I've loved Gimenez's artwork ever since I was exposed to it in the Metabarons, so it was incredibly depressing when he passed away in 2020 due to Covid. I still have a backlog of Humanoids books I haven't read yet (I mean, I have a backlog of everything), so I decided to finally make my way to Starr Conspiracy. The original title was the name of the main character, Leo Roa, so I guess Humanoids decided it needed to be renamed for some reason. And there is sort of a conspiracy, and it does involve the Starr Corporation, but.....well, Leo Roa just sounds better. And unfortunately that's not the only disappointing aspect of the package, because while the artwork is phenomenal the story was a bit less so.
It's essentially a hybrid of Jimmy Olsen and Tintin but with casual space sex. Which all oddly makes sense, because Leo Roa was originally created for a newspaper that was looking for comic material for younger readers. Eventually the full version was restored and published by Dargaud in '88, with the second chapter following it up in '91 and being published by Les Humanoïdes Associés. So yeah, space adventures of a young twit for the kids, then toss in some space boobs because European comics. This all jives.
The story follows Leo Roa, a young wannabe journalist who thinks he has access to a story that might make his career. We get sucked into a kind of convoluted but also simplistic series of meandering events where he's being hunted by space pirates because he has evidence of one of their sort of secret identities. Also, one of the space pirates is named Crapula, which is either a high point or a low point and I'm not sure which it is.
Leo pulls his cousin Meke into the fray because I guess we needed another character, and then we get a bunch of space pirate action. Which, let me be clear, all looks great and everything about this world is sharp, beautifully designed, and visually engaging. The plot and storytelling are just sort of rubbish. Also, Leo is apparently irresistible and is ravished by two beautiful women for no real good reason that does anything for the plot, because European comics.
The second story, An Odyssey Back In Time, is even more of a rambling mess as it mostly follows Leo's cousin Meke as he's dragged into a convoluted plot concerning an alien species. Meke looks like an almost exact double of their leader, so he's seduced by a sexy space woman to help them, because European comics.
Meanwhile, Leo is randomly pulled into another plot with the Starr Corporation that has something to do with time travel, but the way the story bounces between the two separate plots is an absolute mess. It's difficult to focus on what's happening in one because your suddenly tossed into the other at odd junctures, and while they both have amusing moments the sudden lurches in pacing diffuse any tension or sense of urgency.
This is a tricky book for me to recommend because frankly I just don't care about the story. If I approach this with just the concern of my reading enjoyment, then the $24.99 price tag is really hard to reason despite the nice hardcover package. The thing is, I picked this up because Gimenez's artwork is truly extraordinary, so I think what I have to do here is look at this as a $24.99 artbook. As I struggled through the storytelling I was still captivated by the draftsmanship and worldbuilding at work, so if you do appreciate his work there's still a lot to get out of this package. And with that logic, $24.99 is pretty decent for 112 pages of art.
And just remember, no matter how much of a schmuck or blundering buffoon you might be, you'll still always have a chance to score with a beautiful space lady who is at least a few leagues beyond you. Because European comics.