It's interesting to read Jem and the Holograms as the halfway point between the increasingly hard to define action/adventure sci-fi genre mélange and a slice-of-life comedy/drama comic. Strip away the holographic cyber magic and you've got a mundane story about fame and friendship. If you erase the themes of friendship in the face of adulthood’s growing complexity you get a bland, if flashy looking, music-themed superhero team book. The combination of these factors typically yields the greatest strengths of both and avoids the weaknesses of each. Issue fifteen, though, feels like an awkward intersection where the needs of character development get shoved aside for the needs of plot development. Sophie Campbell’s art continues to be delightful. She brings a lot of energy to even the quietest, most reflective scenes. However, I can't get over how hard it can be to tell these characters apart. The frequent costume and makeup changes -- while dynamic and fun to look at -- don't help maintain a consistent enough look for each individual. It hasn't ruined my reading experience, but it is a persistent enough issue that I feel it warrants a mention. Luckily the writing often pulls in little bits characterization to clear things up in most instances of confusion.
It‘s worth noting there’s a trick Thompson and Campbell try pulling off in the book’s opening moments that I don’t feel works as well as it was conceived to work. It's a problem that I think is unique to this issue. And it is a shame because with some slightly altered layouts, the concept would work just fine as a narrative device. As it is, the chosen perspective is confusing. The scene is meant to grant us a window into the genesis of the arc's villain by recounting one of Jerrica's childhood traumas. The emotional turn doesn't work as well as it could.
What about the rest of the issue? There's a funny bit about the ladies from the Misfits loudly and utterly not handling the weird, zombie-like behavior of the people around them. Kimber shows some amount of competence and self-restraint. Amusingly, Eric Raymond's personal engineer shows up just long enough to put all of the narrative pieces together for the blended Misfits/Holograms group. Just like an engineer, he’s only visible when he’s needed. Also Silica, the dark inverse of Synergy, finally gets some motivation.
Issue fifteen is a weaker installment, one that doesn't feel crucial to the overall Dark Jem plot. Ultimately the whole issue is a lead-up to a big reveal that isn’t given the dramatic weight it deserves. Not a bad issue by any stretch of the imagination, but kind of a weak one.
Jem and the Holograms #15 Writer: Kelly Thompson Artist: Sophie Campbell Colorist: M. Victoria Robado Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/25/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital