Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Meredith McClaren
Publisher: IDW Publishing
With this issue serving as the penultimate chapter to Jem and the Hologram’s third major arc, the series, much like its heroines, still appears to be finding its feet. In addition to the cosmetic whiplash that has come of frequent changes in artists, a balance has yet to be struck between a problem-of-the-week format and a continuously progressing narrative. On the one hand, multiple ongoing side plots run through this release prominently enough to maintain the feel of a long-form storytelling. On the other, it’s also easy to see that the primary, and very recently introduced conflict, is already winding down.
As a fan of the original cartoon, I’ve enjoyed watching the comics take hold of the source material in a way that manages to both update it as well as keep it recognizable. Throughout this run, Jerrica Benson, her sisters, and even the Misfits have far evolved beyond their eighties counterparts, becoming fully fleshed out characters with their own unique looks. With this evolution has come a wealth of stories and backstories far richer than the obvious troubles born of band rivalries and dual identities. In this vein, everyone has a chance to be and do more in ways that work to save the reboot from once again becoming simply “the Jem show.” From the beginning, supporting characters have been largely pulled to the forefront and given clear dreams and desires beyond backing up their hologram-cloaked lead, while the villains have been outfitted with motivations that layer deeper than petty notions of fame and success. All told, these adjustments have laid heavy groundwork for a narrative strong enough to last, even within the lightness of the subject matter that initially framed it.
However, it seems that, at least for now, such developments have mostly taken a backseat to more familiar territory. Once again, the Holograms are under threat of sabotage by their rivals the Misfits, this time on the cusp of a performance at an industry party turned masquerade ball. It’s a well worn plot made all the more simplistically cartoonish by McClaren’s frenetic, wide-eyed sketches, and on the heels of a prior saga steeped in so much urgent sci-fi darkness and character growth (I can’t be the only one who thought “Dark Jem” came and went a little too fast), it feels very much like a step backward. Mounting melodrama aside, the peril is ultimately formulaic, and can’t help but come off as transient and far from insurmountable.
By the same token, and to the writers’ credit, the choice to highlight Jerrica’s seemingly constant struggle with living a double life works extremely well. This latest Jem-induced identity crises appears a great deal weightier than the passing inconvenience of suspicious boyfriends, or the difficulty of being in two places at once for a big concert. Now, Jerrica seems lost within her rock star persona in a way that is frightening to her band-mates, herself, and possibly readers as well, and it’s the level of realism presented in this situation that keeps this otherwise airy issue grounded. With rapid one two punch of climax and resolution inevitably on the horizon, undercurrents such continue to be vital thematic threads that keep the overall series from feeling too episodic.
Rating: Three Synergy Earrings out of five.