Valentine’s Day may have been two weeks ago, but that only means that there’s no competition for all the sweets! The topic of there being an embarrassment of riches always comes up every time there is an extra issue of IDW Publishing’s fantastic “Jem and the Holograms” series. Between the annuals and holiday themed one-shots, it is akin to potentially thirteen to fifteen issues of material coming out a year! Both they and the ongoing series are written by Kelly Thompson, who delivers a simple yet effective script for this heart shaped themed issue. Along for the ride on art are Jen Bartel and colorist Paul Reinwald breath colorful and manic life to a tale which runs wild with the theme of “love” with virtually the entire cast.
Taking place between issues ten and eleven, it presents a plot in which trouble for everyone begins where it often does – with the ever excited Kimber. Eager to get some advice about how to steer her life and career, she visits a tarot card reader who predicts trouble and turmoil ahead. Proving to almost be too impulsive than her usual clients (which is saying a lot), she offers Kimber a “love potion” to try to use against the Misfits to make them more mellow and perhaps more open to reason. Naturally, Kimber is told not to use more than a certain amount. The expected comes next. The result is virtually the entire cast (the Holograms, the Misfits, and even manager Eric Raymond) becoming lovesick puppies to anyone and anything in their path, with only Jerrica and Rio on hand to make sure things don’t get too awkward. How well or poorly their efforts were will depend on how viral some pedestrians’ online feeds may be.
The basic plot presented by Thompson is simple and straightforward. The details and execution are where it shines, such as seeing just who (or what) the various characters attach to and watching Jerrica and Rio try to “save” them from themselves. It is a vibrant ball of lovesick chaos in twenty pages, complete with no end of fun one-liners and amusing dialogue exchanges. The outcome of the issue is apparent by the third page, but its the execution which helps make the issue distinct and memorable. It’s not Thompson’s script alone which sells the issue; Bartel and Reinwald go to town with embellishing the hijinks with their art. Bartel embraces the general look and fashion of the series but brings her own style to it – which seems to borrow some “super deformed” antics as popularized in Japanese manga. There is plenty of color, manic action and life within every panel, even if many may seem “simple”.
Naturally, Thompson has to adjust the plot of an issue for her format; a done-in-one issue is a different beast than a three to five issue arc with distinct chapters and progression. It could be said that out of all of the stories within her era on the franchise, this one-shot comes the closest to providing a premise which would have fit in with the original 80’s cartoon. While the details are distinct, the story behind it is well worn. However, for a Jem comic centered around the titular holiday offering a complete tale within twenty eye popping pages, it’s a blast. There’s nothing wrong with mixing in smaller episodes within the overarching “saga” of an ongoing series; in fact, those quieter moments (if one can call this issue that) help add stakes to the longer arcs, as well as offer more humanity to the cast. It’s a fact that many comics in their “six issues or bust” mantra sometimes neglect.
So, if one is looking for a comic to read alongside all of that discounted heart shaped candy, it is hard to find a better suited one than this!