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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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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’ #10 Rio Gives a Chance to Reflect

Jem10_cvrJem and the Holograms #10: Rio Pacheco, Boy Reporter 

Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Corin Howell

Colors by M. Victoria Robado

Letters by Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber

Published by IDW on December 30, 2015

Jen Bartel’s cover: Jerrica with Rio, but behind her in the reflective glass is Jem looking back at her. That’s what this issue is about: reflection. Introduced on the cover, the theme continues throughout: what something appears to be and what the reality is beneath the surface. Duality of character. It is ironic, then, that the issue leaves the obvious example–Jem and Jerrica–in the background. 

This blindspot comes from a change in narrator. This is Rio’s story, and his reporter skills of observation appear to stop short of seeing the subterfuge behind Jem. What we do get are his insights into the Misfits as well as some well-deserved character development for Rio himself.

Read the rest of my review 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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Graphic Novel Review – Jem and the Holograms: Showtime

Jem and the Holograms: Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell

Jem and the Holograms Showtime

Meet Jerrica Benton – a girl with a secret. She and her sister Kimber team with two friends to become… JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS! But what does it mean to be JEM today? Fashion, art, action, and style collide in Jem and the Holograms: Showtime!

So, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you won’t be surprised to learn that we wholeheartedly recommend Jem and the Holograms. We’ve devoted increasing attention to comics this year and Erin’s even doing some external writing for larger readerships. What you need to understand is that it’s all due to this masterpiece from Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell.

It’s not that we didn’t read comics. In my youth, I was guilty of encouraging the multiple cover foil embossed special card limited edition kind of thing that shook the industry. These days, we’re the folks with two shelves full of trades.

And we’ll get this one even though we own every issue. We’ll probably get a couple extra to give to friends and family during the coming holidays. The old theme song declaring Jem excitement and adventure, fashion and fame could not be more appropriate.

Collecting the first six-issue arc of this beautiful, heartrending comic, Showtime is basically the coolest thing to hit the racks since, um, probably superheroes. As a former fan of the cartoon, I feel confident saying the creators have as much or more love for the source material as anyone. And the characters are compelling enough to draw unfamiliar readers in.

The story’s simple enough. Struggling musicians Jem and the Holograms put their futures on the line by entering a battle of the bands contest hosted by established industry juggernauts The Misfits. With the help of a sentient holographic artificial intelligence, they overcome their lead singer’s stage fright and capture the public consciousness. Along the way they face danger, romance, and food fights.

Everything in Jem is full of high intensity bathos. A coffee house conversation has the same stakes as the collapse of a career. And while the writing, and especially the dialog propel the drama, it’s indelible largely due to the artwork.

Sophie Campbell depicts emotion like no other artist I’m familiar with. The comic could be silent and still provoke fiero or sorrow, cheers or tears. If that weren’t enough, each character is a distinct individual person with his or her, mostly her, own expressions and, more importantly, body type. In a medium where basically everyone tends to look the same, this is incredibly refreshing.

Jem Broadsheet

You’re more likely to see yourself in this title than pretty much any other. Strong, confident lines and an incredible eye for design make each encounter with a character an experience to look forward to. And when they come together, there’s no mistaking them.

Not only that, Campell uses a clever, fluid layout for musical scenes that combines text and music video montage along with abstract streamers to evoke the energy and tone of an experience that’s difficult to express in static pictures. So a poppy love song comes with rounded edges and almost bubbly shapes while a pop-punk anthem comes with sharp lightning.

Do yourself a favor and check this one out. Even if it seems silly. Especially if it seems silly. You’ll be surprised.

Recommended for fans of truth, beauty, and transcendence.

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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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‘Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual #1’ is an 80’s Mash-Up Delight

JemAnnual_coverJem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual #1

Written by Kelly Thompson
“Wired” Art and Colors by Amy Mebberson
“Jem Wolf” Art by Arielle Jovellanos and Colors by Josh Burcham
“Angry Aja” Art by Rebekah Isaacs and Colors by Joana Lafuente
“Shana Wars” Art and Colors by Jen Bartel
“Jem Babies” Art and Colors by Agnes Garbowska, Color Assist by Lauren Perry
“Previously” Art by Sophie Campbell and Colors by Victoria Robado
Letters by Tom B. Long and Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber

Published by IDW on September 30, 2015

The title begs the question: Is it truly outrageous? Unequivocally, yes. Diverging in style and structure from the normal Jem and the Holograms issues, the Outrageous Annual takes our characters and delves into their psychology via pop culture mash-ups. This is the “Avenging Angel” of Farscape, the “Changing Channels” of Supernatural, or the “Restless” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. By allowing the sisters to fall asleep and dream of their favorite films, the framed narratives explore anxieties of each character while playing in the sandboxes of other nostalgic genre favorites. The effect is an amusing riff on sisterhood and identity.

Outrageous Annual is overtly catering to, well, me. And all of the rest of the Jem readership who grew up watching the cartoon and also obsessing over other 80’s-era products. I crushed on Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf and religiously devoured Muppet Babies on Saturday mornings as a child, still consider The Empire Strikes Back as one of the greatest films of all time, and flipped my wig this summer over Mad Max: Fury Road. I suspect Kelly Thompson did too, since these are the texts adorably mashed into the Jem-verse. Each parody offers a humorous juxtaposition of the positive, fashion-forward, sisterly foursome with an otherwise disparate genre paired with a subconscious concern for a character. The overall effect is a touch shallow, but lots of fun. The comic version of a banana split–just enough nutrition in the flavor medley to alleviate a gut ache.

Read the full review on 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.