Series Review: Jupiter’s Legacy Continues Deconstructing The Superhero Genre In A Cool But Joyless Way
Jupiter’s Legacy is the latest Netflix original series in the superhero genre. It’s from the mind of Mark Millar, the creator responsible for the source material for movies like Kick-Ass, Wanted, Kingsman, and more. In many ways, Jupiter’s Legacy is Netflix’s answer to Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys. It’s dark and mature live-action superhero content that takes a closer look at the realities of superheroes in society. But, while The Boys showcased those views from the lens of the everyman, Jupiter’s Legacy keeps things localized within the superhero perspective. It’s all the heroes, all the time. So check out our Jupiter’s Legacy series review, which is entirely Spoiler-free.
Jupiter’s Legacy Is One Of Mark Millar’s Longest Running Comic Book Series
Some of the kids aren’t even heroes. | Image via Netflix.
The name of Mark Millar is not unfamiliar when it comes to comic book adaptations. Millar is one of those comic book creators who can do the action-packed blockbuster that appeals to broad audiences. While also doing the thoughtful and contemplative stuff. This Jupiter’s Legacy series review fits more in the mold of the latter. While there is enough action to sink your teeth into, Jupiter’s Legacy is really more about analyzing superhero ethics and morality.
Going back to my earlier comparison to The Boys, this new Netflix original series is all about why the good heroes, are good. But more importantly, how the good heroes can stay good, in a world that is rapidly evolving beyond the ideals and values that make up the foundation of a responsible superhero. I know, it sounds grim and boring. But for all the things that Jupiter’s Legacy ends up being, boring is absolutely not one of them.
The Jupiter’s Legacy Series Review Is About The Philosophy Versus Fists
Taking care of business! | Image via Netflix.
The premise of Jupiter’s Legacy has many layers. On one level, the series is set in a world full of superheroes. One group of veteran superheroes govern the others, overseeing and enforcing their core values through The Union. The Union is unlike the usual superhero groups that we’re used to experiencing. It’s the Justice League if the JLA had a generation of founding members from almost 100 years ago still running the place. And its members comprise that generation’s children, who struggle to live up to the legacy of their parents. Then there’s everyone else, who also have powers, and are vying to join The Union.
This Union’s core members are The Utopian (Josh Duhamel), his wife Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb), his brother Brainwave (Ben Daniels), a former employee The Flare (Mike Wade), his best friend Skyfox (Matt Lanter), and Blue-Bolt (David Julian Hirsch). Together, they created The Union back in the ’30s when they originally got their powers. And now, they head up the world’s only superhero organization, but one that is struggling to be relevant in a world of ever-changing rules. And that’s the basic setup and premise of Jupiter’s Legacy. An aging generation of heroes, who have to face tough questions from the supposed legacy of their kids, who feel limited by their parents’ code, despite their immense superpowers.
The Netflix Original Hooks Audiences With Its Unique Storytelling
Besties! | Image via Netflix.
Talking about the actual story a little bit later, Jupiter’s Legacy’s storytelling format is what really makes it engaging. The series tells its story in two different ways, with a conventional past-present back and forth. But the way the show uses this familiar storytelling device is very interesting. The present-day storyline sees Duhamel’s Utopian as the Zeus-like figure of all the superheroes in the world. He’s their leader, and basically the godfather, and the whole Kingdom Come Superman look really adds to that vibe. In the present day, Utopian is having family issues. Despite being the father figure to this modern generation of superheroes, his own house is in disarray. In many ways, the present-day storyline deals with Utopian’s failures. His failure as a father, as a leader, and as a hero that is meant to inspire. And inspire only.
Jupiter’s Legacy Asks The Tough Questions About The Superhero Genre
Into the unknown! | Image via Netflix.
One of the most unique aspects of Jupiter’s Legacy is the ‘code’. Utopian adheres to this laid-out sense of morality, formally referred to as the Code, which he also expects everyone under him to follow. The biggest conflict of the present-day storyline is how younger heroes begin to question the Code. This Code is really a formalizing of something that almost every superhero in pop culture adheres to by default. Always be good, righteous, the bigger man, never kills, etc. But in an evolving world where heroes are brutally murdered by superpowered individuals, the ‘no-kill’ part of the code is beginning to sow dissent.
The bulk of Jupiter’s Legacy deals with these questions and aspects of the superhero genre that we rarely see explored. Many superhero content has shown what happens when superheroes go bad. But rarely has anyone explored why they remain to stay good in the face of unyielding adversity, and an evolution of society where ‘good’ is a relative concept. That is the show’s biggest strength, as I’ll come back to in this Jupiter’s Legacy series review; it’s a discussion of the concept of good and having to adhere to moralities not shared by their adversaries.
The Flashbacks Focus On The Mystery Box Style Of TV
An expedition gone wrong, but so so right! | Image via Netflix.
While the present-day story deals with these larger-than-life questions, the flashbacks are more specific. They’re meant to showcase just how The Utopian went from a privileged-but-oblivious young man, into a kind of righteous, holier-than-thou dick. Then there’s the question of just how these initial six superheroes got their powers. Powers that have extended their life expectancy by decades. And while it takes a long time to get there, the mystery is enough to keep audiences engaged, basically the entire time. Which is a feat in and of itself, given that the story is utterly joyless.
Jupiter’s Legacy Review Has To Find The Fun, By Actively Looking
Oh look, it’s boring boy! | Image via Netflix.
People complain that Zack Snyder’s DC Extended Universe is devoid of fun. It’s dark and grimy and too serious. Those audiences will have a field day with Jupiter’s Legacy, as there is not one clear-cut moment of levity. It’s a show that is utterly joyless in its storytelling, doubling down on the dark, serious, and brooding moments. And while I enjoyed its intensity in a story that needed it, I’m not sure how long it’ll be able to hold on to audiences who need some breaks in the tension to continue enjoying a story.
Beautiful Performances From All, With Varying Levels Of Success
The bitter, non-superhero daughter with a better storyline than some of the supers. | Image via Netflix.
I’ve seen Josh Duhamel in a lot of things, mostly romantic comedies. And I’m glad to say that the actor acts his heart out in Jupiter’s Legacy, and it’s such a powerful performance from him. His is bolstered by the supporting performances of Daniels and Bibb. Although, as the matriarch of this entire group, and basically, a world of superheroes, I wish Lady Liberty had more agency and impact. Besides just being the wise wife and mom, who’ll swoop in every now and then with sage advice. And their kids are very poorly developed. While Chloe’s (Elena Kampouris) storyline gets interesting as the series progresses, Paragon (Andrew Horton) stays constantly unimportant and just plain boring. Even though he’s the catalyst to the conflict of the season.
Jupiter’s Legacy is an in-depth exploration of superhero elements that have rarely been discussed in this manner. The pacing, while lacking at times, is pretty engaging. The story dips in certain areas, with certain characters, but overall is worth the investment of this 8-episode season.
Jupiter’s Legacy season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
What did you think of Jupiter’s Legacy series? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image via Netflix.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.