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Mark Millar

Jupiter’s Circle

After recently finishing Jupiter’s Legacy, I was intrigued to read the two prequels which detailed the six heroes’ early days. While Mark Millar remained the author, the artist switched to Wilfredo Torres, with the two covers by original artist Frank Quitely.

Book One

Told in six chapters, the chapters center on the other four members of the team besides the married couple, The Utopian and Lady Liberty. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the Union of Justice team members are still grappling with their new identities and the fame that goes along with their powers.

The book opens with the reveal that Blue Bolt is gay, who is trying to hide that fact from his team. J Edgar Hoover tries to blackmail him, and he tries to commit suicide under the strain of his secret, but the team supports him and Blue Bolt gets his revenge against Hoover.

The Flare has a mid-life crisis and begins an affair with a nineteen-year-old girl who idolizes him, so he leaves his wife and three children for her. A horrible accident shows the true colors of his young girlfriend, with his loyal wife coming back to him. This story infuriated me- he didn’t deserve the second chance his wife gave him after so publicly flaunting his new romance. Asshole.

Skyfox and Brainwave have never gotten along, as Skyfox is always baiting Brainwave. Known as a playboy, Skyfox finally falls in love but Brainwave lays in wait, looking for a way to finally get back at Skyfox. Although both men are jerks, Skyfox deserves what happens next to him.

There was definitely a Mad Men vibe, with lots of smoking by everyone (it was actually funny seeing the heroes with cigarettes) and the sexism. On a side note, in the original series, a seventh person from the boat group was featured- they looked younger, like a teen. This character has never been seen or mentioned again. I hate when there are inconsistencies like that. The art by Torres is solid, but part of my lack of excitement is because I am comparing it to Quitely’s art that helped define the series. That’s why I hate when artists change within a series, people get attached to a certain art style and it’s hard to accept the next style even if it is good.

Book Two

There is a true shocker in this book, as it is revealed that The Utopian, married his fiancé upon first returning, when you assumed he and Lady Liberty had married immediately.

The rest of this second book deals with the fallout of Skyfox leaving the team because of his broken heart, and how he gets mixed up with some Vietnam War and Civil Rights protestors. He briefly reunites with the team, just for a final confrontation with Brainwave. Skyfox is then cast out, becoming a villain.

Because of the recent Netflix series (which was very uneven, but I will save my thoughts for a future post Edit- it was recently cancelled so I’m not going to bother writing a post about the tv series) these four books have been repackaged online on Hoopla as Jupiter’s Legacy Book One and Two, with the original two as Books Three and Four. While I understand the reasoning for doing so, reading it in that order does a disservice to the series, for these prequels are rather trite and soapy, so if you read them first you might not want to continue to the better two. Miller is planning a sequel, Jupiter’s Requiem, which I’d be curious to read and hope that the entire series as a whole lives up to the promise of how it began.

-Nancy

Fitz/The Flare, Walter/Brainwave, George/Skyfox, Sheldon/The Utopian, Grace/Lady Liberty, Richard/Blue Bolt

Jupiter’s Legacy

When I saw a picture of hunky Josh Duhamel dressed as a superhero in a long grey wig, I was intrigued with this new series he was going to star in. Then I heard it was based off a Mark Millar graphic novel (which could be wonderful or terrible- there is no in-between) I wanted to give the source material a read before I committed to this series that premiers today on Netflix. It starts with a common trope- can the next generation of superheroes live up to the original heroes?

Book One

Starting in 1932, we are given a brief origin story, drawn as a throw back to the pulp-style comics that were churned out in the 1920’s & 1930’s with a vibe similar to Doc Savage, The Spirit or The Phantom. This sepia-toned introduction then contrasts sharply with the brightly colored modern day, filled with jaded Millennials who are second-generation heroes, who are all children from the original six. Chloe and Brandon, the young adult children of Utopian and Lady Liberty, are bored and resentful and absolutely not living up to their potential. Utopian’s brother Walter, who has amazing powers himself, starts to slyly convince his nephew Brandon that he should overthrow his parents and the entire world government. Leaving Chloe in the dark about his evil plans, Brandon convinces his fellow super-powered assholes they should take control and then they all do terrible terrible things.

Secretly pregnant, Chloe escapes and hides out with her boyfriend Hutch, who is the son of a former villian. Their son Jason turns out to have epic powers that they try to hide, but when Brandon’s leadership proves to be a disaster (no big surprise) this little family begins to make plans when they are discovered.

The art by Frank Quitely is very strong- capably going between the different time periods and showcasing the two generations and the many characters. He has a distinctive sketchy style for faces. Most pages have a four or five panel layout with only a few splash pages per chapter. This universe stands alone- it’s not a copycat of Marvel or DC- and was fully fleshed out.

This first book was a great introduction to the characters and story and I’m ready for more!

Book Two

Chloe, Hutch and Jason are on a quest- to find or rescue so-called former villains, who are actually good compared to the super-powered “heroes” in charge now. This book moves fast through the adventures of assembling a team and Hutch finding an additional surprising ally. Brandon and Walter continue their evil ways, and finally its showdown time. Chloe comes face to face with her brother and exacts revenge in regards to what he did to their parents.

