Jem and the Holograms had a lot to prove to me. I was a fan of the TV show, and at seven years old I desperately tried to convince my mother that I should dye my hair red and change my name to Kimber. Some people gear up for battle going into a comic book movie, hoping it won’t screw up the spirit of the original story, but I geared up for this. It took me a while to be ready, which mostly meant that I waited too long to read one of the most fun and outright pinkest comics that I’ve ever read. And, as much I love the original series with its incredibly ’80s aesthetic, you don’t need to have watched a single frame of the original series to love this book.
The story is, on its surface, very superhero-ish. The main character of Jerrica is given a secret identity, Jem, who has abilities she doesn’t as Jerrica. Unlike a superhero book, Jem gives her the ability to disguise herself, overcoming the crippling anxiety that comes with being a hardcore introvert with stage fright, so she can be the frontwoman for her and her sister’s band. If ever there was a comic I could fall into, it’s one where the main character’s biggest demon isn’t a tragic backstory (though their dead parent is an element in the story, it does not define it), but a mental health issue.
The stories are always, always interrogated from a female perspective, which gives it a flavor not found in a lot of comics that I’ve read. Filled with ’80s glam and beautiful, unique designs, the comic took soap, drama, music, and women/girls and put them at the forefront, never mocking these decisions. This was their world, and I was invited into it. But even with IDW’s cancellation of the original series, they are continuing the story in the form of limited series. The first of which is Jem and the Holograms: Infinite.
Jem and the Holograms: Infinite is a miniseries event that sends both the Holograms and the Misfits into an alternate reality where the holographic Synergy technology that Jerrica uses to become Jem is used to nefarious ends. The trade collects Jem and the Holograms: Infinite #1-3 and The Misfits: Infinite #1-3, published in alternating format (Jem #1, Misfits #1), to give focus to the titular girls of that issue. Neither is a complete series on its own, so this decision is an odd one, but it’s irrelevant for the purposes of the trade. I am pointing it out to wag my finger at IDW because I would go crazy trying to buy this on my own.
The first thing I noticed when I started reading Infinite is that I really missed Sophie Campbell’s art. She was the co-creator of the series, staying on for issues 1-6, then returning for 11-16. Her work absolutely defined the look and feel of the comic. The artists who followed her were good, sometimes great, but it’s something I call the Perez effect: if I read a George Perez comic and the artist changes in the next issue, it will look wrong to me just by comparison.
That said, Stacey Lee, Jen Hickman, and Jenn St-Onge do good, sometimes great, work. The Misfits and the Holograms are all visually distinct, with their wild hair and outrageous outfits. But because The Misfits and Jem had different pencilers, the art looks inconsistent. There are also some outright sloppy panels, which pulled me out of the story.
The designs for the characters were all there, but the staging felt static. This is more forgivable in a soapier comic, but the visuals of a dystopian story are critical. It seems like a mistake to not have the same artist throughout the series or to not at least have someone doing layouts for all six issues (see: DC’s 52).
Please don’t mistake my criticism for dislike. There are some moments here I really love—the reunion between the Holograms and their dad, the sheer exasperation Pizzazz has regarding the secret of Jem, and the quick views that we get of what they refer to as Jemworld.
The story, continuing immediately after the events of Issue #26 (excellently recapped in dialogue and captions, sidestepping the need to read the original series), was perfectly suited for a movie version of Jem—exactly what I would have hoped if I’d seen a commercial for one on TV as a little girl. I’m a sucker for “let’s save the dystopia” stories, so seeing that here was an unexpected treat. While it’s not going for subtle or for a detailed breakdown of how corporations monetize and create class differences, Infinite does what Jem always does for me. It told a story about the power of family, of self-expression, and that being who you are is more important than anything in the world.
The plot and its execution are pretty breakneck—with exposition to cover the parts it skipped. Jem had pacing problems in the latter half of its series (Jerrica as Jem has a relationship that occurs almost entirely offscreen), but the lack of pauses for moments like characters goofing around in their living room is a shame. I liked the story, truly, but I wish it had dropped its focus on The Misfits or been given eight issues to give it room to breathe. Seeing the dystopia (which handles the logical extrapolation of Synergy’s technology really well) in more detail would have helped—we are given no incidental characters to contrast our heroes to, just bit parts.
But you know what? I’m okay with not delving into the depths of a dystopian nightmare. Jem for me has always been about taking a break from the darkness of the outside world. When I want to think about what the world will be like when it all goes to hell, there are plenty of books out there that dive brilliantly into the dark chaos that will overwhelm us. I want a day saved by rock bands. Give me a day of pink.
And, given my furor over the GLAAD Media Award nominations, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Kimber and Stormer continue to be awesome in Infinite. No one slaps you in the face with how they’re lesbianing all the lesbian in their lesbian lesbians; they’re just together and cute and affectionate and there. Even Kimber and Stormer in the alternate reality are together; fans gave them a cute portmanteau of Stimber.
The character of Blaze continues to be present, and there’s no one screaming about how Blaze is transgender; she’s just there, rocking out and taking names. When people are talking about representation, this is often what they mean: having it on the page, but not as the focus of the story.
There’s a trope in media known as “Bury Your Gays.” This refers to how gay (LGBTQIA) characters aren’t allowed happy endings; they are often killed off in horrible ways, often to further the main plot: Lexa in The 100, Tara in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Northstar in Alpha Flight, to list a few of the more infamous examples. Northstar was actually killed three times in a month. Shows like Wynonna Earp get intense fan attention for simply letting their lesbian characters live, while Black Mirror‘s “San Junipero” was beloved in part because for once, it gave the two lesbian characters a happy ending. I’ve talked about this before, but often people within a minority group are drawn to a story simply because for once, they’re allowed to exist without being the victims for the writer’s indulgence in cheap drama.
When I read that the alternate universe Holograms and Misfits were both killed, I winced. I was willing to let it go because at least it was both the bands. But when Kimber and Stormer are revealed to have survived (I’m sorry for the spoiler, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who wasn’t willing to read the book without knowing, and it’s not really a huge reveal), a tightness in my stomach resolved.
It took me a while to get on the Jem train, but I have since become not just a fan of the comic, but of writer Kelly Thompson; I am still heartbroken that Hawkeye has been canceled, my 10-year-old is furious that there is no second miniseries for Mega Princess, and if I wasn’t so angry at Marvel I would be diving eyeballs first into her current Rogue & Gambit story.
If you love all things Jem, don’t let the limited series fool you: this isn’t the TV movie that ends the series for good. A new series, Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions, started in December. IDW will continue to put out miniseries to tell Jem stories from now on. It’s clear that they’re trying to change things up with these; this one is an anthology with two stories per issue, using different creative teams to tell smaller stories that wouldn’t fit in the scale of a movie or into the more soap-esque feel of the regular comic. It’s like taking a deep breath—calm, relaxing, and wonderful. The Holograms throwing a D&D night? I am so in. As for Infinite, I’m excited to see what Kelly Thompson does on the sequel that IDW better put out. The ending led to some intriguing possibilities that I’d love to see explored. So I’m not kidding, IDW, I need that sequel. I am filled with pink, glitter, and fury, so don’t mess with me on this. It’s showtime.
Find the rest of the series:
- Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 1: Showtime
- Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 2: Viral
- Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 3: Dark Jem
- Jem and the Holograms Vol. 4: Enter The Stingers
- Jem and the Holograms, Vol. 5: Truly Outrageous
- Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits
CWs for the series: Characters are killed off screen; anxiety; Jerrica has issues determining/remembering that Jem and Jerrica are the same person. This is treated as a mental health issue by the text and characters.
Correction: an earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Sophie Campbell was the artist for issues 1-16 of the original Jem series. Sophie Campbell was the artist for issues 1-6 and 11-16. Emma Vieceli was artist from issues 7-9, while Corin Howell was the artist on issue 10. Our apologies for the error.
Disclaimer: This comic was received by GeekMom for review purposes