Review by Ian Keogh
Sadly Argentinian master artist Juan Giménez was the highest profile casualty of Covid-19 in the comics world, dying in 2020. Two years later, Humanoids repackaged two of his series as The Deluxe Giménez. The four chapters of The Fourth Power had finally all been published in English in a 2017 hardcover, and the two volumes of The Starr Conspiracy were combined in 2019, although that had been previously issued as The True Tales of Leo Roa and An Odyssey Back in Time. Despite those English language publication dates, all were originally published at least a decade beforehand in Europe, and some as far back as the late 1980s.
Both are science fiction stories, but different in outlook. ‘The Fourth Power’ begins almost incoherently over the opening volume, which ends with four women being combined into a single person with multiple personalities and universe changing capabilities. They’re known as QB4, and in the way of such things, foolish people want to risk all in order to control the power. While that has brief funny moments, Leo Roa’s adventures in ‘The Starr Conspiracy’ are intended as raucous space farce. Leo dreams of heroic acclaim, and by the end achieves it, but not without plenty of fumbling the ball along the way.
Only three years separate the two volumes starring Leo, yet there’s a marked difference between the artistic style. The first from 1988 is intensely detailed throughout, the fiddly linework characterising any form of technology and massive crowds seen, the style also apparent in the opening ‘Fourth Power’ outing, published in 1989. Coupled with frequently seen large-breasted women, it’s the type of work most associated with Giménez, yet by Leo’s 1991 outing he’d already begun to modify his style. The big-breasted women remain consistent, but there’s also a lesser obsession with lines on spacecraft. They’re present, Giménez aware of his signature style, but far more restrictively used, and the detail is applied to matters other than technology. The frankly gross squidgy tentacled life seen attacking QB4, or Gal as she then is, in her 2006 outing is taken to near unbelievable levels. That feeds into Giménez being an exceptionally skilled designer. Not for a moment in either story does he fail to convince about technologically advanced societies, aliens or space travel.
While the art is phenomenal, it’s not possible to wholeheartedly recommend this without the caveat of it being disappointing to discover Giménez is an ordinary writer (and a poor one to begin with). The plots too often seem constructed to enable what he wants to draw, and it leaves them lacking overall. The time travel aspect of Leo’s second outing is restricted to dinosaurs and World War II planes, for instance, when conceptually it’s far more interesting than the remainder of the plot. Only the final chapter of ‘The Fourth Power’ has a narrative depth and a necessary uncertainty.
You’ll be blown away by the art, but don’t expect much beyond.