It's the start of a new arc for Jem and the gang. Said arc is called "Dark Jem", so you can guess where things are headed. Being a sort of introductory issue, Jem and the Holograms #11 has human drama cut with a heavy dose of friendly banter. This mix distracts from the whirlwind pace with which story is thrown at you. The grounded characters are still very welcome amid the larger techno-fantasy that is the stock-in-trade of the Jem franchise. It is kind of amazing how much of that banter feels effortless and naturalistic in this issue. There are about five plot threads being woven, including a new one concerning Synergy maybe going a little bit Cortana. Every thread gets an appropriate amount of page space. The sitcom quality I found appealing in Jem and the Holograms Holiday Special still charms here. Shana's desire for a cute bartender guy continues to progress awkwardly. Kimber is still childishly absent-minded, with occasional flashes of insight. There’s bickering and love in almost equal amounts.
Most interesting to me so far, is the plight of The Misfits as Pizzazz, their lead, is out of commission with a busted voice. For the foreseeable future, the band needs a new singer. And while these ladies are our ostensible villains, they aren't heartless. Faced with the possibility of losing their recording contract, legal action, and missing a tour with the Holograms, the Misfits have to decide how they're going to replace their friend. Worse, how are they going to tell her she's been replaced? They are slightly crappy people though, so our antagonists don't even bother giving Pizzazz a say in who takes her place on lead vocals. Pizzazz may be the closest thing Jem has to an arch-nemesis, but her growing isolation makes her a very sympathetic character. So it's okay to a hate the other Misfits a little.
The art continues to be pleasantly energetic in the hands of Sophie Campbell. I've really been enjoying the diversity of body shapes. It is a weird thing to call out, I know. But it's nice to not just see tall or short or jacked or plump figures. Rather, there are different types of chubby or fit, for example. It really shows off a thoughtfulness and subtlety many mainstream illustrators lack. That said it’s kind of a bummer how unique the ladies look as a whole while still blending in with each other somehow. They are very distinctive in their fashion and their bodies, but sometimes I can't even rely on their neon hair and makeup to remind me who’s in a scene. Only sometimes, though. Maybe it's one of those things you get used to.
Of particular note is the brief singer audition montage wherein each hopeful's style and ability is conveyed through font treatment and word balloon design.
Jem and the Holograms #11 marches on with the series' central ethos of aggressive beauty floating in a sea of dissonance while orbiting a tired old moral regarding the power of friendship. But Jem manages to be about the power of friendship without also being the most insultingly trite thing you've ever read. I can probably predict where the "Dark Jem" arc is going, but getting there will likely be a fun and charming ride.
Jem and the Holograms #11 Writer: Kelly Thompson Artist: Sophie Campbell Colorist: M. Victoria Robado Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/27/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital