JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 Review: Same Punk, More Dragons

Buckle up for the latest installment in the world of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 revives the cartoon 80’s punk band with all of its trademark sparkle. Each issue of the new DIMENSIONS series will highlight two stand-alone stories from anywhere and about anyone within the JEM universe.

As a first-time JEM reader, I quickly fell into the world of The Holograms and their rival band, The Misfits. The vignette style of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 sheds light on many corners of the JEM universe, making it easy to get acquainted with all the colors and characters. In this issue, we follow The Misfits’ fans on a ski trip in “Catnap” and then watch tensions rise over a game of Dungeons & Dragons in “Roll With It.” This first issue will be a fun introduction for newcomers and an exciting follow-up for longtime JEM fans. 

Above all, the highlight of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 is the new art. Both “Catnap” and “Roll With It” have colorful and inviting visuals. They engage the reader and drive the story forward. Although the storylines are brief and not as multifaceted as they could be, the artwork gives readers plenty to think about.

Even Snow Goes Glam in “Catnap”

“Catnap” welcomes back illustrator Sophie Campbell and colorist M. Victoria Robado of the original JEM comics. It even features Campbell’s debut as both a writer and an artist for JEM. In this story, Misfits band member Clash and Misfits superfan Misty are determined not to miss their ski trip. Even though Clash gets stuck cat-sitting that weekend, she brings the cat with her in her jacket. When rival Hologram fans capture the cat for fun, a ski race ensues, kicking up snow and glitter on the slopes.

Campbell and Robado’s experience with JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS is evident. By far the cutest detail of the story is the cat’s tiny winter sweater and scarf. Besides felines, however, the rest of Campbell’s illustrations are equally strong. Each character’s face has a distinct personality that is natural and emotive. Plus, Campbell’s lines are dynamic and easy on the eyes. Her style lends itself perfectly to a ski chase down a snowy slope.


Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

As for the colors, Robado’s touch is vibrant in the foreground and subtle when it needs to be. Robado especially succeeds at the challenge of rendering the many whites of snow-covered mountains and trees. The tonal gradations create depth and mood without distracting the reader. Furthermore, Robado also knows when to fill in colors and when to accent more boldly. This is no simple feat in the world of the Holograms and Misfits with their over-the-top, glamorous style. Yet, thanks to the artwork of Campbell and Robado, “Catnap” maintains a satisfying balance of function and flair.

How “Roll With It” Crosses Punk Rock and Dragons

In “Roll With It,” by writer Kate Leth, artist Tana Ford and colorist Brittany Peer, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 takes a darker turn. Exhausted from tour, Jerrica, Kimber, Shana, Aja, and Raya settle into a relaxing game of Dungeons & Dragons. Jerrica, however, struggles with the stress of being a responsible band manager. Her outburst shifts the course of their friendly game. JEM fans will happily welcome back the classic Holograms, though they might be surprised by their new identities as bards and warlocks. The odd combination of fantasy geek culture and 80’s glam is sure to get some laughs.

Again, the art is the story’s greatest strength. Ford’s drawings open up the comic book page, taking the mantra “think outside the box” literally. Although thicker lines slow down the characters’ movement, the more experimental aspects of the drawings are successful. For instance, I especially enjoy the loose brushiness that evokes Jerrica’s anger. To complement Ford’s work, Peer’s colors are fiery and electric at times, dark and moody at others. On the whole, the range of colors in “Roll With It” is impressive, if dramatic. Fortunately, in a world as camp as JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, the drama works.


Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Overall, “Roll With It” takes a lot of opportunities to breathe fresh life into the world of JEM. The Dungeons & Dragons concept gives the creators room to play with the traditional characters and art. For example, Synergy takes on a more human tone and joins in the game with the girls, while Jerrica shows another dimension besides bubbly lead singer. Although JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 fails to push far enough into such character tensions, I hope for more of these imaginative storylines from the new DIMENSIONS series.


Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.


Finally, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 takes queer, female, racial, body, and religious representation seriously. With visual depictions of diverse characters, the comic doesn’t need to use words to enforce its point — that healthy inclusion is possible.

For instance, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 isn’t afraid to show a punk girl in a hijab racing down the ski slopes, or a couple of queer divas sharing a kiss. In fact, the kiss between Clash and Blaze takes up the central panel of the final page of “Catnap.” Similarly, in “Roll With It,” when Misfits member Stormer worries that she is too large to fit into a onesie, the others insist that she’ll look really cute. The comic makes no room for exclusion based on body type. 

When comics leave these kinds of images resonating in readers’ minds, it opens readers up to more inclusive visions of the real world. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 reassures us that anyone — no matter what they look like — can be a Hologram.

Final Thoughts

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1’s emphasis on representation is affirming. In addition, the lively artwork, new stories, and endearing cast of characters should keep readers excited. Will Clash and Blaze soothe over the bumps in their relationship? Will Misty ever get to be more than a fangirl for the Misfits? How will Jerrica’s anxiety affect her role in the Holograms? These kinds of questions make the characters relatable, even though the stories are too short to fully develop their internal personalities. Yet, with a guarantee of fresh perspectives every month, the new DIMENSIONS series is sure to give all kinds of fans their JEM fix.

What’s next? Look out for JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 from IDW Publishing.

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