Yet More All Ages Bollocks In This Awesome Jewel – Jem And The Holograms #21 Review

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Thompson, McClaren, and Robado's latest Jem and The Holograms is a keen cross section of at least (at least) six intertwined, personal stories, and with them it brings along the feels. It's a succinct balancing act that brings all their diverse drama to the page without resorting to tropes and other obviousness.

The variant cover to Jem and The Holograms #21 by Gisele Lagace and Jason Millet
Gisele Lagace / Jason Millet Variant   ( click to embiggen )

Now I'm a bit late to the party with Jem's latest comic run, but I've heard great things from friends at various regular comic things in London and wanted in on this. This did mean that I had to lean heavily on the recap page to get me up to speed, but, hey, I can't read everything!

Also, since it's Jem you get to see my playlist that I had powering through whilst I read along for the first time:

  1. Red Velvet – Russian Roulette
  2. BTS – Blood Sweat & Tears
  3. I.O.I – Very Very Very

 

OK, diving in to those myriad tales that Kelly Thompson is running, and it's actually quite a lot to take in, which would be a problem without Thompson's fingers all over this. Inside we have a multi-layered love triangle (which are often issues because of the lack of agency for the characters that aren't the protagonist, not so here), a lonely castaway, a vengeful baddie, a less clear opponent / competing group(s), multiple relationships, and a couple things that I honestly don't have a handle on just yet because there's some history I'm still not up on. That absolutely everyone inside these 20 pages feels important is a testament to the skill that is weaving these threads together

Full page 5 from previews
Embiggen Me !

I'm going to pick up on the part that seems to be least represented, but most emotional, Shana's breakdown in to full on anxiety and probable depression. If you look left you will see (now she's moved away from the gang for work) her treatment in the new job, zero support network, and just the crippling remoteness that makes everything so much harder for her. In few pages and panels presented on her, it really packs the books biggest emotional punch, and I tell you I dropped a little there. This said, the sparse recap didn't help this much, but perhaps that's my fault for being behind.

All the same I think that Meredith Mclaren and María Victoria Robado's (Shouri) art is super with this, using the space and contrast to show Shana's isolation so effectively. Shouri's blocked, flat, colours, and McClaren's hyper expressively emoting faces, work together brilliantly in this this evocative style to tug your heart strings like a master harpist.

Full page 7 from IDW's preview
Embigg … yeah, click me.

This isn't just evident with the sad, it's there with the fun, and the sinister, too. With one really quite awesome page showing the band jamming in the home studio with new drummer Fox (who's the most shady person ever) they literally take a whole panel and switch to colour for her to scowl over the drums, it's glorious! I could be wrong here (uh oh, a person on the internet admitted fallibility), but I think it's actually Fox that complicates Shana's situation more, because the (previously mentioned) recap hints at Shana seeing Fox with Pizzazz (baddie) in a previous issue. It seems like Shana never managed to get this back to the other guys. Some much feels here! Which is great, because if this is an issue getting us in tune with everyone then you know it'll be dripping through every other book, too. I had hints of this with Singularity in Marvel's A-Force, but that sadly ended. Suffice to say it won't just be teens falling for this book (which was where my mind initially took me, Young Adult might have been more problematic in the title), there's so much in here for everyone of any age.

Which is perhaps a salient point to bring up my second mention of male sperm machines in a review. We've told you about Marvel and DC's balls and the emptying of them, and Mark Millar's cat wanted to tell us about his, too, well, there's balls aplenty here, too. Pizzazz gives them the beginning of her plan to get at Jem, and, well, Jetta doesn't really like the sound of it, so she just lays it out in front of Pizzazz:

Jetta says bollocks

Modern comics are a little bit in love with the old Tommy Rollocks.

Well, I've gone through this whole thing without really discussing Jem at all, but that's just it, she's worn out, and actually just goes to sleep it all off. Let's face it, sometimes you really have to concentrate on the other players in the game for it all to click, and it does. Not every book you read needs to be high kicks, running and shouting. You need balance, character, emotion, and intrigue, and Jem 21 has all of those in spades and more. The only thing I wished about this entire series? That they produced a digest version. It's begging for it, and it would have zero problems sitting next to Runaways.

You might not have Jem and The Holograms on your pull (and you should definitely catch up from long boxes or trades first) but I can highly recommend that you start picking this up.

Go on, have a dance.

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DETAILS:

  • Title: Jem and The Holograms
  • Volume: 1
  • Issue: 21
  • Published: 23rd November 2016
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Writer: Kelly Thompson
  • Penciler: Meredith Mclaren
  • Inker: M. Victoria Robado (Shouri)
  • Colorist: M. Victoria Robado (Shouri)
  • Letterer: Shawn Lee
  • Story pages: 20
  • Total pages: 32
  • Print price: $3.99
  • Digital price: $3.99

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About Eliot Cole

When I say that you should buy something, please understand I say that in full knowledge that the prices of comics are just flat out wrong. I'm talking to the select few with enough disposable income to actually pay $3.99 for ~20 pages, often less. Anyway, me? I'm a generally affable chap, happy to shoot it over a pint of proper beer (that's ale to some), I read basically anything, but I've found I'm now finally learning to love the small press / self-published scene a little more, even though I'm a relative newcomer to it (10y).
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