sprouse’s, there are little touches from Templeton that sing, like how well he draws the swarm of fish attacking or the touch of jowls on Walter’s face as he shouts. Problematic storytelling aside, it’s a handsome comic.
Millar’s script may pull things back around in next month’s conclusion, but “Jupiter’s Circle” #5 is a disappointment based solely on what we see here. Hopefully, Millar isn’t really sorting the story back into its old boxes, but — as the book careens towards that conclusion — it’s a touch of a disappointment for this comic.