As far as routine “plots” of serial comic books go, the “party issue” tends to be a story which isn’t trucked out as often as others. While such stories may have been routine in comedy comics (like “Archie” and his related spin offs) or romance comics (such as “Millie the Model”), they rarely turned up as more than backdrops for series within the mainstream (such as superhero comics). Yet that trend is slowly changing; 2011’s “Avengers Academy #13” (by Christos Gage and Sean Chen) presented a critically acclaimed “super hero prom” while the popular 2013 volume of “Young Avengers” by Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie ended with two issues of their teenage heroes celebrating their victory at a nightclub. Longtime comic book readers may be reminded of the former with this month’s ninth issue of “Jem and the Holograms”. Writer Kelly Thompson, artist Emma Vieceli and colorist M. Victoria Robado tell a story set entirely within the setting of a Holograms music video party and end up creating one of the strongest and most satisfying issues within the entire run so far.
Picking up with October’s issue left off, the Misfits’ new manager Eric Raymond has sought to destroy the titular rival band with equal vigor to their lead singer, the tyrannical Pizzazz. To this end, the band plan to sneak into a Halloween party that the Holograms are throwing at the Benton mansion to celebrate the inking of their new recording contract as well as the release of their next video. While Pizzazz seeks to sabotage the affair and Stormer is torn between being loyal to her band or her emotions, Eric’s hacker guru “Techrat” is there to hank the band’s computers and learn their secrets. This unintentionally endangers Synergy, the advanced artificial intelligence invented by Jerrica’s late father who has allowed her to become Jem as well as aided their band in terms of standing out. As exciting as this angle is to the long term plot, in actuality it serves as an impetus for a lot of character interaction and development, as well as a lot of effective comedy.
Virtually every ongoing character subplot gets addressed within this issue, and all of it in satisfying and highly entertaining ways. The costume party naturally gives Vieceli a chance to go wild with character designs for the entire cast. Techrat’s intentionally terribly costume is only one of the issue’s best gags, with some characters’ choices being fun to analyze in terms of their personalities or the tastes of the creative team. Rio’s “reporter” costume is easily the best way to get Clark Kent to guest star in an IDW comic book without riling any lawyers while simultaneously cutting to the bone of the “love triangle” between him, Jerrica, and her alter ego. Kimber’s shark costume works as both a reference to Lady Gaga’s infamous Super Bowl performance as well as a shout out to the popular web comic “Nimona”, of which Thompson is a big fan. From irritated fans to Shana’s lack of a love life to half the Misfits trying to figure out who best to shove into a pool, it is a panel-to-panel guidebook on amazing romantic comedy. One two page splash in particular allows Thompson and Vieceli to give similar “follow the crowd” sequences by Gillen and McKelvie in “Young Avengers” a run for their money in terms of laughs and visual pacing. All of this alone would make this a noteworthy issue, but the fact that it still ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger is the icing on the cake.
From cover to cover, this entire issue is nothing less than “outrageous”. Out of this entire arc, this should be the issue where any sense of Vieceli merely being a “fill in” artist to the amazing Sophie Campbell fades and one appreciates her skill as an artist unto herself. Rather than coast on her artist(s), Kelly Thompson continues to prove so adept at writing science fiction rock romances (the best way to describe “Jem”) that she can impress fans both new and old of the franchise. Both of her series’ long term romantic subplots reach memorable crescendos without either feeling too convenient or sloppy. The series is reaching a tenth issue, and Thompson is clearly more a fan of progression rather than stagnation. As usual, the dialogue is cracking with plenty of memorable one-liners, without relying on Kimber alone to generate them – which is great since even the best characters can burn out with over use.
There is absolutely no flaw in this issue aside for the fact that it isn’t twice as long or it can’t make time go faster until the next one. As terrific as the previous issues were, this issue could all but act as the perfect single issue to try to entice people who haven’t been reading the series. It encompasses everything that IDW’s “Jem and the Holograms” comic does well while making it look absolutely effortless. It is everything the film version failed to be. Those impressed by Mark Waid’s recent turn on “Archie” or lovers of great comics in general should run, not walk, to their nearest shop and grab this issue while supplies last. It may be the best Halloween party anyone has ever went to without needing to dress up themselves. It is both a trick and a treat for readers everywhere!