Jem and the Holograms
Story: Kelly Thompson & Sophie Campbell
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Sophie Campbell
Colors: M. Victoria Robado
What's this? Jem? Drew, you discussed this book on this very blog six months ago! You're right, I did, but now the series has completed it's first arc and I have to give credit where credit is due. The series is written by Kelly Thompson WHO has a new book coming out this month called Heart in a Box! Search for it, it sounds awesome. Sophie Campbell draws this first arc. She has previously worked on Shadoweyes, Wet Moon, Glory, and The Abandoned (check out the podcast feed for my episode discussing that fantastic story).
The story, essentially, focuses on a group of 4 young ladies (sisters) and their band. Thanks to an incredible piece of technology, the the stage fright riddled lead singer of the band, Jerrica, is able to produce a hologram that allows her to perform confidently. That hologram's alias, obviously, is Jem. Thus, Jem and the Holograms are born and the internet goes crazy! Their popularity (and talent, of course) gets them into a battle of the bands hosted by/against another musical group known as The Misfits. The 2 bands become pretty instant rivals, and as the end of the arc is approached that rivalry becomes a bit extreme. Look, there's a lot going on, but that's this arc in the smallest of nutshells.
Thompson has reformed these characters in a way that pays respectable homage to the source material and what the fans want while still bringing something truly extraordinary to the table. The first issue gave each member of JatH solid voices, as we got snapshots of the band members personalities. As the series goes on though we see this explosion of personality as the characters deal with not only the stress of the band, but also relationships, responsibilities, publicity, and keeping a strong friendship/sisterhood. Thompson makes sure every character has their strengths and never feels the need to hide what they are thinking. Creating a world that many of us strive for, with a confidence in gender, sexuality, body, and ability, we see a wonderful cast of characters that people of all ages can enjoy and (at least for the main characters) look up to. We also get an incredible cast of villains. The Misfits and their assistants provide opposition that clearly threatens the success of JatH, but never to the point where the nature of the story is disrupted. There is humor and fun that remains constant throughout this whole story, as well as an obvious dedication to producing unique characters with just a pinch of nostalgia.
Campbell's art here is something to behold. As soon as you see the whimsical shapes and defining character make up on the first page you are sucked in, but then as the issues add up you see a direct evolution of comfort in these characters. By the end of this arc the visuals become absolutely captivating. That is especially apparent in the lavish outfits that the ladies get throughout the series and the hair styles that accompany them. It is pretty rare to see this level of detail being put into character definition, but here we are and I'm damn thankful for it. The panel layouts are primarily classic and produce an episodic nature to each page, with almost a cinematic take on close ups of faces. For the most part, the characters take up about 90% of the panels but when the need arises, Campbell jumps at the opportunity to provide background detail. This is most apparent during the parts when music is actually being performed and the lyrics are written into visual effects that make it look like actual concert lighting emanating from the stage. Also, I won't say how or why these are in the story, but guitar motorcycles are really damn neat. Further adding to the neon, lively atmosphere of this series are Robado's colors. There is a clear level of detail in making sure that even when having characters of a different color scheme (The Misfits) they still match this vibrant world. The colors also succeed in further accentuating the concert feel of the music scenes.
Look, I don't look at sales numbers, so I don't actually know how this book is doing. What I do know is that those who aren't reading this are missing out! Granted, this title isn't for everyone, but it's absolutely worth a try, because there is a wealth of entertainment value in this series. Campbell and Thompson are clearly confident in their product, and that is apparent through their incredibly styled, well written characters and the general tone of the book. This series is all ages I'd say, as it maintains a fun but innocent story throughout. There is something in it for everyone whether it be good values, fun competition, or just a general love of music. Issue 6 came out on 9/4 but I'm sure that a trade can't be too far off, and check it out next month when #7 comes out with a new artist (at least until issue 11)! Give it a shot, you have nothing to lose but a hell of a great series to gain. Oh, and one last thing. Check out some of the fan art, there's some cool stuff out there.