The Mary Sue Review: IDW’s Jem and the Holograms #1 – The Fun is Just Getting Started

Should you pick up Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell's book?

Yes, it’s true. The Mary Sue got an early review copy of IDW Publishing’s Jem and the Holograms #1 and didn’t share it with you. Just like our Jem dolls. But at least in this case we can share our thoughts!

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I’m approaching this from a nostalgic standpoint to be sure. The Jem and the Holograms animated television series was a vital part of forming who I was as a young child. I already played with Barbies sure, but having three older brothers I also played with Voltron and M.A.S.K. so it’s safe to say my interests were wide-ranging. One of those brothers was also in a band so meeting a cartoon character (and yes, toy) who was part of one certainly got me excited.

And the hair. Oh thank Hera for that hair.


One day I’ll actually have “the look.”

My nostalgia aside, my memories of things which actually happened on the show are fleeting which I think puts me in a unique place to discuss the Kelly Thompson written, Sophie Campbell illustrated book. While Jem and the Holograms #1 is based on licensed characters, the door is wide open for both new readers and new stories.

Though if you already know the tale of Jem and her pals, you’re in for a bit of a slow start while the creators explain how the heck a group of young women turn into music superstars thanks to holograms. Yeah… the premise of Jem was always sort of odd but if you think of it as a sci-fi story it’s a bit more palatable for the skeptic (even in the age of touchable holograms and artificial intelligence).

Even if we start off slow, our introduction to our main characters (Jerrica, Aja, Shana, and Kimber) is a solid one. These women are friends/family and are in the midst of a crisis – something all of us can relate to. There’s tension, emotion, and drama… drama soon to get even more dramatic as we finally meet Synergy, the equally wild-haired holographic computer which sets us on our path to fame, fortune, and maybe even saving the day.

Jem 01 DPS page 2-3While I’ve seen Campbell’s artistry before, and certainly seen the amazing Jem covers and promo art, but this is the first time I’m seeing her sequential work. I was happily surprised to see the same level of work in the pages of Jem and the Holograms #1 . Emotions ring true throughout, and yes, the hair stays on point the entire time,

If I had one criticism of the art it would be the lack of variety as far as the layouts are concerned. The two-page spread above is one of the few pieces that goes “outside of the box,” as it were. On one hand this might be a good thing for new comic readers not familiar with how to read a comic. and I wouldn’t mind if the look remained through the series. but I’m hoping things go a little wild once the Holograms get to work.

The colors in the issue are by M. Victoria Robado and I think it’s time to use the old Jem adage of “truly outrageous.” There’s definitely a complimentary scheme going on, so it will be interesting to see how things look when other characters arrive — particularly the shockingly neon Misfits. But I think it’s safe to say the colors of  Jem and the Holograms are really going to grab attention on comic store shelves.

Going forward I’m interested to see how the creative team deals with the landscape of musicians, celebrities, and the internet in this day and age (as I saw a jukebox in its pages I half wondered if some people reading would have no idea what it was). It’s easy to say Thompson, Campbell, and Robado have an instant hit on their hands with the name “Jem” but separately and combined they’re definitely a force to be reckoned with — much like the Holograms themselves.

Now can we get the digital comic to come with actual music files of the band’s songs? Because that would also be truly outrageous.

You can find all the covers, extra content, and a preview of the first issue, available March 25th, at IDW Publishing’s website. And here are some bonus covers for issues 3 and 4 respectfully:


JEM-04-cover-final REVISED

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Image of Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."