Review: Jem and the Holograms #1
“While many readers might pick up Jem and the Holograms #1 out of a sense of nostalgia, the book is sincerely a fun-as-Hell tale that will appeal to even the casual fan. If you want to an honest-to-God smile to crawl across your face, pick up this series. Thompson and Campbell have the chops to make this a long-running, transformative yarn, proving that the team is a truly outrageous pairing.”
Jem and the Holograms #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Kelly Thomspon
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Release Date: Wed, March 25, 2015
Just a warning, y’all: This review is going to be pretty biased.
Back when I was a young pup in the early 1980s, I always got up ass-crack early to catch an airing of the Transformers cartoon series. (This was in the Paleolithic time before DVR.) However, as I was up by 6:30 in the morning and Transformers didn’t hit the TV until an hour or so later, I would have to slog through other cartoon series in anticipation of the Robots in Disguise. One such animated offering was Jem. Not going to lie, initially, Jem wasn’t my jam. At all. Pop music? Relationships? Meh. The only aspect of the series that only remotely interested me was the holographic computer that Jerrica Benton used to change into Jem. And occasionally we’d see a fight or a ruckus. But Jem sure as Hell wasn’t Transformers. Again, Jem was hardly my jam.
Until, hot damn, it was. I think that, from an early age, I was always a fan of pop and punk music and their respective looks and aesthetics and didn’t even realize it. And Jem had that in spades. From Jem and her band The Holograms to their rivals in the all-female troupe The Misfits (no, not those Misfits), the cartoon was filled to the brim with rockin’ Flashdance-meets-Van Halen sensibilities with the occasional catchy ditty. It was as if Joan Jett and the Blackhearts decided to go on the road, sing music, have adventures, and douse themselves in cotton candy pink and more glitter than a typical night at Studio 54.
That’s why I was legit-excited when I heard that IDW was launching its own Jem and the Holograms comic book series, written by Kelly Thompson and art chores by Sophie Campbell, based on the cartoon but updating it for today’s sensibilities and keeping the charm of the original series. With production of the live-action film in full-swing, this seems like the perfect time to dust off the concepts of that made the cartoon so engaging while throwing a fresh coat of paint on them to draw in folks who know little to nothing about Jem, her alter ego, and her bandmates.
For those readers who know nothing of Jem and her world or fans who need a refresher, Thompson does a more-than-serviceable job of introducing you to the whole crew without getting bogged down with needless exposition. Jerrica Benton and her sister Kimber are in a band, with Jerrica as lead singer. Despite her prominent role in the group, Jerrica suffers from performance anxiety and shyness. However, after finding her father’s holographic technology after his death, Jerrica is able to transform into the alter ego of Jem, becoming confident, self-assured, and truly, truly, truly outrageous. (Sorry, had to throw that in there at least once.) Along with their fellow rockers Aja and Shana, they prepare for their showdown with The Misfits in a Battle of the Bands competition. Will their music be more contagious (outrageous!) than The Misfits’? We’ll have to wait and see.
Much has been made of Campbell’s redesigns of the classic characters from the original cartoon, and with good reason. While another artist might be tempted to take the bubblegum aesthetics from the series and throw them into a more serious mold, Campbell recognizes that the beauty of Jem was that the art was so over-the-top and filled with fun and silliness that to move away from that would be to strip away what made Jem the cartoon that it was. The new designs for both The Holograms and The Misfits have a decidedly 21st century feel with a fun edginess to them. Haircuts, hair color, and band costumes make you believe that The Holograms could be a musical powerhouse rather than a dive-bar band.
In addition to the hair and threads, I am very, very pleased to see the bands’ members having a variety of body types, making them accessible characters for many readers as well as reflecting what people actually look like. It made me wish yet again that the superhero comics on the stands would follow suit because it’s such a breath of fresh air.
Of course, the art is only half the equation of what makes Jem and the Holograms such a fun, breezy read. Thompson’s characterizations of all the familiar songstresses makes you believe that each of the rockers have fully-realized personalities who would naturally seek to share their music. At the same time, the more touching, poignant issues touched upon—such as Jerrica’s anxiety and her father’s death—are given the emotional punch necessary to sell them without going maudlin.
While many readers might pick up Jem and the Holograms #1 out of a sense of nostalgia, the book is sincerely a fun-as-Hell tale that will appeal to even the casual fan. If you want to an honest-to-God smile to crawl across your face, pick up this series. Thompson and Campbell have the chops to make this a long-running, transformative yarn, proving that the team is a truly outrageous pairing. (Okay, last Jem pun, I swear.)
Jem and the Holograms #1 is in comic book shops now. In the meantime, get your nostalgia on with these opening theme songs to the original cartoon.
And did you know there was another version of the theme song? Never knew until I started writing this review. It’s all about being a “Jem girl,” which sounds kinda cult-y. I ain’t drinking pig’s blood to become a Jem girl, no matter how much glitter and fame comes along with the package. No sir.