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Comics: Jupiter's Circle is Vastly Superior to Jupiter's Legacy

I've just finished reading through both series. For those who don't know, Jupiter's Circle is a prequel to Jupiter's Legacy. Both are written by Mark Millar as part of his independent superhero comics line. They're available in 2 volume trades.

I'm not gonna hold back, so here goes: JC gives me those same feelings that I had when I read Watchmen for the first time. It's a very similar experience. At the end of it, I'm incredibly uncomfortable, disgusted, disturbed, and feeling in need of a shower. It's a book that digs into you like that. But in a good way, I promise.

Of course, I'm not saying that this is the second coming of Watchmen. I'm not claiming that JC is as well crafted and as thoughtful and everything else. It's not Moore's Watchmen 2. So please don't expect such a work. I'm simply saying that JC deals with the same general ideas of deconstructing the superhero genre and generates a lot of the same feelings of uncomfortable-ness when you see these heroes go awry.

On the other hand, JL has the trademark Millar-isms that a lot of people criticize him for. He goes way over the top and generates lot of shocking moments that feel exploitative in that special Millar way. JC is much more toned down and the shocking moments feel much more natural and palatable IMO. JC also by sheer necessity can't be as shocking or viciously bloody in its moments as JL, simply due to the fact that it's a prequel series and Millar can't kill off all the characters that he needs for JL.

JL follows a lot of the "Standard Millar Story" and Millar tropes that readers of Millar are going to be familiar with. If you've read Wanted or Old Man Logan or a lot of other Millar books, it's going to be like deja vu. I'm getting kind of tired of em, to be honest. Someone's in hiding and getting chased by vast hordes of evil. There's a pivotal moment when the hero finally emerges and proceeds to kick serious ass in a "hell yeah" splash page. Millar even blatantly reuses a key scene from Old Man Logan that's incredibly shameless.

In JL, the two resolutions with the characters of Skyfox and Walter Sampson are incredibly disappointing. Now, Millar spent most of JL, as well as all of JC, building up Skyfox. He's building him up and we're all waiting in anticipation and then we finally get to see him back in action at the end of JL and... it's incredibly underwhelming and disappointing. Skyfox gets dispatched in about two or three panels? And the actual methods are incredibly vague and unclear to the audience, since Millar never really fully explained the powers and abilities of these new superheroes he's created. It's not clear cut like in DC, where we know that Superman is gonna have a bad day if he's shot by a kryptonite bullet, or if Martian Manhunter gets trapped in a forest fire. Skyfox is just somehow wrecked in three panels and we the audience never fully understand how it happened, so it all just feels like another cheap Millar shock moment.

Walter Sampson is the ultimate villain of the story and his resolution is just... ugh. It feels real dumb.

In contrast, Millar builds up a thread in JC that has an incredible payoff and makes sense. And that is the relationship between Utopian (Millar's Superman analogue) and his wife. We're treated to a detailed breakdown of his wife's life every morning and how things are and at the end it's all paid off and feels incredible. It's a look at Superman that has never quite been illustrated in that manner and felt like a revelation. But of course, this shouldn't be a surprise, Millar's a huge fan of Superman (Red Son, Superior).

In JC, the masterstroke by Millar has to be the event that splits Skyfox and the Union (the JLA analogue) apart. It's the best, most troubling element of the series and incredible to behold. What I love about it is how when you think about it and toss it around in your head... it becomes clear that (1) it is something that must have happened at some point in the history of a Justice League or an Avengers, and (2) it is something that DC and Marvel would never ever have the guts to publish. It's an event that is so human and inevitable. I mean, I've encountered something similar happening, while playing World of Warcraft. Yet it is a story that you'll never see in a DC or Marvel book. They would never dare to put their heroes in such a light.

The art style: I like JC's art very much, in that it evokes that sort of robust 1950s Darwyn Cooke look. It's bold and bright and perfectly fits with the time period. In that sense, you can think of JC as a sort of New Frontier if it all went horribly wrong in a Watchmen-like manner.

JL's art, on the other hand, is drawn by Frank Quitely, who I can't stand. His people all look horrible and lumpy and it doesn't work for me. I've never liked Quitely's art, and I probably never will. Personal preference here.

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