Based on the Image comic series by Mark Millar, JUPITER’S LEGACY (2021, Netflix) suffers from a few overwrought character tropes and comes to a sudden stop rather than a real story end, but overall it delivers one hell of a great superhero story, something that is deeply familiar yet new enough to create a bold result.
In the near future, the world looks a lot like ours, basically going to hell in a hand basket, but with one big difference: In the 1930s, a group of Americans with superhuman powers emerged to set an example of morality while dedicating themselves to fighting evil, notably criminals. Now they’re old, though still formidable, and raising the next generation of superheroes to take their place. This produces huge conflicts, mostly involved with parents who were always off fighting evil and were never there, the pressure of being raised to become the next superheroes, the difficulties in keeping to a code not to kill when the bad guys are willing to do it, the difficulties in resisting the urge to take over and govern to save humanity from itself, the challenge of being a superhero at all in an increasingly gray and confusing world.
It’s all very fertile ground for the great types of philosophical questions the existence of superheroes raise, and JUPITER’S LEGACY handles them well. The story digs handfuls of traditional tropes and drops them into modern reality the way THE BOYS does, but while THE BOYS is entirely cynical (and probably more realistic), JUPITER’S LEGACY takes the traditional tropes seriously, gives them incredible power, and then challenges them, which again results in something known but also bold. But it’s not all angst and drama. There’s quite a bit of superhero action, and I enjoyed seeing them express their different types of powers.
While all this is happening, an alternate timeline is explored where we see how the superheroes got their powers, which I found equally compelling.
For some reason, critics didn’t like it. I can say not everything hit the mark for me. I had a few issues with the casting and a few minor quibbles with a few character tropes that felt over worn. But overall, it’s a pretty fresh, engaging take on the superhero myth, not as fun as Marvel and not as dark as DC, but somewhere comfortably in the middle with its own identity. My only real complaint was the ending. It ends with a big reveal but also some major cliffhangers, likely following the comics, which I think is risky for a show that doesn’t arrive with a second season already signed. But again, getting there was a ton of fun, and I’d recommend this one for people looking for something fresh with the superhero myth.