This story arc was rushed, there were threads in the narrative that were left hanging and some character’s powers were either too much or too little with no consistency. There were some interesting aspects of the story that could have been expanded such as the alien connection, but a feel-good bow was added to the conclusion to wrap up everything. However, I was a fan of how Chloe, Hutch and Jason all picked up the mantles of family members they wanted to honor, and are planning a better future for themselves and the world.

The art remained a strength- I enjoyed all the varied costumes and some interesting backgrounds were drawn in. The cat and unicorn panel was a stand-out in the story, it was unexpected and fun. Plus, I liked the ongoing joke that simply wearing glasses was an adequate disguise (hello Clark Kent!).

This two-volume series definitely has me interested in following the Netflix series. In fact, I picked up the prequels, Jupiter’s Circle, and look forward to the sequel Jupiter’s Requiem coming out soon.

-Nancy

Huck: All-American

Millar, Mark, Rafael Albuquerque & DaveMcCaig. Huck: All-American. 2016.

There are a few library’s graphic novel collections that I scope out, to see what titles they have, and compare my work library’s collection against it as to help me make purchasing decisions. When I spotted this title at my home library, written by Mark Millar who is famous for Civil War, Red Son and Old Man Logan, I snatched it up to read it. Why hadn’t I heard about it? Well…it turns out it is because it is “the feel-good comic of the year”, aka it is saccharine, light and completely forgettable.

Huck is a behemoth of a guy, but a literal gentle giant. We find out he is an orphan who was left on the doorstep of an orphanage, and now works at a gas station. He has secret powers and uses them to do good deeds around his community, whose residents keep his secret. A woman who has recently moved to town spills the beans to the news, and suddenly the world knows about his abilities. A local politician tries to harness Huck’s powers for his own benefit, and to use him as a conduit to the president. However, Huck’s outing has garnered more attention across the world in Russia. Huck, an earnest and trusting man, is contacted by a bearded man who says he is his twin and that they should try to find their mother. Without spoiling anything, it’s pretty obvious this man is not who he says he is, and Huck’s origin story is explained in the last third of the book.

There are obvious parallels to the Superman story, and I did appreciate the uncomplicated nature of Huck, with him being a true superhero without all the brooding and infighting with other heroes, but the story was too predictable. The artwork is attractive with a warm color palette of yellows, reds and oranges, but is fairly standard in layout. There were a lot of close ups of Huck’s face, with him looking confused and/or simple minded, and too much mocking dialogue about how he was only a gas station attendant.

At the end of the story we get a two page “Meet The Creators” spread, which was actually nice, to see the people beside Millar and Albuquerque get shout-outs. But in Millar’s bio it lists his works that have or are in production to be turned into feature films, and Huck is listed as one of them in development. What?? There is not enough plot, for it is paper thin, and seemed rather resolved to me at the end. While this wasn’t a bad graphic novel per se, it just didn’t seem like a Mark Millar story, which are typically more epic in scope. This book will not be making the cut for me to purchase for my library’s collection.

-Nancy

Wolverine: Old Man Logan

OldManLogan
Millar, Mark & Steve McNiven. Wolverine: Old Man Logan. 2008.

Mark Millar, you did it again. Civil War, Red Son, now Old Man Logan– you really know how to tell a story!

I’ve been circling this comic for awhile, not sure what to expect from it, and feeling that Wolverine already gets a lion share of Marvel’s attention, did I really need to read another Wolverine book? Well, I did, and will be definitely be coming back for more.

Wolverine, who now goes by Logan,  is living in a post- apocalyptic world with his wife and two children (I’m sorry, but you just know they’re doomed) and is a pacifist with flashbacks to some great trauma from his past. He and his family are barely scraping by on their dying farm, when the Hulk family comes by to collect the past due rent. They beat Logan down, knowing he won’t fight back, and give the family one more month to pay up. While Logan is recuperating, for he still has his power of speed healing, old friend Hawkeye comes to visit with a proposition. Hawkeye, who is now practically blind, wants Logan to help him cross the country from the West Coast (present day Sacramento area) to the East coast (current day Washington DC). He is willing to pay Logan enough money to cover all his debts, so Logan gives his family a loving goodbye and sets off with Hawkeye in a former Spidey-mobile.

They run into a bit of trouble…Hawkeye’s rebellious adult daughter, Ghost Riders,  mole men called Moloids, dinosaurs imported from the Savage Land; all the while battling the flashbacks of what happened fifty years prior. We find out what happened to the X-Men, and I won’t spoil what happened, but it’s brutal.  You will understand why Logan put down his persona of Wolverine that day, and why he has not stepped up to help when all of America was falling to the super villains.

The duo make it out East to meet with an underground group and the secret that Hawkeye was carrying is revealed- serum to make super soldiers so they could restart an Avengers team. Betrayals and deaths occur and Red Skull is revealed to be behind it all. Logan fights the villains, but without his claws being unsheathed. He is able to make it make home with his reward, but as expected his little family is no more, killed by the Banner clan in his absence.

