Review: Jem and the Holograms#11
“Jem and the Holograms #11 demonstrates once again why the series month-in and month-out is one of the most enjoyable and most pertinent books on the racks. Brimming with emotional impact, solid characterization, visually ebullient art, and just bald enjoyment, Jem is a shining example of creators who know their craft and aren’t afraid to make bold choices to serve both the story and the readers.”
Jem and the Holograms#11
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Release Date: Wed, January 27, 2016
It’s been nearly a year since IDW’s Jem and the Holograms hit the shelves, based on the 1980s cartoon about rock stars and rival bands. Under writer Kelly Thompson and artist Sophie Campbell’s guidance, the series has taken that underlying framework from its animation days and expanded the ideas behind Jem to create fully-formed, well-rounded characters and situations that keeps audiences engaged. If issue 11, the first chapter in the new “Dark Jem” arc, is any indication, Thompson and Campbell intend to take the themes they’ve explored—empowered, self-esteem, finding oneself at any age—and digging that much deeper.
Change is the word. Jem and the Holograms are experiencing success they could once only dream of, while the Misfits are in danger of losing a bandmate and having another thrust upon them. Shana tests the waters of new love, while Jerrica is still wheeling from the changes the band’s success has brought. The Misfit leader Pizzazz is coping with losing her voice—literally and figuratively—while watching her source of income and self-expression slip away. And Synergy has designs that come throw all of their worlds in upheaval.
Jem #11 is a payoff to fans for following the various plot threads we’ve seen building in the previous ten issues, while at the same time introducing new elements to make the Holograms’ world feel like an organic, living thing. Jem and the Holograms aren’t just a world-wide sensation and that’s that. Thompson tackles questions that necessarily flow from that success. What do they do now? Where do they go from there with their stardom? These concerns loom even as Kimber and Shana navigate uncertain relationships and flowering romance. As with the Misfits, just because Pizzazz can’t sing doesn’t mean that time stops. On the contrary, contracts have to be fulfilled. Time marches on. And, just as with real life, the characters have to roll with the punches or get left by the wayside. Thompson shows off her nimbleness as a writer by demonstrating just how many consequences flow from each action we take, for good or ill, and how those actions lead to a multitude of other moves that must be made.
As this is the first installment of the “Dark Jem” story arc, we get to see the beginning of the payoff of the Corrupt Synergy plotline that’s been hinted at for some time. After Dark Synergy plays scratchy electronica music for Jerrica, the result changes her attitude and her appearance to something darker and edgier, leading her to lure her bandmates into the house for the same performance to which she was subjected. One of the themes that Thompson has explored with Jerrica quite often with Jerrica is the notion of self-identity and the search for it. Even during times of success and joy, people can often use those periods as opportunities for self-reflection and reinvention, something Thompson looks to be smartly playing with here.
As with her previous art on Jem, Campbell shines and shows just how instrumental her talents are in selling the vision she and Thompson clearly have for the narrative and its players. The fluidity of dress and hairstyles that the Holograms, the Misfits, and the rest of the folks populating Jem’s world are congruous with the music industry as we know it today. So many acts are inventing and re-inventing their looks time and again as both their message and their music evolves. However, Campbell plays it incredibly smartly in that her designs for Kimber and Clash and Aja and the gang, while funky and fashion-forward, always work, first and foremost, to tell us something about the characters themselves. Clothing selections and hairstyles seem far from arbitrary and give us a window into the personalities of each inhabitant of that environment. For instance, Stormer and Jetta’s hair, while still vibrant in color, seems limp when faced with the prospect of having to replace Pizzazz on tour. And Shana’s hair threatens to envelope her eyes when the prospect of having to meet her crush at a party presents itself.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the Dark Jem designs that are front-and-center on this issue’s covers. While we only get a hint of what’s to come within the issue proper, the redesigns that of the Holograms that Campbell has brought to the table are captivating. It’s a testament to her artistry that there doesn’t seem to a bottom to the well of imagination she brings to the book.
Jem and the Holograms #11 demonstrates once again why the series month-in and month-out is one of the most enjoyable and most pertinent books on the racks. Brimming with emotional impact, solid characterization, visually ebullient art, and just bald enjoyment, Jem is a shining example of creators who know their craft and aren’t afraid to make bold choices to serve both the story and the readers.
Jem and the Holograms #11, written by Kelly Thompson with Sophie Campbell on art, is on sale now.