Sometimes, you find love in the unlikeliest places. It might be a chance encounter at a gig, it might be among the ranks of a rival band. Me? I found love within the pages of of a comic crafted by a team I wasn’t familiar with, from a publisher I’d never read, rebooting an ‘80s Saturday morning cartoon I’ve never watched. Jem and the Holograms is easily my favourite comic right now, and a little over a month ago, I didn’t even know it was a thing.
Like the original cartoon, Jem follows the eponymous girl-power band on their road to stardom. It’s a bumpy journey, naturally, not least of all due to the Holograms having a lead singer, Jerrica Benton, who’s painfully shy when it comes to performing live. Fortunately, she has something to help – the hi-tech Jemstar Earrings, which can project holograms and turn Jerrica into the glamorous Jem.
The first arc, Showtime, sees Jem/Jerrica, Shana, Kimber, and Aja chasing their first big break: a battle of the bands hosted by the famous Misfits, who are fronted by the wonderfully grumpy Pizzazz. The Misfits don’t take losing easily, and when it looks like the Holograms might actually have a shot at winning this thing? Well, things get out of hand in outrageous, hilarious ways.
What’s really grabbed me with Jem is just how joyful and fun it is; this is the antithesis of the “dark, gritty” superhero comics that are so prevalent. The new-look Holograms and Misfits simply radiate personality; an overt theatricality in the character designs is grounded by artist Sophie Campbell’s ability to capture the emotion and humanity of each character.
Wonderfully vibrant colours, courtesy of M. Victoria Robado, take that to another level, making every panel jump off the page. There is, of course, plenty of pink and baby blue, particularly with the Holograms’ showy performances, as a centrepiece of the joyful aesthetic. But with the Misfits, clever use of cooler greens and purples sells the idea of them being more of an angry punk band, without sacrificing any of that vibrancy.
This isn’t just true of the bands’ performances. Even when the character are in their regular, everyday clothes or even pyjamas, this same sense of personality and vividness shines through. In fact, the scenes that just have the Holograms hanging out in their PJs, talking about anything and everything, are some of my favourites. For all its comical trappings, Jem is a book about friendship and love at it’s heart, and these moments capture that beautifully.
This is thanks in no small part to the excellent writing of Kelly Thompson. In much the same way that Campbell and Robado’s art marries the outrageous with the grounded, Thompson’s scripts bring ridiculous, over-the-top scenarios and characters together with a deep and authentic sense of humanity. The relationships between each character are utterly compelling, whether its the friendship between the Holograms, their rivalry with the Misfits, or one of the few budding and oh-so-adorable romances. By the end of issue #1, I was fascinated by these characters; six issues deep, I love them all.
Like I said, you find love in the unlikeliest places. Jerrica found it in a chance encounter outside a gig. Kimber may have found it among the ranks of the enemy. I found it here, in Jem and the Holograms, a comic series I can’t recommend highly enough.
Jem and the Holograms: Showtime, by author Kelly Thompson and artists Sophie Campbell and M. Victoria Robado, is published by IDW. Issues 1-6 available now.