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Published on July 31st, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee

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Jem and the Holograms #5 – Review

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Jem and the Holograms #5 marks the penultimate issue to the first arc and it really capitalises on the issues that have come before. In one issue, Thompson, Campbell and team manage to pack most of what this series is about into a single issue, which framed by two cliff-hangers, then promises much more to come. There’s action, drama, cuteness, insecurity, humour, rivalry and pizza. And what this demonstrates is the commitment and understanding the IDW team have to this comic to produce something so confident so early on and so concise given the number of complex and developing characters and themes they are dealing with here.

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The issue opens, in dramatic Jem fashion, on a highly recognisable scene of stage equipment falling on the musicians below. Onlookers gasp, and Rio is all shocked and ready to get in on the action and then – as Jem raises her hands above her head and screams – Aja leaps in and pushes her out of the way. As at least one reader commented following issue 4, this would have been the part when Rio jumped in to save the damsel in distress, but did you really think that was going to happen? In this book?

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Playing on the old tropes is so much of what this story is about; Jem wouldn’t be Jem without these over-the-top, overly dramatic action and adventure scenes of the hero suddenly in jeopardy, but rather than Rio saving Jem, we have sisters saving sisters. What’s more, Aja doesn’t escape unscathed. It’s important to see that actions have consequences and for Aja, this means a trip to the hospital but for Clash, it might mean considerably more, even as she slips away, seemingly undetected.

One of the weaknesses of the original Jem was its failure to deliver lasting consequences as a result of immoral action: in this comic, Thompson and Campbell have introduced a character who seems to embody the book’s moral compass. Yes, we know the Holograms are the good guys; yes, we know that the Misfits are the slightly misunderstood bad guys. In the introduction of new character, Blaze, we have someone who doesn’t belong in either camp, yet straddles the outskirts of both.

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Blaze is Misfits aligned in her association with Clash, but in challenging Clash on her suspected sabotage, she fills a role that didn’t exist in the original series: that or judgement, or justice. Morally, she is outraged by what Clash has done; she is the catalyst for Clash’s guilt, and her accusations prepare the reader to expect consequences. Blaze adds a whole new level to the comics’ formula and structure that before was lacking: we see this acted out in Aja’s injuries, Clash’s guilt, Jerrica’s conflict with Rio regarding Jem, and at the end of the issue.

The main story of the issue then deals with the aftermath of the stage disaster and the Holograms’ preparations for the Misfits vs Battle of the Bands. Pizzazz snuggles in pitiful rage in a skull onesie with her Siamese as she bemoans the Holograms’ new publicity. The writing and practice performance of the Holograms’ new song allows for a beautiful spread of snapshots of the difference characters at emotional moments (kissing in the rain!). And a bit of spare time before the vs Battle allows for a little bit of fun, including the introduction of a certain character from the show, leading up to the climax alluded to on the front cover.

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What makes this individual issue so effective, though, is that it consists mostly of small asides. The scenes are short and sweet, ranging from the intense crash of the stage rigging, to the soft colouring of Aja in her Hospital bed, Holograms asleep in a pile at the end of the bed, to a candy coloured date between Jerrica and Rio going wrong. In each scene, the art and characters are expressive, with colour marking the changing moods as you read through.

These gorgeous colours by M. Victoria Robado, often filling the background of a panel, contrast and compliment mood and emotion throughout each scene. White, however, is still powerfully employed in this comic as the neutral base, made more dazzling in contrast to the pastels of the Holograms, or harsher against the Misfits’ glaring greens and pinks. In busy panels filled with a lot of characters, block white or colour helps prevent pages from looking too busy, especially towards the end of the issue when the bands “clash”.

Because, overall, and although it doesn’t feel like it, this is a busy issue and there is a lot going on. It lasts longer than you’d think, and fits a lot in. However, the progression of events is steered through the development of mood and at no point should you expect to feel lost. As the penultimate issue in the first arc, there is a sense of containment, of the waters pulling in before the next wave; however, the action never stops, sandwiched between two cliff-hangers. There is a constant sense of motion and steady progression throughout this issue, ready to throw you right into the next issue come the end.

Lauren McPhee

Lauren McPhee

Writer. Reader of comics. Martial artist. From Republic City.
Lauren McPhee

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