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‘Jem and the Holograms’ #14 Sifts Pizzazz’s Daddy Issues

Jem14_cvrAJem and the Holograms #14
“Dark Jem” Part 4
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell
Story by Thompson and Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber

In an issue that seems to largely advance the plot, Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell take the time to linger on both bands’ insecurities and conflicts, reunite the divided couples, and develop Pizzazz’s familial backstory in Jem and the Holograms #14. A final tease of the showdown with Silica to come leaves the reader antsy for more.

The highlight of the issue for me emotionally was actually a low-point for a character. Pizzazz’s relationship with her father gets explored, and it ends up offering heavy helpings of both sympathy for our ailing Piz and insight into why she is the way she is. Vulnerability connects her to the audience but also illustrates why she would normally push it away. When those who are supposed to love you the most don’t, allowing anyone to love you at all is near impossible.

Read the rest of my review on PopOptiq!

Jem_14 Panel 1

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Image After/Image: ‘Jem and the Holograms’ #13 Revels in Duality

Jem13_cvrA-MOCKONLYJem and the Holograms #13
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell
Story by Thompson and Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber


As the “Dark Jem” arc hits its full stride, the story takes off, fast and fun. Kelly Thompson built up an anticipation for what Silica and Dark Jem might bring during the last two issues, and Jem and the Holograms #13 pays off in humorous character hijinks and ebullient art by Sophie Campbell and M. Victoria Robado.

The colors on this issue are outstanding, tonally building the emotional content. Robado uses a bright and bold palette during the Misfits’ first concert performance with Blaze at the mic, then jumps back to the black and pastel for the characters under the influence of Silica. When checking in on a recovering Pizzazz, her signature green and purple are darkened to suggest a variation on theme with a Dark Pizzazz, one who is shadowed by depression rather than infected by Silica.

To read the rest of my review, click through to!

Stormer and Jetta eye their audience in JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13

Stormer and Jetta eye their audience in JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13


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‘The X-Files: Season 11’ #6 Sets the Poisoned Pawn

XFiless11_06_cvrWritten by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor : Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

Published January 20, 2016 by IDW Publishing

The X-Files mythology arcs have always felt like a chess game playing out. Mulder and Scully were the pawns, moving painfully slowly across the board, seeing the other pieces in their vicinity but never the board as a whole. The partial information could be put together to arrange a tentative map of the board’s arrangement, but in the meantime, pieces were still moving, often negating previously known truths.

Joe Harris understands this and pulls the analogy quite literally into the opening pages of issue #6 of The X-Files: Season 11. “Endgames Part 1” is the first of a two-part “season finale” for the latest arc/season of IDW’s comic book series continuing where the show concluded in 2002 with season 9. Let me clarify that this series runs a different future scenario than the newly revived television mini-season 10.

For the rest of my review, click through to

The X Files  Season 11  6 Mulder.png

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Most Anticipated Comic of 2016: Dark Jem

If you follow my reviews at all, you know I’m deliriously addicted to Bitch Planet and Paper Girls, and certainly I am awash in anticipation of where those stories will go in 2016. But I sort-of expect more of the same from them. In contrast, when the new arc of Jem and the Holograms kicks up on January 27, it promises a delicious new tone.

The biggest reason I’m hyped for the new arc is the return of artist Sophie Campbell. She defined Jem and the Holograms with the character designs introduced in the first arc, “Showtime.” She nailed down the body types, facial expressions, and fashion sense of the characters. Her choices led to a body diversity rarely seen anywhere, much less comics. Women who lacked or plentifully possessed curves were equally glamorous and gorgeous. Their facial expressions could be emotionally evocative or amusingly silly, each in turn fitting perfectly in the tone of the scene. Campbell’s character fashions were true to the original cartoon’s flavor while showing the creative talent of a professional designer.


In truth, while enjoyed the “Viral” arc, I missed Campbell’s art in every issue. The preview images from the “Dark Jem” arc released in October only amplified that. The cover designs for the “dark” versions of the band members are deliciously gothic. The normal pastel palette has been replaced by a largely black and white one with subdued pastel highlights. The characters are harder-edged with tattered detail work on their clothing.

Read the rest of the article at!

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‘Jem and the Holograms’ #9 Develops Character Dynamics Through Costumes

Jem9coverJem and the Holograms #9

Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Emma Vieceli
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing on November 18, 2015

Kelly Thompson cracks a joke in the opening pages that illuminates the divide of her audience. Techrat asks Pizzazz why he is dressed like a shower and what that has to do with the skeleton costumes she and the Misfits have on. He saw “that movie” and there wasn’t a shower costume or skeletons. Pizzazz responds, “Ohmigod. Shuttup. You clearly saw the remake. Lame.” I expect Jem’s readership divides similarly: those who immediately swooned in recognition of Daniel LaRusso’s shower and Cobra Kai’s skeleton costumes from the original Karate Kid, and those who maybe saw the remake with Jaden Smith because they weren’t alive in 1984 (too bad for them). Thompson has a fabulous sense of humor concerning the nostalgia of the 80’s, and there’s nowhere better to show that off than a Halloween party at Benton House.


Halloween parties in fiction allow the normal constraints of character to be flexed through costuming. By donning a costume, a character can show a different side of themselves, their inner turmoil, or even accentuate their role in the narrative more clearly. All of that occurs in Thompson’s hands.

To read the rest of the review, hop on over to PopOptiq!



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‘Jem and the Holograms’ #8 Opens Ballady and Rocks on the Finish


Jem and the Holograms #8

Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Emma Vieceli
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing on October 14, 2015

Jem and the Holograms remains the pastel and neon-colored antidote to overconsumption of gritty, dark comics. Cleanse your palate and soul with this charming series. As the middle issue of the Viral! arc, #8 has a ballad-slow first half and then starts to rock in the second. Delicious twists in the rising action and humorous character interactions create delightful, pulp-comedy fun.

The first half builds the minor chords of character conflict. The issue opens with Synergy’s redone video for “More, More, More.” Harkening back to Jem’s cartoon days, the band is sporting their 80’s outfits. While it’s a cute nod, the dresses, especially Jem’s, seem lamely anachronistic compared to the improved fashion design Sophie Campbell has been providing. The band, especially Kimber, is pleased with the new video. She suggests they should write a song about Synergy, causing everyone to go into panic mode. Kimber rightly feels attacked and patronized. Only a couple humorous lines lift the heaviness of the scene. Jerrica tries to explain to Kimber that Synergy could be dangerous in the wrong hands. “Like the Misfits?” Kimber asks. “I was thinking more corrupt governments or crooked corporations, but sure…the Misfits, too.” Her answer brings into stark contrast the difference between the trumped up battle of the bands melodrama the comic delights in and the stakes of real life. The second uplifting major chord comes from Kimber remembering the tragedy of Syner-Kitty. We get no explanation, and our minds are left to manufacture the absurd possibilities. Shifting back to minor, Kimber wants to give the choice to Synergy. The others are surprised–Kimber is the only one that sees Synergy as deserving true human agency. Synergy agrees secrecy is for the best. Happily, it is also the best for the melodrama and the comedy, since both tension and irony can be wrung from big secrets.

Check out the other 500+ words of this review over at PopOptiq!


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Comic Review: Jem and the Holograms #7

Jem and the Holograms “Viral” Part One by Kelly Thompson illustrated by Emma Vieceli

Jem and the Holograms 7

Jerrica and her sisters face their biggest threat yet—success! Meanwhile, the Misfits aren’t taking these upstarts laying down… as they find themselves under new management…

Jem and the Holograms completed its first arc, “Showtime,” last issue. Big images, strong emotions, soul crushing conflicts. Even hard-as-nails Pizzazz nearly shed a tear, folks.

As you might expect, this issue returns to more intimate settings and focuses on the internal and the personal. The minutiae of everyday life. For rock stars anyway.

Jerrica struggles to prioritize various aspects of their burgeoning fame while Kimber agonizes over her shattered relationship. Surprisingly, both get some assistance from sparkly holographic supercomputer Synergy.

Across town, the Misfits face some challenges of their own. Their A&R rep is incensed about the disastrous fallout from their last performance. The band tries to play it off, but they’re getting a manager whether they like it or not.

Enter the first of two new, or nostalgic, depending on your perspective, cast members. Eric Raymond has been conspicuously missing from the comic since issue one. And he looks perfect. Fill in artist Emma Vieceli gives Eric the shifting  serpentine charisma he needs without a voice actor.

We also get a glimpse of Techrat, though he’s not named, at the end of the issue. I’m using his television pronoun, but the design is completely androgynous. The Misfits seem to have a way of attracting people with a hate on for the Holograms.

I have to admit that I already miss Sophie Campbell. I love the consistency of depiction across diverse body types and the emotional resonance of her art. She makes Jem magical.

However, Vieceli employs an impressive range of expressions and employs some creative stylistic tools that provide both humor and pathos. I’m looking forward to the next issue.

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Comic Review: Jem and the Holograms #6

Jem and the Holograms “Showtime” Part Six by Kelly Tompson illustrated by Sophie Campbell

Jem and the Holograms 6

SHOWTIME SHOWDOWN! The Battle of the Bands is here—Jem and The Holograms will face off against The Misfits…or will they? Battle lines are drawn! Nemeses are born!

Jem and the Holograms is the title I wait for. I was a fan of the cartoon and this comic is its true and worthy heir. The story is great, building from personal places and playing out in public spaces. But the art is fantastic.

Sophie Campbell has reimagined what was essentially a doll line as real and diverse people. And she can make them look glam and fierce covered in mayo and kethchup and goop.

Jem 6 P1p2

In the aftermath of the foodfight triggered by Kimber’s recognition of Clash as the woman with bolt cutters, the must have feminist accessory of summer 2015, Jem and the Holograms find themselves in breach of their Vs! Contest contract. Both bands clean up and come clean. Sort of. We get a rare moment of everyone dressed casually and being brutally honest about their relationships. Campbell’s skill at portraying emotion shines in these pages.


Star crossed Kimber and Stormer suffer the agony of unanswered, unanswerable calls and texts. If you’d told me anyone, ever, could impart the emotional impact of a relationship in a downward spiral with drawings of smartphones, I wouldn’t have believed you. Now I’m the person telling you that.

I can’t think of a single comic book artist who so clearly lines up the depicted expression with the words being said and feelings in play. Jem and the Holograms is about these moments as much as it’s about fashion and fame. The final panel features both a declaration of war and plainly wounded pride welling in a restrained tear.

There are a couple cool references in this issue. Probably more than a couple, but these are stand outs. First, the Misfits’ guitar-shaped motorcycles from the very first episode, and first song, of the cartoon make an appearance.

Guitar Motorcycles

Check out their original incarnation in “Outta My Way.”

And the final act of the issue featuring Jerrica’s plan to upstage the Misfits as they close out their concert is reminiscent of Sex Bob-Omb’s battle with fifth ans sixth Evil Exes, the Katayanagi Twins, in Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

IDW has some preview pages up if you’re on the fence, but do yourself a favor and go pick this, and every other issue, up with the rest of your books today.

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Comic Review: Jem and The Holograms #5

Jem05 coverIf you’re not reading Kelly Thompson’s Jem and The Holograms, you clearly hate fun. I’ll admit, I starting reading this comic for two reasons: 1) nostalgia, and 2) diverse body types. But that’s just the beginning of what this comic has to offer.

Issue #5 (Here’s a preview to entice!) picks up at the moment where #4 left us hanging–with sabotaged lighting falling towards a fear-paralyzed Jem on stage at The Holograms first performance. IDW describes the issue:

A disaster at the HOLOGRAMS’ first live show nearly ends JEM’s music career before it starts! Now KIMBER learns who’s behind the dangerous “accident”… and she’s out for revenge.

This issue, more than any other to date, feels like an episode of the cartoon. It opens with a “Previously on…” page that montages key panels from the preceding issues to remind readers of the important plot details. Then it jumps right back into the action. The pace has picked up from previous issues since all of the exposition has been established. Now we get to just watch the pieces come together–and clash. The quickness of the panels makes for a whisking ride through the action. You may actually hear yourself say, “Whee!”


The art in the issue, courtesy of Sophie Campbell, is a delight. The characters are cute, but not cutesy. What struck me this time out was how much fun it was to see the different fashion variations for the characters. One of the comic’s song montages happens halfway through, and in it we see the characters in panels that depict different places and times. Kimber and Aja alone show up sporting three different hairstyles and outfits. Yet, each character has a clear style. Compared to the one-outfit monotony of most comics (are they afraid we won’t recognize a character if they’re not wearing the same clothes every panel?), the inventive variation of fashion feels FRESH. Campbell also does a wonderous job depicting the Jerrica/Jem transformation. The imagery melds different versions of her with ribbons of color floating around her to suggest the hologram morphing. And finally, the facial expressions are emotionally evocative and occasionally hilarious. A moment late in the issue takes the cake for depicting Pizzazz’s reactions–and she’s rife with fantastic reactions.

Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell continue to produce a comic that is a joy to read. Positive, colorful, light, humorous, and FUN. And I dare say this is the best issue yet.

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Jem and the Holograms #1 Hits Shelves Today!

Jem Logo

Jem and the Holograms, a new ongoing series from IDW written by Kelly Thompson (The Girl Who Would Be King) with artist Sophie Campbell (Wet Moon, Shadoweyes) and colorist M. Victoria Robado (Fragile, The Littlest Pet Shop), debuts today. We’ve expressed our excitement about the reemergence of Jem in popular culture before. But those were vague hopes and generalized enthusiasm. Now we know that this update is worthy of the woman powerful enough to challenge Barbie herself.

Campbell’s character designs extend the diversity of the original cast. We were stunned when the character designs were released. There’s an amazing range of body types:

Holograms and Misfits

For folks wanting a closer look and more information, IDW has individual band member bios.

The first issue focuses on getting to know the Holograms as they struggle to complete their first video in time to enter a challenge run by the Misfits, an established popular band. Jerrica’s performance anxiety threatens their chances, setting the stage for Jem!

While simply seeing something other than the standard superhero stereotype might be enough, the series’ second strength is that the characters emerge in relation to one another.  The descriptions above give a teen magazine style snapshot of fashion and fame, these aren’t paper dolls expositing in order to drag the story forward. They are the story with and for one another.

Jem Sample Page

The creators are embracing the over the top craziness of the inspirational property while exploring personal and intimate themes. Kimber and Stormer are out of the closet, and they’ve hinted at other LGBT characters. And they’re not ignoring that Jem is a hologram; technology, identity, and celebrity are ripe for unpacking.

Can’t wait? USA Today has an 8-page preview.