Following the announcement that streaming giant Netflix had purchased the rights to writing behemoth Mark Millar’s Millarworld back in 2017, many thought this was the service’s answer to Warner Bros.’ acquisition of DC Comics properties and Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. The creator-owned publishing company boasts a number of popular original comic book titles such as Reborn and The Magic Order, from the powerhouse brains behind Kingsman, Kick-Ass, Old Man Logan and Civil War. With the departure of the Netflix/Marvel superhero shows such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, there’s certainly a gap of regular content waiting to be filled. The first live-action property to be green-lit to is the expansive Jupiter’s Legacy, along with American Jesus waiting in the wings. But will this big-budget generational series prove the successful springboard for the rest of the Millarworld universe?
Based on the 2013 graphic novels by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, Jupiter’s Legacy centres on thw ageing superhero team – the Union of Justice, led by Sheldon Sampson aka The Utopian (Josh Duhamel). Following almost a century of protecting mankind, the squad are now looking to their children to step up and continue their legacy. However with such monumental boots to fill, their super-powered children struggle to live up to their parents’ legendary ideals and standards. Tensions begin to rise between the two generations, and the groups eventually clash over their different ideas and codes of conduct, particularly when it comes to supervillains.
Showrunner Sang Kim opts to focus primarily on the first five issues of the main saga, while also interweaving parts of prequel Jupiter’s Circle throughout the narrative. As a result, the eight-episode first season spans two different timelines, flitting between flashbacks to the 1930s as the group head out on a fateful expedition to a mysterious island which haunts a younger Sheldon’s dreams. Meanwhile in present-day events, Kim navigates the complicated dynamics between the super powered families in a thread full of typical angsty drama and daddy issues, which was frankly better explored in The Umbrella Academy. This tonal shift between the differing timelines makes for a jarring experience, stalling any real plot development. Most frustrating however is the tease of the fallout between the original team and founding member turned villain, George Hutchence/Skyfox (Matt Lanter).
However one of the main issues stems with the fact that these characters just aren’t particularly likeable or afforded much depth. Legacy and the consequences of not being around to be a parent to your children are well worn genre tropes, with the often overdramatic performances from the main cast unfortunately not bringing anything new to the table. Duhamel and Leslie Bibb play the all American archetypal idealists to a T, while Ben Daniels’ Brainwave does at least begin to prove an interesting opposing dynamic to the leading duo. It’s relative newcomer Ian Quinlan who eventually steals the show as Hutch Hutchence, the complex and charismatic outcast son of the mysterious villain Skyfox, proving an intriguing bridge between the generations of heroes and villains.
The superhero suits from costume designer Lizz Wolf (who’s worked on Pacific Rim: Uprising) are impressively intricate with personalised motifs and patterns for each hero, adding a cinematic feel which rivals that of The Boys‘ costume department. Much like the Amazon Prime series, the action sequences are also surprisingly gritty with intense bloodshed at times, and well choreographed by industry expert Philip J. Silvera (who’s previous work includes Daredevil). One standout scene involves Hutch transporting himself (with the aid of his rod) inside a bank vault, squaring off against multiple guards within low levels of oxygen. However the background used in key scenes, particularly during the Hilltop sequence, did often distract from the action with the overtly green screen quality.
With clichéd storytelling that we’ve seen plenty of times before, Jupiter’s Legacy feels like it’s been released a couple of years too late. Whether this will positively springboard the Millarworld universe for Netflix remains to be seen, but the fact that they’re potentially leaving the more interesting arc of Skyfox for a second season is disappointing to say the least.