Pizzazz has fully slipped back into her persona as the bad girl in a band made of bad girls. Though, through her struggles and private interactions over the last handful of issues, we've learned that it is mostly a persona. She's a person, with layers. Lesser books would be satisfied to have her either turn over a new leaf or lead the life of a conveniently unchanged antagonist. What Jem #19 gives us is more complex than either of those options. Pizzazz, like Jerrica, is maintaining a façade that reveals more about her true self than you might think. She's the angry, abrasive, and cold frontwoman. But she's also a leader, someone who has to take responsibility for both the careers and creative output of her band mates. She'd earlier expressed betrayal regarding Stormer's coziness with Kimber and the other Holograms. That hasn't been directly followed up on yet, though I expect we'll find that Pizzazz sees Stormer's relationship not as a personal slight, but as a threat to team unity. Not even her bandmates really seem to understand Pizzazz. She's needed to be somewhat unapproachable, separate from others. And that is the reality of becoming what you pretend to be. We've seen her at her lowest, and now Pizzazz has to re-establish her identity to regain her position. Speaking of identity -- Jerrica barely appears in this issue. Rio's mouth encounter with Jem may have tapped into a deeply hidden insecurity concerning Jerrica's sense of identity. Coupled with Aja's impending departure and the need to juggle her personal and private life, Kelly Thompson is forcing a lot of stress on our heroine. In issue 19 that stress is apparently turning Jem into a safety blanket. Given how key identity is to all of Jem and the Holograms, I expect further developments to center on the Stingers' front man. He's got a strange, worshipping fixation on Jem. Thompson writes him like he's a super creep, but there's something there beneath the surface. What does he see in Jem? Does he see through her, to Jerrica? He's a mystery, for sure. And I'm intrigued to see what the book does with him.
Meredith McClaren's on art this time around, and I think the issue really benefits. McClaren renders characters in very lively states of smoldering rest and manic flailing. Kimber gets the best of this treatment, twisting and stretching and flopping around like a Muppet made of taffy. Even at her most obnoxious, Kimber is fun to watch. I particularly like the onomatopoeia of Kimber nodding her head in agreement. Also, McClaren's version of Pizzazz is appropriately very mercurial and cat-like.
The proper introduction to the Stingers is downplayed while hinting at potentially dangerous repercussions for both our main bands. It was a good -- if inevitable -- idea to place a third, wild card faction into the mix. While the story so far has been about struggles between and within the Holograms and Misfits, the Stingers present some welcome variety. I'm continually entertained by Thompson's ability to take a lifestyle most can't relate to and make it feel accessible. A very strong issue, all in all.
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Jem and the Holograms #19 Writer: Kelly Thompson Artist: Meredith McClaren Colorist: M. Victoria Robado Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital