I don't know who this Kelly Thompson person is, but she's going places, I tells ya!
So today Jem and the Holograms #1 comes out. If you read the blog at all, you know that it's written by our very own Kelly Thompson, which is why I was able to read it before you guys, because Kelly is swell. It's drawn by the wildly talented Sophie Campbell, which must be a dream come true for Kelly as she's been such a big fan of Campbell for so many years, colored by Maria Victoria Robado, and lettered by Robbie Robbins.
IDW will charge you $3.99 for the privilege of reading it, but is it worth a look?
Now, while I haven't met everyone who writes for the blog in real life (only Greg Hatcher and Sonia have had that dubious pleasure), I think all of them are awesome, so reviewing something by someone who writes for the blog is intimidating. Obviously, you can take all of this with a grain of salt. Isn't that always the way with reviews?
Anyway, I might have biases when it comes to the writer, but I have no biases when it comes to the subject matter. I have absolutely no history with Jem, so I had no expectations coming into this issue beyond "I hope it's good." I don't care about the characters because of nostalgia, because I have no nostalgic feelings for them. So I have no idea if Thompson (I'm shifting into "reviewer" mode, so I hope she doesn't mind if I switch to last name referral) is being true to the character or not. I just don't care. She sets the story up deftly, though, as she gets the basic personalities of the characters down well while introducing some key plot points. We begin with the band at a video shoot for a competition, but the lead singer, Jerrica, is too timid to sing. Her bandmate, Kimber (I guess they're all foster sisters?), can't figure it out - Jerrica apparently has a great voice, but in front of an audience - even an audience as small as the camera crew, which total four people - she gets too scared to perform.
Kimber tells Jerrica that if she can't get her act together, Kimber is going to leave the band. Kimber goes back to the others - Aja and Shana - and Jerrica overhears them discussing her, so she leaves the set and goes home. There she discovers that her dead father left her some birthday presents. I guess if you know anything about the cartoon you can guess what happens, but I didn't, so it was a nice way to get to the point where Jem appears, which is the climax of the issue. Instead of beginning with Jem and working backwards (which I imagine some people would have done), Thompson gives us Jerrica first, which might seem somewhat too straightforward but works well here. It's pretty crucial that we get the sense of Jerrica's stage fright early on, because simply by giving us that and having Kimber discuss leaving the band, we get immediate stakes. We know that Jem is going to appear - it's kind of the title of the book, after all - but why she needs to exist is important, and by starting with Jerrica, we get a sense that Jem is very important, not only to Jerrica but also to the rest of the band. I have no idea where Thompson is going with the comic, but it sets up an interesting personality split between Jerrica and Jem, too.
Thompson does an excellent job with the dialogue, as she nails each voice of the characters very quickly, so we get an idea about their personalities and the way they interact with each other.
She does more work with Jerrica and Kimber, as they have the most meaningful interaction, but she gets in a lot of information about their situations rather organically, and when they find out what Jerrica is doing at her home, we get some very funny dialogue, which is always nice. These are young women who have a lot on the line, and Thompson does a good job showing us their frustration with Jerrica even though they still have her back.
Campbell, as usual, is terrific. Apparently she didn't know much about Jem before she started working on it [as Kelly notes in the comments, this isn't true. As I noted, I thought Campbell tweeted something about not knowing much about Jem, but I must have been mistaken!], but she's really the perfect artist for the book. Campbell is brilliant at drawing women, and she's especially good at drawing women with different body types, so Jerrica is a slight wisp of a woman while Kimber, Aja, and Shana are all different sizes and shapes, but they're all gorgeous. Campbell has been doing amazing work with women wearing bold make-up and clothing for years, so this is right in her wheelhouse, and it's again impressive how she contrasts the shy Jerrica with her more extroverted bandmates. Jerrica wears eye make-up early in the book even though she's wearing almost frumpy clothing, and when she wipes it off when she gets home, Campbell makes her transformation almost ritualistic. Campbell's facial expressions and body language are great, too, and combined with Thompson's dialogue, we get very nice emotions from the characters as they run the gamut of feelings.
Robado's color are amazing, too - she and Campbell make the band's music early in the book almost tangible, as it swirls around the characters. The characters' outfits are bright, which is always nice, and when Jerrica discovers her father's secret, Robado does a great job making that part almost separate from the "real world" through her colors. There's an excellent sequence that might go unnoticed but shouldn't - when Kimber and Aja begin to argue, Robado slowly turns the background from pale yellow to bright orange, heightening the tension to keep up with Campbell's good portrayal of their frustration and Thompson's angry dialogue, which is ridiculous in that way that fights often are (but which doesn't make it any less raw). Robado is a good partner to Campbell in this book, and the issue is really a joy to look at.
I know this is all girly and manly men shouldn't like it because nothing explodes and all the women stay distressingly sensibly dressed, but you're just going to have to get over it. I was going to get this simply because of the creative team, and while it's very much a set-up issue, it's well-written and well-drawn. We get a clever entry into the story, and Thompson touches on some nice themes that are pretty universal, so everyone can enjoy this. Whether you will or not is up to you, but you should give it a look when you head off to the comics shoppe today!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