Indie Comics Spotlight: Jem, Hit 1957, We Can Never Go Home


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Jem and the Holograms #1


“…it’s showtime!”

No one will argue that the 80s featured some of the best cartoons around. Transformers, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Thundercats…the list goes on. One of the shows also in those halcyon days of animation was Jem and the Holograms, a seemingly outlandish show about women rockers. It was a great show and makes for a great comic, thanks to IDW’s release of Jem and the Holograms #1. The issue is written by Kelly Thompson, illustrated by Sophie Campbell, colored by M. Victoria Rabado and lettered by Robbie Robbins.

Jerrica Benton has a secret accompanied by terrible stage fright. As the lead for the Holograms, her talents as a singer-songwriter are second to none, yet her reluctance to showcase those talents in front of the cameras is what causes tension between her and the band. That doesn’t really sit too well with Kimber, Shana and Aja, all of whom really want the band to work. What ensues is a mix between band drama and sibling bickering, all of which takes a back seat to the reveal at the end of the issue.

The crux of Jem and the Holograms #1 is Jerrica’s inability to reconcile talent with fear. Thompson subtly explores that through the band’s dynamic, as her sisters really want to do the band, but also realize Jerrica is an important part. The presence of Synergy at her father’s house emboldens her to overcome her fear, even if she doesn’t do it in the traditional “facing it” way. Thompson’s dialogue is meticulous and allows the personalities of each sister to start standing out from the others. The reader really feels as if they’re getting to know the family through their bickering and what is very obviously a love for one another.

For a book such as Jem and the Holograms #1 to work, the art has to work and Campbell does a fantastic job. The linework is sharp and concise, forming characters that feel appropriately rendered for the property itself. Each sister looks like an individual; it would’ve been easy for Campbell to recycle some aspects of appearance for the four of them, but thankfully their diversity further underscores their individual personalities. The sisters stand out amidst somewhat spartan backgrounds, courtesy of Rabado’s explosive color choice. If you ever wondered what a comic book about spring would look like, then Jem and the Holograms #1 is it, as Rabado relies on neons and pastels to bring the world to an effervescent life.

Jem and the Holograms #1 features a very simple plot and approach, but it works. Jerrica finds a newfound confidence in a pair of star earrings and the Holgrams are poised to break out. Thompson’s dialogue gives each sister her own voice and methodically moves the plot along without getting too far ahead of itself. Campbell’s art is very clean and attractive, demonstrating a focused approach that’s accented by Rabado’s bold color choice. Jem and the Holograms #1 will appeal to nostalgic fans familiar with the property, as well as new fans looking for a fun book to read.

Jem and the Holograms #1 is in stores now.

We Can Never Go Home #1


“Everyone at school is going to hear about you, freak!”

The high school experience is far from enjoyable all the way. There are moments you probably look back on fondly and others you look back on and shudder. High school experiences generally have a long-lasting effect on their targets and can sometimes even bring together seemingly disparate individuals. In We Can Never Go Home #1 from Black Mask Studios, two harrowing incidents seem poised to link to students from opposite ends of the social spectrum. The issue is written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon, illustrated by Josh Hood, colored by Amanda Scurti and lettered by Jim Campbell.

While casually working on target practice in an abandoned field, Duncan stumbles upon Madison and her boyfriend. Said boyfriend is getting a little too frisky, prompting Madison to beat him into submission in a slightly unique way. Duncan witnesses the whole thing and an awkward friendship between the two is born, one fraught with high school conversations and mix-tapes. Duncan and Madison both have secrets and more in common than they’d like to admit.

We Can Never Go Home #1 is more than just another high school drama where the nerd is in love with the popular high school girl. Instead, Rosenberg and Kindlon have crafted something much more intricate and jarring, presenting a bond between Duncan and Madison that thrives on complexity. The dialogue shared between the two feels cool, with Duncan subtly making advances at Madison (wearing her down in some regards) and Madison demonstrating a clear curiosity at Duncan’s mysterious approach to life. It’s through these exchanges that the reader fully understands what’s going on and the stakes couldn’t be higher by the end of the issue. The two leads are outcasts and their status in life isn’t made any better as a result of the events in We Can Never Go Home #1.

