Review: Jem and the Holograms #12

Dark Jem continues apace. Truthfully, the whole concept feels like an excuse for Sophie Campbell to draw severely techno, hyper gothic fashion on the main cast of characters. And I approve. One could easily argue the whole enterprise of a Jem comic exists to facilitate designing hyper glam outfits. Most pages look like they have been torn from a heavily caffeinated fashion student's sketch book. However, past issues of Jem and the Holograms have proven to be cute and non-cynical explorations of friendship and family. As such is the case, I can imagine the Dark Jem story arc will be more than just a fashion show for mopey kids. Inevitably, a book with such a large amount of characters will need to push some aside from time to time. Writer Kelly Thompson, however, seems especially skilled at focusing in on her main figures without ignoring the folks in the background. All the pieces are moving in some way, even if only a few matter right now.

Jem12_cvrABlaze, has emerged as the new Misfits lead vocalist, replacing the sidelined Pizzazz. And Blaze always looks understandably lost, a little dazzled and awed by the flashiness of her rock star friends. She's a stand-out character. I won't get into exactly why that is, but if this was at all a superhero book I would expect Blaze to become the temporary new lead character. The tone of this issue really has the feeling of a new hero rising from the shadows to save the old hero. And it should suffice say the Misfits' portion of this issue very briefly and nonchalantly addresses a hot topic in the context of how groups accept new members. The book does this without making me imagine slow, twinkling, very special episode of "Full House" music playing over the scene. The Misfits are kind of crappy people, but even they have their crap limits. This is kind of a theme throughout the issue.

Meanwhile, the titular characters are becoming more like their rivals. Worse even. They're defensive, boring, and emotionally shallow. The "Dark" element isn't manifesting as the cackling evil of world-ending madwomen. They've become the opposite of what the band is meant to represent. As the Misfits lose some of their chilly aloof attitudes, the Holograms have shed all of their own warmth. The Holograms are just backbiting automatons, sniping at each other with bitter, digging remarks. And still, they are seemingly unified in their actions, moving toward some ultimate, mysterious goal. The climax of this issue's surprising amount of development is the paranoid fantasy predicted by anti-music propaganda like 1982's "Rock: It's Your Decision". That's not a spoiler. We’ve been getting bits and pieces of dread leading up to the actual act that seems to be the major plot point of this arc.

Issue twelve delivers a very satisfying amount of story in a single issue. And next issue seems to promise a focus on how Pizzazz is dealing with abandonment, obsolescence and her possibly career-ending injury. Should be fun!

Score: 4/5

Jem and the Holograms #12 Writer: Kelly Thompson Artist: Sophie Campbell Colorist: M. Victoria Robado Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/24/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital