Review: JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #1

Jem-and-the-Holograms-IDW-comics-2015.jpg

Okay, let’s get this figured out: “Jem and the Holograms” was an animated show that ran from 1985-1988. Now, was it a show and then it became a line of dolls? No, it was a line of dolls and then it became a show. You know, Hasbro. Same deal like Transformers. The Jem dolls were similar to Barbies (looks like the same mold was used) but with a glam rock vibe.

Yeah, talkin’ about Transformers, Jem is set to be very much a similar deal. The major motion picture comes out October 23, 2015. And, leading up to that, is this six-issue comic book published by IDW Publishing. Let’s take a closer look.

In the front seat writing the limited series is Kelly Thompson. I’ve read her pieces in Comic Book Resources over the years and I appreciate what she does. She sees herself as a voice for women. She does a good job although she has a weakness to overstate herself. She does this, I think, deliberately. You can see this as something of a style choice. Women in comics is her beat. She is certainly an unbashedly enthusiastic fan, the type that speaks of characters as if they were real people and the most awesome ever.

That type of enthusiasm has its place. Even in the relatively limited depths of this project, that enthusiasm can be misplaced. Getting too wrapped up in your characters being these living and breathing entities and, on top of that, being awestruck by them, leads to tepid writing. Your characters never ever do much of anything so as not to risk making them look bad. This is the wrong kind of character-driven storytelling. It takes away from a more challenging story. It does a disservice to young women readers who get a story with everything floating along the same mellow register.

You know that feeling of satisfaction you get when you go see a movie you weren’t expecting much from and then leave the theater impressed? That’s because compelling things were going on. It was good solid writing. What I’m getting so far from this first issue is very soft conflict and very soft focus. Was that part of the charm of the original Jem posse? I don’t think so. Exactly like the Transformers, Jem was and is an empty vessel. It’s not these totally amazing women, as Kelly Thompson endlessly refers to them in her afterword, a masterpiece of hyperbole. But, like I say, that’s how she rolls.

So, what exactly transpires within the pages of this first issue? Our lead singer Jerrica has got the worst case of stage fright in history. She’s a portrait of shivering inaction. Kimber tries to coax her back into the studio while Shana and Aja helplessly look on. There’s some bickering. Later on, we find the solution and it will not involve Jerrica taking responsibility for her actions. Will that change over the course of the story? Maybe so. In all fairness, maybe so. Overall, this issue just plodded along too much. There was room to bring in more elements.

But I don’t want to dismiss this comic. No, because I can understand that the original animated show did leave some comforting mark on a lot of childhoods. It stirs emotions. And, it is what it is. Who knows, maybe the major motion picture of Jem will be one of those movies that leaves me oddly impressed. I’m just thinking about how it can all be better. That said, one thing we cannot overlook is the other major force of creativity on this book, artist Sophie Campbell. Simply for having the sensitivity to have different body types for these characters deserves recognition. These are all distinct characters.

You know, I wish Kelly Thompson, and the whole creative team on this book, the best. And, if we should meet at some convention, I’m sure we’ll have a good conversation. I’m serious when I bring up these writing issues. The mellow pace to the story and then the gushing over the characters in the afterword just left me concerned. The best piece of advice I can offer, not that anyone is asking, is to know that characters like these have got a lot of potential to go far. Forget how awesome they may seem. Just let them go and then don’t be afraid to push them, have them fall, and then push them again. They won’t break. Maybe then you, as the writer, will have the characters, and the story, do something truly amazing.

JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #1 is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.

12 Comments

Filed under animation, Comic Book Resources, Comics, Hasbro, Jem and the Holograms, Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, Television