The claws come out in his grief, and he is Wolverine once more. The large inbred Hulk family doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with Wolverine’s fury. The show down between the original Bruce Banner and Wolverine is epic, with Wolverine persevering in an awesomely gory way.

The ending is apropos, with a nugget of hope built in. Enough plot threads and hints of other characters out there are left, to fuel future stories of how Wolverine is back and is going to reclaim the land, before he rides off into the sunset.

The artwork by Steve McNiven is outstanding. The color scheme is sepia toned and dusty, with an Old West feel to the people and terrain.  The characters are drawn realistically, with a good eye for detail.

I highly recommended this graphic novel- for it has a great way to restart Wolverine’s story, with an intriguing line up of past and future heroes and villains.

-Nancy

Old-Man-Logan-752x440

 

Superman: Red Son

Whoa, alternate universe time! Superman as a Russian, and me reviewing a DC book!

A co-worker and friend of mine (SG!) suggested this book for me to review, as it is a favorite of his. I can see why, as the story is the right way to do an alternate universe/reality tale. So what would happen if Superman’s parents sent him to Earth a few hours later?  Well, he’d land in the Ukraine instead of Kansas and this small detail makes all the difference.

Superman’s youth is remarkably like his upbringing in his other reality, and he grows into a fine, morally upstanding man. His powers are only used for good, despite being Stalin’s pawn. Over in America we meet Lex Luthor and his wife Lois Lane, and discover that America is in bad shape. Lex feels that Superman is his opponent, as he is the only person who can intellectually take him on. After Stalin’s death a power void occurs, and Superman is encouraged to step in and rule the country. At first he demurs, but after he fights off a creature that Lex sent to kill him, he decides only he can properly rescue the Russian nation. At first his initiatives make the nation prosper, and Wonder Woman joins his side, as she believes in his cause. But ultimately, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Dissidents in the Russian countryside start to appear, with Batman being the biggest insurgent to Superman’s iron rule. Batman, sporting some rocking head gear, captures Wonder Woman to try to break Superman but Wonder Woman, ever loyal to Superman hurts herself in saving Superman’s life. Things start to spiral out of control, with Superman taking on more and more of an authoritative and totalitarian rule. America is falling into ruin, but refuses to bend to communist rule, with Lex Luthor coming up with idea after idea to bring about the demise of Superman. An epic battle is fought between the two nations and a predestination paradox occurs,  with an awesome and unexpected twist at the end.

There were shout outs to many other characters in the DC universe such as Jimmie Olson, the Green Lantern Marine Corps, Brainiac, the Amazons on the island of Themyscira, Oliver Queen, plus probably a host of others that I missed but Kathleen would spot! 😉 Mark Miller penned this epic tale;  I was not surprised as he authors one of my favorite Marvel books, Civil War. The artwork was excellent,  colored with a dark and reddish palate, fitting the overall theme of Red Russia. The art work between chapters was art deco in style, reminiscent of both American and Russian propaganda posters.

Red Son is definitely one of DC’s best stories!

-Nancy

Millar, Mark, Dave Johnson & Kilian Plunkett. Superman: Red Son. 2003.

 

Civil War (Marvel Civil War Complete)

Marvel_Civil_War
Millar, Mark & Steve McNiven. Civil War, 2007.

One of the best Marvel stories in awhile- this comic book “event” truly made me think about which side I’d be on and why.

After a careless accident between warring super villains causes the death of hundreds of civilians, including children, the public demands a Super Hero Registration Act that would regulate the heroes and have them set up as a official police force. This sounds reasonable at first and is led by Iron Man and Dr. Reed of the Fantastic Four (both of whom I ended up hating), while Captain America heads up a rogue group of heroes who prefer independence. But then Iron Man’s group becomes very authoritative, utilizing villains and cloning Thor in an attempt to bring in the anti-registration group. This causes the death of one of the hero’s and causes the tide to turn in favor of Cap’s group. The war turns personal with betrayals and destruction, and eventually Cap realizes this war is ravaging everyone no matter what side they are on. He makes a surprising request with far reaching consequences, and enough plot threads are left open for further storytelling based off this plot.

The artwork by McNiven is solid, although some facial close ups are a bit distorted. Many Avenger superheros are included, with most X-Men choosing to sit out this battle. Even being a Marvel fan, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who, especially in group scenes. Occasionally there were would be a reference or a piece of dialogue that gave hints as to who some of the lesser known heroes were, but I still had to Wikipedia some characters. The layout of the panels was standard, but in this case that is a plus, as this complicated story didn’t need additional visual chaos.

Deep themes of moral responsibility, civil order, and the greater good tie into this story; and you can see the merit of both side’s point of view. It will be interesting to see how the movie will cover this comic, especially because they might have to skip some heroes from the book in the movie due to copyright issues.

-Nancy

Iron Man is at it again- this time he is against Captain Marvel in Civil War II.

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