The Deluxe Gimenez: The Fourth Power & The Starr Conspiracy by Juan Gimenez (graphic novel review).

August 3, 2022 | By | Reply More

‘The Deluxe Gimenez’ is a bumper hardback edition of tales by talented Argentinian writer/artist Juan Gimenez, who sadly died of Covid 19 in April 2020. He’s probably most famous for ‘The Metabarons’ series, written by Alejandro Jodorowsky, but creates his own storylines here. An introduction by renowned comic book artist Bill Sienkewicz tells us how much he admires Gimenez. ‘The Drawing Board’ section at the back shows pencil sketches and panels. This book collects ‘The Fourth Power’ saga and ‘The Starr Conspiracy’, which includes ‘The True Tales Of Leo Roa’ and ‘An Odyssey Back In Time’.

‘The Fourth Power’ is military Science Fiction with a dose of cosmic power thrown in but ‘Book 1: Supramental’ opens misleadingly with lots of nudity. There’s more later but the first few pages are full of it as three nubile young ladies are kidnapped by the forces of Krommiun central planet. The Krommiuns look human, albeit with well-developed chests, but have ‘a level of intelligence far above 510 M.N.T.’ whatever that means. Eleone Noget is snatched from her boyfriend’s sports car.

Colene Sagan is kidnapped while making love to an alien blue teddy bear and Sinita Connor is taken while sunbathing. Eventually, we learn that each of them has a paranormal ability. The fourth power is Exether Mega, a Krommiun fighter pilot currently engaged in combat with Earth Alliance forces on Alpha Nebulae. Broadcasts from a pacifist group called ‘Bluespace’ inform Earthlings and the reader that Alpha Nebulae was a peaceful Krommiun colony until humans deliberately exacerbated some minor differences between them, chose a ‘good’ side and equipped it with ‘humanitarian’ aid consisting of soldiers and weapons. The Alliance is run by the Multiplanetary Military Congress which is basically the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about still scheming for power and wealth in the future and the present if you care to look.

Exether Mega has a bit of precog talent that warns her of danger, so she survives a battle in which her comrades are killed. She’s ‘rescued’ by Krommiun forces for the experiment that will combine her brain with those of the other three girls to create a being of great power: QB4! Spoiler alert. The experiment succeeds but her creators don’t get what they wished for.

‘Book 2: Murder On Antiplona’ doesn’t appear to be about QB4 to begin with but it is. Lieutenant Iron Ferr, a space patrolman, arrives on the pleasure planetoid Antiplona to enjoy the casinos, cabarets and massage parlours run by rival gang bosses Triple and Mr. X. He’s amazed to find his old flame Gal working as a magician at the Nebulosa Club, the best magician ever seen because she really does have powers. Neither Gal nor Iron Ferr is quite what they seem. It’s a fun tale of double-crossing criminals.

Next is ‘Book 3: Green Hell’. Poor old QB4 emanates a certain type of radiation. She can’t help it. Both the Krommiuns and the Alliance are always on the lookout for it because they want to turn her into a super-weapon. Pursued by villains, she seeks refuge with her new friend on a moon known as Green Hell where many dangerous life-forms threaten anyone foolish enough to land there.

‘Book 4: Island D-7’ takes us back to Alpha Nebulae. The Neutral Company of Earth has organised a demonstration of the greatest military technology ever created. Two competing ordnance companies have armed two ships, The Bucanneer and The Red Beam which will battle each other to the death, put on a jolly good show and demonstrate their wonderful weaponry for all to see. The winner gets the biggest arms contract in history. The crews are criminals and prisoners of war fitted with devices to make their heads explode if they try to back out. QB4 gets involved and finds that her old stomping ground isn’t as deserted as she thought.

Gimenez is more of an artist than a writer but tells a story well enough. There are no in-depth characterisations but plenty of military action and spectacular scenery. Military Science Fiction plays to his strength which is drawing realistic spaceships, armour, vehicles and buildings. The women look okay, too. He was an artist for European comics like ‘Metal Hurlant’ and has that lush, detailed painted style rather than the plainer, simpler look of American comics, though they have been influenced more that way over the years by British artists, who learned from the Europeans. On the other hand, the stories featuring individuals with cosmic powers inevitably remind one of Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer. The difference is that they were full of noble ideals and QB4, while nice, simply wants to be left alone by the bad guys to live her own life.

‘The Fourth Power’ is 250 pages long. The next 160 are about Leo Roa a young man who works for the Starr news organisation and dreams of being a top reporter. Unfortunately, he works in the archive division. That leads him into an adventure involving space pirates, evil tycoons and a beautiful villain who can’t keep her hands off him. Like James Bond, Leo is irresistible to ladies. His next adventure involves his cousin Meke, now a rock star, who bears an uncanny resemblance to an alien politician, the last hope for peace among his people. That plot element resembles Heinlein’s ‘Double Star’, but there’s plenty of action, some time travel and the usual bare-bosomed ladies in this romp. I preferred ‘The Starr Conspiracy’ to ‘The Fourth Power’. It has a sort of ‘Carry On’ film comedy vibe that’s better suited to naked ladies.

As a story book, ‘The Deluxe Giminez’ is solid, readable fun. As an art book, it’s glorious. The hardback edition will certainly suit collectors who want a permanent paper artefact celebrating this fine artist.

Eamonn Murphy

August 2022

(pub: Humanoids, Inc, 2022. 376 page hardback. Price: £54.99 (UK), $79.99 (US), $110.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-64337-826-8

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Category: Comics, Scifi

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