Published on September 30th, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee0
Jem and the Holograms Annual – Review
The Jem and the Holograms Annual is a candy filled comic with the sweet nostalgic flavours of Iced Gems and Party Rings, all sugar and bright, irresistible artificial colouring. Honestly, it’s delicious. And fun! Like the sleepovers you used to have with your best friends, watching your favourite films and eating your favourite treats, all snuggled up in your pyjamas. I say this from within the fluffiness of my Jem-purple dressing gown, so trust me, I know.
This simple comic, of childlike revelry and 1980’s imaginary, is five short stories written by Kelly Thompson, with art by various artists, each story inspired by a different genre. It begins with “Wired”, drawn and coloured by Amy Mebberson, in which our heroines settle down for a movie night in a scene taken out of the Buffy episode, “Restless”. Falling asleep even before a film is chosen, each Hologram dreams of their specific joys, fears, hopes and insecurities relating to their new-found fame. And like “Restless”, while humourous and fantastical in its construction, this issue provides elements of foreshadowing for the series as it continues, and touches on themes and issues that are important to the series as a whole. So, although it reads simply as a collection of entertaining asides, this annual is integral to the series for its insight into the individual minds of our Holograms.
The first story, “Jem Wolf”, drawn by Arielle Jovellanos and coloured by Josh Burcham, plays on the teenage-horror genre and the popular 1980’s film, Teen Wolf, to explore Jerrica’s fears over losing her identity to the Jem hologram. An issue that the original series never fully explored, the conflict of identity that Jerrica feels is essential to understanding her character and speaks deeply to the identity conflicts that many of us experience as we try to integrate our digital, biological and cultural selves. It’s a contemporary look at fear, insecurity and expectation and a spotlight on the artificial, the simulacra, and the illusory in our lives.
“Angry Aja” is a topical homage to Mad Max drawn by Rebekah Isaacs, with colours by Joana Lafuente, capturing the enthusiasm fans feel for the recent film and the glorious Imperator Furiosa, whom almost every comic artist has drawn by now. However, in keeping with the feeling of quirky nostalgia, the story follows the plot of Thunderdome as Road Warrior, Aja, finds herself in Negotiate Town and finds her lone wolf identification on trial. Loyalty and individualism, as well as co-operation, are themes which here relate to the most independent of our Holograms.
In a much needed close up on Shana, who remains the least defined Hologram at this stage, “Shana Wars” fills the void of characterisation with a love of sci-fi, fashion, sisterhood and ambition. Inspired by the swamp scenes in Star Wars, Shana struggles with a choice, aided by Synergy in the role of Yoda. As of last issue, we’ve seen Shana wanting to pursue her love of fashion design knowing that she will be letting her sisters down by quitting the band. This beautiful story drawn and coloured by Jen Bartel delves into the conflicted psyche of the most seemingly innocuous of the Holograms, planting seeds of plot developments to come.
Lastly, we have the “Jem Babies” story by Agnes Garbowska, with assists by Lauren Perry, a cutesy story that joins in the recent trend of characters reimagined as babies. As Kimber’s dream, the story explores the rivalry between the Holograms and the Misfits and touches on a beloved story of the series in which Kimber and Stormer team up and write a song together, the episode that many fans say inspired their shipping of Stormer and Kimber. It’s the silliest but possibly the most enjoyable story of all the stories contained in this issue.
The dream structure of this issue makes it particularly effective by connecting the stories together, creating a playful but subtlety in-depth look at our characters and the larger plot to come. The homages to 1980s television and the Jem Babies are entertaining and the different artists style add to the Jem aesthetic, rather than the other way around, really cementing Jem and the Holograms’ candy coloured, fashion and music inspired appeal. Meanwhile, Kelly Thompson’s writing not only holds the issue together and keeps the comic light and entertaining, despite being a little slow at times, but also demonstrates her strong commitment to the story and characters and a dedication to the series’ future. A lot of the themes, points and characterisation we witness in this issue will no doubt pay off not far down the line, and we will see this series grow and develop in really interesting and throughout ways. Read this issue to get a head start on just how interesting and enjoyable this series has still yet to be.