It’s present-day and we have superheroes. In fact, we now have a second generation of superheroes. They are the offspring of the first generation of heroes collectively known as the Union, led by the strongest of their group, Utopian. Only now, the world isn’t quite so black and white as it used to be. Values and morals are all colored in shades of grey. The Code, the rules by which the superheroes operated, is now under question by the superhero offspring, and one of the heroes is a traitor. Can the past reveal hope for the future?
Jupiter’s Legacy is a Netflix original series and is based on a comic book series by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Admittedly, I have not read this series so I am unsure as to any overarching themes that may have been present. All I can go by are the three episodes that I have so far watched. The series takes place in two time periods, the present with the superheroes and the past at the time of the Great Depression, presumably the period in which a group of people come together and acquire both their powerful abilities and their long lives. As for the present-day storyline, what started as a rehash of the first few episodes of Superman & Lois (dad was never there when the kids needed him and was instead saving the world as a superhero) quickly turned into a fascinating deconstruction of the superhero myth. Very quickly we saw the issues and arguments that came with being a superhero. What are the hero’s responsibilities? How far do they go in enforcing the law? Or are they only there to inspire others to greatness? What happens when that philosophy fails society? The series, so far, does not provide any answers to those questions. Instead, we see the hero Utopian do his best to instill those values to his children, Brandon aka Paragon, and Chloe. Brandon does his best but feels he never lives up to his father’s expectations. Chloe chose not to be a hero and is instead a successful magazine model. Her problem is that her father only knows how to be a superhero and doesn’t have any idea how to be a father.
The storyline in the past is a bit murkier. Before becoming Utopian he was simply known as Sheldon, who along with his brother Walt, headed up a successful steel business until the stock market crash. This brought about their father’s suicide. Now, Sheldon appears to be going mad as he sees and hears his father and draws strange things on paper. What makes this all puzzling is if the present-day storyline is to serve as a deconstruction of superheroes, what does the past serve aside from merely being an origin story? It continually feels as if it wants to be more, but in doing so it clashes in tone with the storyline set in the present. One scene shows Sheldon’s future wife writing a scandalous newspaper article about some shady financial dealings his father did for the company and calling his suicide the Death of Capitalism. This causes Sheldon to call his entire company floor staff Marxists. Were the writers making an indictment against the form of capitalism present in the 1920s that brought about the Great Depression? Then there is the thread of strong Christian imagery that connects the two storylines, which is odd in itself as pretty much most superhero comics present themselves as rather non-theistic. For a superhero series to make Christianity a strong belief system is unusual at best, making the storyline in the past even more unclear.
The cast in this series is quite good starting with action star Josh Duhamel. Duhamel made a big name for himself starring in The Transformer franchise. As Sheldon/Utopian he shows wonderful duality to his personality in being steadfast to The Code, but unsure if anything he does makes a difference. His unsureness goes even deeper as he continually fails to tell the things he feels he needs his kids to hear. Even as the aging hero, Duhamel’s performance is of a man who hides behind a mask. As Sheldon’s son, Andrew Horton plays Brandon aka Paragon. He shows an even greater sense of doubt and at times it almost looks like Horton is carrying the weight of disappointment on his shoulders by his posture. Playing Sheldon’s brother is Ben Daniels as Walter aka Brainwave. The story set in the past shows him as a loving brother, but also adversarial. He is the Yang to Sheldon’s Ying. He delivers a strong dramatic performance. Rounding it out is Matt Lanter as George aka Skyfox. Lanter plays the part with a sense of masquerade, not just trying to deceive those around him but also himself. Lanter gives layers to his performance showing that there is much more depth to who he is, which only raises a lot of questions as to the reasons for his betrayal against the Union.
After only three episodes this series provides just enough breadcrumbs to make me want to watch more, but at the same time cause a great deal of frustration at not providing enough answers soon enough. Netflix has only ordered 8 episodes for this first season so it appears that the answers won’t be forthcoming until the season’s end. Nevertheless, this is a show I will watch to see how far the deconstruction goes in the hopes that it will find a way to reconstruct and make them the heroes that the world desperately needs them to be.