"Jem and the Holograms" #16 wraps up Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell's "Dark Jem" storyline, which introduced Synergy's evil counterpart Silica. While the storyline overall brought in some big changes to the title -- most notably new Misfits member Blaze -- this issue felt like a bit of a letdown in how relatively easy the solution was.
After Silica's aural manipulation powers proved to be so strong, there's something disappointing about the big solution ending up as nothing more than a little transmitter created by Techrat. Because of Silica's nature, there being some sort of technobabble/handwave felt almost inevitable, but it's really lacking in drama; the solution here is little more than Jerrica walking up and attaching it to a computer. Even the potential obstacles that Thompson mentions -- Jem needing to be on the stage at the same time, or the fact there are so many people infected with Silica's darkness -- end up being either too easily solved or ignored entirely on some level. It's a solution that is surprisingly low in any sort of real drama.
What does work is the interpersonal moments. The biggest one is Pizzazz's welcoming of Blaze as a permanent member and it's nice to see her stick around, considering her journey to becoming the temporary replacement for Pizzazz was one of the more interesting parts of the last few issues. There's also a smaller moment or two that's nice: for instance, Kimber and Stormer's relationship becoming public, or the fact that the Holograms and the Misfits' double-act ends up a hit. They're a little diminished in stature here, but both are good steps forward for the characters.
While the script isn't as strong as I've come to expect for "Jem and the Holograms," Campbell's art picks up the slack. From the Nagel-esque performance from Silica to the explosive montages of both the Holograms and the Misfits playing, there's a tremendous amount of visual excitement. The characters look great, and you can almost hear the music in Campbell's depiction of the performance. It's also nice to still have Blaze in her Silica-infected appearance for the first part of the issue, if only because we get to contrast it with Blaze looking lively rather than bedraggled when she plays with the Misfits later on. Her hesitant smile in the Misfits' two-page spread is really enchanting.
"Jem and the Holograms" #16 makes a small stumble, but it's worth noting that -- for a book that's normally so shockingly strong -- this just means it's only average. With a new adversary introduced at the end of the issue, there will still be a lot of obstacles for the characters to overcome. I'm eager to see what Thompson, Campbell and company have in store for us next.