Jem and the Holograms #23
Jem and the Holograms #23 concludes the “Enter the Stingers” storyline, which began in issue #19. I’m impressed by how well writer Kelly Thompson pulled it all together, because this was the first Jem arc that made me feel left out.
They’re a new band in town, and the lead singer seems to have a crush on Jem, and they demand the Misfits be fired … but I never had a solid feeling as to why. Or got a grip on any of their personalities. I kept thinking that if I’d seen the cartoon, I’d probably have a better idea of why they were making the decisions they were, or at least know what references Thompson was playing with, or be able to distinguish the two who aren’t Riot and Raya (who get plot points instead of chorus status).
Instead, they were nebulous plot devices to me, interchangeable mysterious blondes. Maybe I’m giving too much benefit of the doubt here. Maybe there wasn’t anything in the cartoon that would have helped. But I thought there must be (and hoped there was), because what was on the page in the comic wasn’t sufficient to explain their presence or motivations.
Also, while I like guest artist Meredith McClaren’s style overall, I dislike the way she doesn’t put bone structure in faces, so everyone’s nose is flat. Combined with the huge eyes, they tended, at dramatic moments, to remind me of fish. Like this:
As for the Holograms, Shana is leaving the group for a while, following a terrific opportunity to explore her interest in fashion. That means the band needs to find a new drummer. While the members express various concerns over this change — guilt over leaving, worry that they’re reacting the right way — I thought that the Misfits storyline, with the sudden business change throwing their future into doubt, was handled in more compelling fashion (even if it turns into a sitcom plot by the end).
The Holograms story is complicated by sending Shana off to another country, which makes for more drama, but adds another plot to a book with perhaps too much going on already. (I haven’t even mentioned the bit about Jerrica having multiple personality issues, which is given much too little space.) It also means that the characters can’t really talk to each other, which shortcuts one of the series’ major strengths. Instead, they talk about each other. Spinning the Misfits out into their own miniseries for a while is a smart choice, to allow future storylines more space.
Which brings me to this issue, #23. Everyone is at a masquerade ball sponsored by the record label, and the Holograms have just received very bad news involving a traitor in their midst. Thankfully, a good-hearted gesture saves the day. (Which leads to one character yelling, “Why does everything always work out for them?!” That sums up what I like about the book — drama, but happy endings.) Most of the plots are temporarily resolved, although with trailing threads to keep readers coming back. And Raya’s presence finally makes sense.
McClaren doesn’t illustrate the song performances as well as other artists previously on this series, but she does do amazing skull-faces-as-word-balloons, beautifully aided by colorist M. Victoria Robado, when one character turns on another angrily.
Now that most of the Stingers are by the wayside for a while (I’m assuming) and the Misfits are being explored elsewhere, I feel more comfortable that we’ll be seeing what will happen with the core characters, which I’m curious about and eager for more.
Issues #17-23 will be collected in April as Jem and the Holograms Volume 4: Enter The Stingers. (The writer provided an advance digital review copy.)