Mark Millar is becoming the Stephen King of comic book writers. With Wanted, Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and now Jupiter’s Legacy, Millar has had more of his creator-owned comic book titles turned into live action tv and movies than any other writer.
Starting in 2013, Jupiter’s Legacy and its sequels followed the adventures and family drama of a group of ambitious explorers who sought out and received superhuman abilities to change the world, and then fought with each other over how much they had the right to do so. It was a fascinating and intelligent study of ethics and morals, how to build a global utopia, and also of ultra-violence in comics, an aspect where Millar always pushes the edge of the envelope.
The leader of the Union, this Earth’s version of the Justice League, is the Utopian/Sheldon Sampson (played by Josh Duhamel), a very Superman-like figure with his same powers and moral Code. He believes the Union is there to help and inspire humans to greatness, not rule the world. Utopian’s brother, Brainwave/Walter Sampson (Ben Daniels) was gifted with superhuman mental abilities and intelligence, and believes otherwise. Their long-running ethical debate is the main focus of the first arc of Jupiter’s Legacy.
At the core of Jupiter’s Legacy is an intense family drama that everyone could relate to. A son trying to become worthy filling his father’s impossibly large shoes, the daughter who loathes her family and herself for not being born the Golden Boy heir. These Sampson offspring have inherited super-abilities, and are the next generation of superheroes. We even get to see the family drama in flashback scenes to the 1920s, where intellects and egos clash in the Sampson family business, around the time of the Wall Street Crash, which has a major impact on the future of the Sampson clan in more ways than one.
There seems to be plenty of evil superhumans to battle. Episode 1, “By Dawn’s Early Light,” has an epic battle between the Union and a villain named Blackstar (Tyler Mane), who is rock-like and superstrong like the Fantastic Four’s Thing, but also has the ability to create anti-matter explosions. The fight sequences are well-choreographed and created, and all special effects are on par with the best movie magic. Where did these evil superhumans come from? Are they offspring from the original band of explorers, who turned bad? Are they part of what the title Jupiter’s Legacy is no doubt a reference to? The (godly? extraterrestrial?) act of bestowing humans with superhuman abilities, and the generations of ramifications that follow.
The ethical and moral debate the Sampson brothers have been having for the past 90 years isn’t the only one featured in episode one. The Utopian and his son Brandon/Paragon (Andrew Horton) have a constant argument over the superhero Code, which includes the Superman-like rule against taking a life. This argument reaches a critical point in this episode.
The look of the series is a near-carbon copy of the comics. Overall, the characters have the same hairstyles and uniforms as their print counterparts. One notable exception is Mrs. Sampson/Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb) who has long silver hair to match her husband’s, perhaps to emphasize she is as long-lived as him. All casting seems to be spot-on, and every member is fun to watch. If the tv series follows the comics' path, then troubled daughter Chloe (Elena Kampouris) will play a major role in future plotlines.
While the same core story conflicts are present in both the comic and the tv series, the series wastes no time veering off from the comics' plotline, and throwing a few major surprises our way. Expect more of the same from future episodes.
Jupiter’s Legacy airs on Netflix.
Jupiter’s Legacy (2013)
Jupiter’s Legacy 2 (2016)