As you may or may not know (although, honestly, you really SHOULD know), Kelly’s first issue of Jem and the Holograms is coming out tomorrow! This is awesome news, but do you know what makes it even MORE awesome? That the first issue is so darn GOOD!
This first issue serves as an origin story for Jem and the Holograms, and Kelly and artists Sophie Campbell and M. Victoria Robado manage to do a remarkable thing by actually significantly improving on the origin of the Jem concept without losing sight of what made the original series so iconic. The narrative hook that drives the book is that Jerrica Benton, lead singer of the band, has a serious case of performance anxiety…
And that, therefore, gives us the reason why Jerrica would even NEED to perform as someone else. That’s not something that was ever made particularly clear in the cartoon series.
Much has been made about Sophie Campbell’s re-designed looks for the various members of the Holograms, and that’s with good reason, as they’re not just amazing, she had to pull off such a high degree of difficulty with so many different people looking to tear down what she is trying to do (re-designing iconic characters and making them modern but also trying to diversify them in look and in body type) that the fact that she completely pulls it off is just astonishing to me. It’s more impressive than Luke Skywalker getting that laser blast into that tiny thermal vent on the Death Star. That’s how impressive Campbell’s achievement is.
Robado’s colors are perfectly in sync with Campbell, as there are few books (outside of noir titles, of course) where color is quite as important as Jem and the Holograms, so she plays a particularly important role here.
Besides giving Jerrica a really good reason to create Jem, Kelly does two other significant things with this story. She quickly not only defines the various characters and gives them distinct personalities, but she also puts them into conflict with each other. This is a very neat trick because there’s rarely a better insight into who people really are than when they are arguing with each other. And what we see here is a wonderfully complex argument, with four foster sisters who care deeply about each other but also realize that Jerrica’s problem is really and truly bringing the group down. Should love for your sister mean screwing over your own dreams? It’s a great conflict and it drives this first issue. Luckily, the whole “Super-realistic hologram technology and talking computer system” thing resolves that.
And that is the other significant thing – Kelly likely felt like she had an obligation to at least somewhat thrown a lampshade on the craziness of their foster father secretly building all of this amazing technology without anyone knowing about it, but at the same time, that’s the idea behind the book. You don’t want to make fun of the very idea behind the book! Especially since “Super-realistic hologram technology and talking computer system” is no more or less absurd than, say, a radioactive spider biting a teen and giving him all the powers of a spider or a gamma bomb turning a scientist into a monster. And Kelly does that nicely. She is very respectful of the property.
So you have amazingly designed characters, great artwork, strong characterizations, great dialogue (I seriously “awwwwed” out loud at one point), vibrant colors and a compelling narrative hook going forward. There is very little here NOT to like!
So go buy it tomorrow, people! It is highly recommended!