This story arc is certainly more grounded than the last. It has more drama and subjects our protagonists to more stress than their most recent adventure. And in spite of a brief near bear mauling, it remains far more focused on the human part of the drama. It's disappointing, though not surprising, how easily Pizzazz has slipped into her old ways. Her barely concealed distrust toward newcomer Blaze feels more than a little petty considering how little confidence the supposed usurper has displayed. It feels like forced conflict. Likewise, there's a falseness to Pizzazz's disapproval of Stormer's romance with Kimber. Hopefully, the Misfits will call out their leader's bullcrap, and we'll get to see some character growth. On that front, a significant portion of the issue's drama centers on Shana's decision to take what she sees as the next step in her life. If this is a book about finding your voice through art, then it makes sense that one of our artists would find release in an art form outside of music. After all, the Holograms can only do so much in one medium. Kelly Thompson handles this conflict particularly well. From Shana's boyfriend cautiously urging her on, to the shouting match between the bandmates, Thompson nails the mixture of joy, anger, bargaining, and reluctance that accompanies any attempt to alter a comfortable norm.
Jen Bartels art is less energetic than Sophie Campbell's work from the last arc. However, I find character faces here much more distinct and easier to immediately recognize. It's neither and improvement nor a downgrade. However, as the cast of characters seems to swell every few issues, I find Bartel's rendering of faces a little easier to follow. And Robado's colors still go a long way to match the shifting moods of this tumultuous arc. This series as a whole succeeds visually in large part because of the color work.
There's an inherent mystery to a story about change. I have to wonder how theses bands are going to look by the end of the story arc. I further wonder how much growth will take place from the beginning of this story to the start of the next. Many things are up in the air, and I hope they land somewhere interesting instead of hitting the ground and rolling under the couch to be forgotten.
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Jem and the Holograms #18 Writer: Kelly Thompson Artist: Jen Bartel Colorist: Victoria Robado Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital