The Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions comics run has made some great progress in terms of LGBTQ2* representation and race and body type diversity while still centering music and taking its aesthetics from the ’80s pop-punk scene, and this installment furthers that work. Comics in the Dimensions series include two short stories each, with the ultimate intention of showing Jem, the Holograms, the Misfits, and even a pretty well-developed set of groupies in a multi-dimensional way through extended world building and character development. Each story is written and drawn by a rotating crew, meaning that each comic contains two distinct story and art styles. This installment includes Sarah Kuhn and Siobhan Keenan’s “Face Off” and Sarah Winifrid Searle’s “Star Girl.”
Kuhn and Keenan’s “Face Off” takes place entirely at a karaoke party. Party is perhaps an understatement; this karaoke event features music by both the Misfits and the Holograms (Head-to-head Misfits/Holograms conflict and resolution is a repeating theme in the series.), as well as an extended rule set and a clear, high-stakes passion for song by the participants. Even though the plot is fairly frivolous – a pared-down version of a Misfits song offends Pizazz, who then takes over (and chaos ensues) – the text still meets its ultimate goal: Pizazz comes off seeming a little selfish, but not to an irredeemable degree, Aja is revealed to have a bit of a snarky streak, and Jem’s fun-loving and compassionate, problem-solving techniques save the day. Keenan’s art is gorgeous and incorporates a nice balance between muted pastels and brighter jewel tones. (This sounds like it maybe doesn’t work, but trust me – it does!) The art in this story seems anime-inspired; characters oscillate between very detailed and minimalist facial expressions, and some scenes make use of full-page, single-color washes, using black lines to outline characters and various shades to indicate depth.
Sarah Winifrid Searle is both writer and artist of “Star Girl” (which – talent!). Shana, drummer for the Holograms and fashion design student, has come down with a bad cold right before her final assignment: a fashion show featuring her work that she titles “Electric Ode to Afrofuturism.” In a bit of a twist for the series, it isn’t the Holograms who come to the immediate rescue (though they try) but her friend and model Andre who models Shana’s work in drag as Princess Dreia. Winifrid Searle’s story is inspiring and really speaks to the power of friendship and community support. Her art is spot on; she uses a palette of purples and browns that contributes, especially in the fashion show scene, to a serious and glamorous atmosphere. Finally, Winifrid Searle does a great job of centering her characters of color; though the Holograms do show up at the end, they take neither credit for the work nor the spotlight. Instead, Shana and Andre/Princess Dreia bolster each other and ultimately save the day.