Jem and The Holograms: Valentine’s Day Special – A Roundtable Review

Jem and the Holograms

Jem and The Holograms: Valentine’s Day Special 2016Jem and The Holograms

Kelly Thompson (writer), Jen Bartel (artist), Paul Reinwand (colors), Shawn Lee (letters), Sara Richard and Jen Bartel (cover artists)
February 10, 2016
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Love is in the air! And … in the water? When Kimber accidentally douses the Holograms and the Misfits with a powerful love potion at a board meeting, it’s up to Jem and Rio to save the day before hearts are broken. WWAC writers Ginnis, Desiree, and Kayleigh review the latest Jem and The Holograms holiday special.

For the Valentine’s Day Special, series writer Kelly Thompson is joined by artist Jen Bartel. What did you think of the special’s art?

Ginnis Tonik: Oh my goodness, I thought it was so perfect when Aja and Jetta went all chibi style and battled. The style perfectly fit the silly tone of this special. But, I have to admit, I hated the cover. Due to the saturated color palette, I think clean lines and shading works best for this comic, as does a cartoony line style. I did think the variant covers by Bartel that were designed like those Valentine’s Day cards you give out in grade school was super cute, though.

Desiree: I really enjoyed the manga-inspired art in this issue. I felt that it fit the overall zany adventure the girls were having. I’m with Ginnis on the cover art and how a cartoon-ish style of art with big bold colors fits the overall tone of the book. There were some moment when I felt Bartel could have added in a bit more detail. The wider shots of the group felt rushed and lacking strong lines compared to the closer shots with tons of really good line work.

Kayleigh: Jen Bartel’s Valentine’s Day card variant cover is wonderfully executed and so, so charming. As for the interior art, she has a great eye for character expressions and fashion—I love Jetta’s hair styled into little devil’s horns—but the background art was a weak spot. The street scenes and building interiors looked flat, empty, and one-dimensional, especially compared to the liveliness of her characters.

In the comic, Kimber accidentally doses the Holograms and the Misfits with a love potion. What did you think of the love potion storyline? Was it a Valentine’s Day cliche, or did Jem put a fun new spin on it?

Ginnis: Well, yes, but cliche in Jem doesn’t really bother me because the creative team makes such a joyful comic with intriguing characters.

Desiree: Love potions can be a huge hit or miss. Some storylines that use the cliche can come across as lazy and even a bit non-consensual, if not downright creepy. What helped with Jem was that the story came off as lighthearted and without any serious negative intent. No one was taken advantage of, and Kimber had to apologize to the girls. Rightfully so, because it was a huge invasion of their private lives.

Kayleigh: A love potion story seems like exactly the kind of thing that would have happened in the original Jem animated series, so much so that I couldn’t believe it hadn’t happened until now. (Though in the ’80s, I bet Pizzazz or Rapture would have been to blame.) Kelly Thompson’s writing on Jem has been such a savvy update of the original series so far that I was, however, disappointed in how conventional it was. (A catfight? Really?) I would have liked the story to have had more of a subversive, wink-to-the-audience feel, rather than been played so straight.

Jem and the Holograms

What did you think of the characters’ new crushes?

Ginnis: I don’t see why loving donuts even requires a love spell—I get it Roxy, ain’t no shame.  

Desiree: Aja’s crush was pretty funny. I’m with you Aja; hipsters are gross.

Kayleigh: Kimber falling for Rio gave me pause because Thompson has previously described Kimber as an “out gay character,” so really, what am I supposed to think of a love potion that can make her fall for a man? Yes, yes, wacky hijinks; I’m not supposed to take this story seriously, but record scratch sound effects were going off in my head during that whole sequence. At least Kimber was grossed out when she came back to her senses!

All in all, was the Valentine’s Day Special truly, truly, truly outrageous?

Ginnis: Ha! Absolutely! Over-the-top, suited by the interiors, just so much fun. They have managed to make a comic that is fun and sweet without tipping over into saccharine territory, and I think the truly, truly outrageous part helps with that balance.

Desiree: It was ridiculous in the best ways. The art was fun and engaging when the line work really pushed the details. It was a simplistic issue meant to amuse and excite readers. I felt that Thompson was able to accomplish that.

Kayleigh: Despite a few moments that flung me out of the story, the Jem and The Holograms Valentine’s Day Special is a cute, silly little throwback to the zanier episodes of the original cartoon show. And here’s hoping someone makes real Jem Valentine’s Day cards!

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.