There’s a very unique style found in Hood’s linework that makes We Can Never Go Home #1 feel even more unique. His characters feel detailed and alive, while also evincing a little bit of 90s high school vibe. This vibe is captured beautifully in the body language of the characters as they navigate the often-unforgiving high school landscape. Hood’s style even boasts a pop art appeal in his layouts and presentation of character appearances. The atmosphere of their world is suffused by somber tones from Scurti that feel especially pronounced when she relies on purples and browns.

We Can Never Go Home #1 is a book that’s both beautiful and painful. It elicits a reaction in the reader of nostalgia sprinkled with trauma, as anyone who’s experienced high school knows it’s not easy to deal with at times. The story by Rosenberg and Kindlon is given room to breathe and doesn’t trip over itself in the set-up, relying on Duncan’s confidence in what he is to carry his burgeoning relationship with Madison. The artwork is top-notch and adds another dimension to the work, positioning the reader to be completely immersed in the situation much like Duncan and Madison are. We Can Never Go Home #1 is a fantastic read that engenders a genuine response in the reader akin to reminiscing; although it’s likely their memories don’t involve superpowers.

We Can Never Go Home #1 is in stores March 25.

Hit: 1957 #1


“Things change. People don’t.”

Maybe it was prescient to name Hit that name, as the series was a hit. Like most successes, there’s always a yearning to revisit that universe and explore the characters a bit more in the process. BOOM! Studios appreciates that as much as the next publisher and is releasing Hit 1957 #1. The issue is written by Bryce Carlson, illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Rey, colored by Niko Guardia and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

Crime is down in Los Angeles—at least, on the surface. Mickey Cohen has been quiet since his release from prison and the LAPD has seemingly regained control of the city. But the underground is a different story. Det. Harvey Slater and company have spent the last two years focused on Domino and his Syndicate’s unrelenting infiltration, but no matter how many people the hit squad kills, the real fight for Los Angeles rages on. Meanwhile, Slater’s being hounded by Internal Affairs, Bonnie Brae is missing and everything is falling apart at the seams.

Like Hit before it, Hit 1957 #1 delves deep into the LA crime scene of the 1950s and Carlson’s take on it is impressive. Anyone who read Hit will recognize all the key players are back and exchanging words with one another in a very hard-boiled style. It really plays well into the atmosphere and setting of Hit 1957 #1, as Carlson is unapologetic in his delivery of the plot. That plot is a little jumpy from time to time, as it traverses between the various worlds of the main characters, but eventually it settles down and the larger story starts coming into focus. Carlson infuses character with an abundance of personality that sparks fireworks when those personalities cross path with one another.

Just like keeping Carlson on to write the follow-up, keeping Del Rey for the art maintains a fantastic continuity with the property. Her work has a cinematic feel to it befitting of a plot centered on crime in LA in the 1950s, as a variety of angles give the reader fresh looks at characters. Del Rey’s style doesn’t rely on overemphasizing details in characters and settings, which adds a certain level of intrigue to the characters themselves. And each page is stacked with panels full of action and each panel meticulously follows along in a way that breaks down the action shot for shot in a storyboard fashion. Guardia adds a certain level of mystery to the characters and events as well thanks to a choice of colors that are largely darker in nature.

Fans of Hit will feel right at home with Hit 1957 #1, as it continues with the same universe. There’s a lot of appeal in that setting and with characters who are quickly becoming fully realized, it offers a lot of great interactions. Carlson doesn’t miss a step in picking up the story and delving deeper into the character relationships. Del Rey’s linework is heavy and deliberate, striking a great balance between being emphatic and dark. 

Hit 1957 #1 is a good first issue for those who followed the first series; for those who didn’t, it might be worth checking that out first before delving into Hit 1957 #1. 

Hit 1957 #1 is in stores now.

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