Review: Jem and the Holograms #24
“Jem and the Holograms #24 is a phenomenal, if bittersweet, kickoff to the final arc of a consistently pitch-perfect series.”
Jem and the Holograms #24
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Gisele Lagace (art), M. Victoria Robado (colors), Shawn Lee (letters)
Release Date: Wed, March 29, 2017
Since the first issue of IDW’s adaptation of Jem and the Holograms first hit shelves two years ago, the series has been a delight, you-can’t-help-but-smile read month-in and month-out, following rockers Jem and the Holograms, their interactions with one another, their relationships with rival bands the Misfits and the Stingers. Writer Kelly Thompson and the various artists who have graced the book have presented tales filled with rock and roll, romance, and how finding oneself is always worth the journey, even and especially when touring the globe as international sensations. This week, Thompson and new series artist Gisele Lagace kick off the final arc of Jem with issue #24, the first part of “Truly Outrageous.”
Spoilers are peppered through this review, so be warned.
We find the Holograms in issue #24 as they’re trying to find their bearings as a band now that Shana has returned and Raya is a part of the crew. What better way to do that than to head on a working vacation to Hawaii for some band bonding? There are some kinks to work out, but the band is adapting… if the Stingers, who have not-so-coincidentally rented a beach house next to the Holograms, don’t throw a monkey wrench into the Holograms’ R&R. Meanwhile, Kimber and Stormer have a sweet reunion that will make even a Scrooge’s heart swell. And Jerrica comes to a decision about her Jem persona and what it’s doing both to her and to her relationship with Rio, a decision that has been a long-time coming.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the similarities between producing television series and comic books. We’ve all watched TV shows where we’ve thought, “Well, that should have ended a long time ago” or “I’m not sure the creators know what to do.” Part of this stems from the episodic nature of television and comic books. As many TV shows and comic book series do not always have an ending in mind or mission statement, character development and story progression can devolve into an incongruent, meandering quagmire of limping tales that walk in circles, going nowhere.
This has never been the case with Jem. While each yarn Thompson has penned has been unique and tightly scripted, readers can see a connective tissue between one story and the next. The initial Jem arc, “Showtime,” is a different animal from the “Dark Jem” story and can be read as two distinct tales. However, they are both tethered by the fact that a progression in theme and character development flows organically from one to the next. If “Showtime” is about achieving stardom, then “Dark Jem” revolves around the pitfalls of celebrity and losing oneself in that fame.
This shows that since Jem first began, Thompson clearly has had a long game for her cast in mind. She has explored themes of love, identity, sexuality, finding oneself, and self-acceptance since day one, and issue #24 shows the progression of and culmination of the groundwork she’s set up. Holograms member Kimber and Misfit Stormer have had a sometime tumultuous relationship in the series, but readers’ patience has be rewarded, as we see that they’re finally in a healthy place by the end of the series. Without saying it overtly and hitting readers over the head with it, Thompson’s character work points to the idea that Kimber and Stormer had to come to terms with who they are and love themselves before their relationship could reach the gorgeous crescendo they’ve found together.
That theme of self-acceptance is particularly front-and-center with the Jerrica/Jem/Rio dynamic, one that Thompson looks to be coming to a head as the series winds up, something its cartoon source material never tackled. Jerrica originally adopted the Jem persona in order to use it as an armor for and to bolster her shaky self-esteem and fully be part of the Holograms. However, adopting the Jem identity has started to cause serious issues with the people around her, particularly Rio. More importantly, though, the Jem persona has the danger of becoming a crutch for Jerrica, and it seems that, as she becomes more at ease with herself, she’s decided to become more honest with herself and the people around her. It’s a message for Thompson’s readers that never feels heavy-handed, but one that also resonates and is a reminder for us all. We can reinvent ourselves, as long as we remember who we are and love ourselves in the process.
A note on the music. As Jem is a comic book focusing on musicians as main characters, music necessarily does and should plays a significant role in the plotting and action of the series. However, how do you convey music in a meaningful way, to impact the story and make the reader feel the lyrics and imagine the sounds and vibrations, when the tale is confined to print? Luckily, Thompson and each artist she’s worked with figured out that possible quandary early on, crafting lyrics and putting them on the page in such a way that pulls the readers into a musical frame of mind, even when they can’t physically hear the melodies or the words.
Just look at the opening sequence in this issue of Jem and company performing. Thompson’s lyrics reference breaking down walls, which is a clear nod to the transformations and changes the band has made since the inaugural launch of the series, as well as so the boundaries they still face. And the rolling flow of the lettering by Shawn Lee, as well as the art weaving through those words, pulls the readers into the studio where the Holograms are performing, making them a part of the action and lets them more readily “hear” what’s being played. It’s played with enough subtlety that it doesn’t overwhelm, but still manages to push the story along in a significant way.
Lagace has been providing covers for Jem for quite some time now, so it’s especially gratifying as a reader and a fan to see her get the opportunity to provide interiors for the final arc of the book. She has a playful, cartoonish way of rendering Aja, Stormer, and the rest of the series’ cast that makes the book feel like the escape it’s supposed to be. The movement she gives the characters, such as Kimber’s barely-contained excitement to be in Hawaii or how the Holograms groove with the music as they jam out, makes the readers feel jazzed to be a part of their world for 20+ pages.
At the same time, though, Lagace’s linework is extraordinarily tight and efficient, making the characters feel grounded when necessary. Jem is very much a comic filled with boundless delight and fun, but there are still tales of drama to tell. Jerrica squirming and hand-wringing about her big decision to talk to Rio about her dual identity is palpable, running all over face, and how Lagace brings it to life can’t help but put our stomachs in knots. It’s a balancing act, melding the fun with the drama, that Lagace understands, and she pulls both with beauty and ease. Since its beginning, Jem has been blessed with riches in terms of talented artists, and it’s gratifying to know that the book will be capped off with that same high-quality of ebullient glory. M. Victoria Robado colors, as always, have a vibrancy that breathe life and light into Lagace’s already stunning line work, bringing the right tone to a series that is brimming with joy.
Jem and the Holograms #24, while a superb issue, is bittersweet in that it’s a pitch-perfect kickoff to the series’ final tale—which, of course, is why the whole affair skews on the side of sad, in a way. But that’s the beauty of what Thompson and every single artist who worked on Jem has accomplished. Like any performer, they’re leaving us longing for more.
Jem and the Holograms #24—part one of “Truly Outrageous,” the final arc of the series—written by Kelly Thompson with Gisele Lagace on art, is on sale today from IDW.
From the official issue description:
Truly Outrageous Part One! Jem and The Holograms head Hawaii to get away from it all, but with the Stingers not so coincidentally renting the beach house next door, nobody is going to be getting any rest or relaxation!