Written By: Kelly Thompson
Art: Sophie Campbell
Do yourself two favors this week: pick up issue #1 of IDW’s new Jem and the Holograms comic, and watch all of Jem and the Holograms on Netflix. Maybe cry? That might not be a favor to anyone, though.
If you’re not familiar with Jem and the Holograms — or if you’re maybe only familiar with the concept through rumors about the potentially unfortunate live-action reboot — then here’s a crash course. Jerrica Benton, daughter of Starlight Records founder Emmett Benton, discovers a mysterious, holographic AI called Synergy after the death of her father.
Together with her sisters Kimber, Aja, and Shana, Jerrica does what any of us would do in the same situation: she uses her tech genius father’s horrifyingly powerful technological advancement to disguise herself as a pop star named Jem and starts a megahit synth/pop rock band.
As a cartoon, Jem and the Holograms is peak ‘80s kids programming. It features an amazingly diverse cast of characters from a wide variety of familial and class backgrounds, almost all of which are presented as generally value neutral — even the Holograms’ rival band, the more edgy Runaways-style Misfits, are generally shown to be the product of circumstances rather than inherently villainous.
This is the spirit I hope the comic brings to life each week, and writer Kelly Thompson (writer of Storykiller and The Girl Who Would Be King, and co-writer of the upcoming Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps “Secret Wars” series) is off to an excellent start with this week’s inaugural issue. The comic opens with a decidedly non-glam Jerrica anxiously bailing on a Holograms music video. The girls want to enter a video to a Misfits versus! competition (the only mention of the Misfits in this issue) to get their big break, but with their lead singer perpetually struck by stage fright, that dream is growing dim. Jerrica flees back to the girls’ home during a thunderstorm to recover in peace, and it’s a well-timed lightning strike that brings Synergy to life for the first time.
It’s unclear yet how much of the show’s original storyline surrounding the girls’ efforts to protect Starlight Records and the Benton family’s Starlight House orphanage will be carried through in this modernized reboot. But this issue does an excellent job of introducing our heroines and establishing their relationships up front, laying the groundwork for the strongest bonds in the series.
Obviously we’re going to get the Misfits soon (my excitement level for Kimber and Stormer is off the charts) and I can’t wait to see which other iconic Jem characters Thompson and artist Sophie Campbell bring to life. Campbell’s artwork is pitch perfect, capturing the glam rock spirit of the original animated series with a stylish modern twist. It’s one thing to look back on the ‘80s series with a kind of ironic humor, but to see a literal translation of Pizzazz’s penchant for neon green animal print might be a little too much in 2015. There’s a certain diversity in character design that’s also a welcome change — goodbye, universally tall and willowy ‘80s art.
If you’re nostalgic for your ‘80s faves, or looking for an amazing female-driven comic to add to your pull list, IDW’s Jem and the Holograms is absolutely a must-buy. Whether it’s your first time with Jem period or your first time thinking about Jem in years, you’ll love the beautiful artwork and relatable, welcoming writing. (Not sure if it’s for you? If you love Ms. Marvel or Princeless, or if a show like Steven Universe tickles your fancy, then Jem is definitely your jam.) This is a must grab, and I can’t wait for more.