Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #2

“Face Off”
Sarah Kuhn (Writer), Siobhan Keenan (Artist), Shawn Lee (Letters)
“Stargirl”
Sarah Winifred Searle (Writer and Artist), Shawn Lee (Letters)
IDW
December 27, 2017

The newest Jem and the Holograms series is an anthology of stories featuring the eponymous group and their musical rivals, the Misfits. Each issue gives readers not one, but two short stories by different writers.

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #2 Cover A

“Face Off” Cover

Issue #2 begins with the story “Face Off.” Jem and the Holograms arrive at The Lunas’ house party only to find themselves facing the Misfits. What’s worse? The party is essentially a karaoke contest. When Pizzazz hears Clash belting out one of her hits, she commandeers the mic and shows the rest of the guests how the song should really be sung. After a stirring performance, Pizzazz challenges the Holograms to a musical duel.

One of the Holograms, Aja, takes Pizzazz up on her challenge, and chooses the very same song Pizzazz just sang, a Misfit hit. Karaoke night is supposed to be about how the singers interpret their favorite songs, but these old rivals just can’t let that be. As they hog the mic in an effort to one-up each other, the groups begin to question whether this contest is really in the spirit of the game.

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #2 Cover B

“Stargirl” Cover

In the second story, “Stargirl,” Shana is concerned about her ability to balance two careers—singer and fashion designer. Suffering from the flu, Shana is also trying to recover from a hectic tour with the band while preparing for her upcoming fashion design final. The Holograms try to come to her rescue, but aren’t quite up to the task. The clock ticking, Shana receives a last bit of help from an unlikely source, but will her creation be enough to sway the examiners?

With its bright colours and vibrant characters, one would take Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions to be more juvenile fare. Though it does seem to be aimed primarily at teenage girls, it is far from trivial. This issue makes some interesting points about selfishness, compromise, bringing balance to one’s life, and, of course, the power of friendship.

The first thing one notices while reading this comic is that each character is drawn distinctly; no two characters look alike, not even when they appear in the distance. This is an achievement in itself, considering there are two artists working on each of the stories, and also, because of the plethora of characters, especially in “Face Off.”

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #2 Face Off panel

The next, and most heart-warming, aspect of this book is the diversity. On the very first page, one can see that the makeup of the Holograms and the Misfits is racially diverse. In addition to the racial diversity, the characters are also of various sizes. Plus, there are LGBTQ+ characters present in the stories, such as Blaze, Kimber, and Stormer. Their presence is undeniable, instead of just paying lip-service to tokenism, as so much of contemporary entertainment media is wont to do. It is a sad state of affairs that diversity such as this is remarkable in 2018, but it is still incredibly rare to come across a comic book with characters written and drawn the way they are in Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions.

Alongside representation, the stories themselves are strong. Though “Face Off” is essentially a fun tale about one-upmanship, it does question our obsession with celebrity. At one point, the Misfits hatch a scheme to distract the Holograms by sending fans to take their autographs, the assumption being that the fans would rather have memorabilia from the singers while impeding their singing, and that being the best isn’t always a priority; sometimes people just want to participate.

In the first story, the only drawback was with the song lyrics that the Misfits and Holograms sing. Though not in the foreground, the lyrics do take up space in the panels and end up being a distraction, mainly because they are poorly written. Consider this one: “You gotta show you dream. Make it scream. Like a sci-fi laser beam.” It is a childish rhyme which has no place in an otherwise well-executed story.

This issue’s highlight is the second story “Stargirl.” Even for readers who have not been involved with this world, Shana’s story of balancing her careers is universal. This story is also an ode to friendship and teamwork, two facets of Shana’s life that help her when she is in a crunch about her final.Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #2 Stargirl panelThe art is more pared down in this story; the features of most of the characters, though distinct, are less detailed, all except for Shana, the story’s protagonist, and Andre, who plays a significant role in the story. There is a depth to their faces, and particularly their eyes, that transcends the page. Sarah Winifred Searle played the dual role of artist and writer for this story and her work steals the show.

It is such a rarity to read a comic book populated almost entirely by female characters and for not a single one of them to be even remotely sexualised. The women in this comic are all about their careers and their friendships. Could the big comics duo learn something from this?

As we take our first tentative steps into 2018, it’s optimistic writing like Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions that comic book readers of any and all ages will need. With gorgeous colours, characters we can easily identify with, and representation like we rarely see in other comics, Dimensions has already got off to a great start. The potential with this series is unlimited. I, for one, cannot wait to see what comes next.