Comic Review: “Jem and the Holograms” #1

[AHEAD BE SPOILERS!]

Jem and the Holograms #1 is a modern take on the classic 1980’s cartoon.  The inherent problem to solve, though, is that Jem pretty much is the 80’s personified.  Can you take the basic concept of a female band with the glitz and glam, the flash, the keytars, the hologram and translate into something viable for readers three decades later?  That is what Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell try to do in this debut issue.  Do they succeed?

Well, at the end of the issue I found myself wishing it was double-sized because I didn’t want the story to end.  I’d say that qualifies as a victory.

SPOILERS AHOY!

The story opens with Jerrica and her band The Holograms – Aja, Kimber, and Shana – trying to record a video for the online “Misfits vs.” competition.  Already, Thompson and Campbell have been able to update the Misfits into a realistic concept; I appreciate that.  Jerrica, however, has self-doubt issues, magnified after the death of her father about a year ago.  Kimber, her youngest sister, is taking her to task and trying to get her to get with the program. However, Jerrica runs away.

Jerrica runs back to the home studio, during a thunderstorm, and a lightning strike reboots Synergy, the artificially intelligent hologram her dad created and left for her as his legacy. He also left mobile holographic projectors in the form of earrings.  Jerrica uses these to create a new look to overcome her fears.  And that’s where the story ends until next month.

I grew up in the 80’s and I watched a little of the original “Jem” cartoon.  Those meories plus a little bit of research allowed me to review the origin of Jem in the cartoon, and I must say Thompson and Campbell have done a fantastic job of taking the basic tenets and modernizing them for a new audience.  Granted, just like with the original story, you have to suspend your disbelief to accept Synergy’s existence, of course, but it’s not too large a leap for a fantasy comic.  That’s what this is, really – it’s a fantasy story with real emotional weight to it.

Campbell’s art also reflects the fantastic nature while still allowing the struggle and heartbreak the Bentons have endured to show through.  The band no longer has it’s signature 80’s glam style, but it definitely is outrageous enough for Millenials to enjoy.

I do hope future issues deal with Jerrica’s avoidance of her inner struggles by creating a new personality with Synergy’s help.  There are strong themes of empowerment waiting to be unearthed in this comic, and therein lies its greatest potential.  Jem and the Holograms is more than just a story about a band.  It’s about trying to find yourself, trying to summon courage — and perhaps a story of the problems involved of basing your strength upon falsehoods, or at least incomplete truths.

If you were a fan of the original “Jem” cartoon, you are still young enough to appreciate this book. If you appreciate strong characterizations, definitely pick up Jem and the Holograms.