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Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 Review

Comic Books

Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 Review

A truly outrageous swan song!

Twenty years from now, the Misfits are celebrating their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! But not all is bright and shiny in the future: Jem and the Holograms haven’t played together in years and sleazy music producer Eric Raymond has found a way to take advantage of their legacy! Can Jerrica get the band back together and make peace with her past?

The main trick with these kinds of flash-forward stories, especially the ones that show us that things aren’t entirely rosy in our characters’ futures, is the balancing act of drama vs. established characterization. Does it make sense or does the drama feel manufactured? Do we buy the conflict?

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In the case of this one-shot, yes. Even when there were occasional narrative hiccups in the Jem ongoing — a few dropped subplots and the like — the book always shone in regards to its character work. The entire cast was so well-defined, never relegated to cookie-cutter archetypes. Even the Misfits (THEIR SONGS ARE BETTER!), who were portrayed as little more than one-dimensional hellraisers in the original cartoon, grew and matured over the course of the ongoing comic and spin-offs. They were antagonists who deeply cared for one another and could be seen as fully-developed people with their own wants and fears. Bad girl Pizzazz was fleshed out into a lonely hard-ass, covering her own insecurities and looking out for the family she’d found with her band. Nobody was perfect, least of all Jerrica and her outrageous alter ego.

The Holograms were altruistic and caring, but they weren’t immune to self-interest. Kimber let her relationship with Stormer cloud her judgement on multiple occasions, Jerrica lost sight of where she ended and Jem began, Shana almost allowed her insecurities to cost her the career of her dreams and a relationship with her sisters. They were glamorous protagonists that never stopped being real people when the stage lights were off, which is what has made IDW’s various Jem and the Holograms series and specials so compelling. As a fan of the ’80s cartoon, I have always been so pleased by these comics and their willingness to dig deep and make these characters feel whole and human, but still extremely entertaining!

Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 Review
IDW Publishing

While it’s not entirely my ideal future for Jerrica and the gang, the story here is very true to the characters. Sure, Eric Raymond will always be a weasel, Kimber will always be Stormer’s biggest fan, but they cannot stay entirely static. It’s great to see this special take a few risks with Jem and the Misfits and it really pays off for fans old and new.

If you’re only familiar with the original cartoon, then this is a fun alternate take on the concept to check out. However, for fans that have followed this version of Jem and the Holograms from the ongoing series that began in 2015, it really feels like everything has come full circle. I love these characters and I’m still surprised to admit that I got a little lump in my throat while reading this story. Without spoiling too much, seeing the continued evolution of Jerrica and Pizzazz’s friendship is just wonderful. (OKAY: “That’s my girl” was the moment that got me.)

The story is front-loaded, with much of the exposition filling us in on the intervening years being given rather early on. The rest of the story functions mostly as a bit of a travelogue, catching us up with the rest of the band as Jerrica goes on a Blue Brothers-esque mission to rally them together and mend their fences. It’s great to see other supporting characters from the series, even if they’re cameos. Sina Grace’s script perfectly nails everyone’s voices. I’d love to read a full Jem series from him!

The story ends a little abruptly, leaving us to wonder what will happen next and if their plan will have any long-lasting rewards or repercussions, but that may be besides the point. The real meat of the story is the reformation of the Holograms and the girls rediscovering their love for music and one another. In that regard, it succeeds. Still, I wish there were a few more pages to give the story a bit more room to breathe.

Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 Review
IDW Publishing

The book also looks great. Siobhan Keenan’s artwork is appropriately both cartoony and glamorous. The characters are extremely expressive and sell the emotions of the story as well as the jokes. I was also very pleased to see the “swirling lyrics” design for the musical performances used here again. That’s been one of my favorite aspects of the artwork in IDW’s Jem books since they launched in 2015 and it’s great to see it here. Also, Cathy Le’s vibrant colors make every single panel and incredible outfit pop off the page!

In case it’s not clear, this Jem fan was extremely happy with this special. It’s wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated. The characters are given room to grow in new ways, yet the story still manages to do right by them. Most importantly, Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 makes a strong case for why these characters still matter.

Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20 Review
Jem and the Holograms: IDW 20/20
Is it good?
If this is the last hurrah for IDW's take on Jem and the gang, then these gals are going out on a high note.
Changes the characters in interesting ways, but still captures the feel of the ongoing series
The drama doesn't feel manufactured, but rather in line with the characters we know and love
The artwork is absolutely lovely
Not much in the way of resolution, but perhaps that is the intention. The adventures continue!

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