‘Jem and the Holograms’ #9 Develops Character Dynamics Through Costumes

Jem9coverJem and the Holograms #9
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Emma Vieceli
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW

Kelly Thompson cracks a joke in the opening pages that illuminates the divide of her audience. Techrat asks Pizzazz why he is dressed like a shower and what that has to do with the skeleton costumes she and the Misfits have on. He saw “that movie” and there wasn’t a shower costume or skeletons. Pizzazz responds, “Ohmigod. Shuttup. You clearly saw the remake. Lame.” I expect Jem’s readership divides similarly: those who immediately swooned in recognition of Daniel LaRusso’s shower and Cobra Kai’s skeleton costumes from the original Karate Kid, and those who maybe saw the remake with Jaden Smith because they weren’t alive in 1984 (too bad for them). Thompson has a fabulous sense of humor concerning the nostalgia of the 80’s, and there’s nowhere better to show that off than a Halloween party at Benton House.

TechratPizzazz

Halloween parties in fiction allow the normal constraints of character to be flexed through costuming. By donning a costume, a character can show a different side of themselves, their inner turmoil, or even accentuate their role in the narrative more clearly. All of that occurs in Thompson’s hands.

To start, the skeleton costumes draw attention to an important character conflict in the Misfits. Stormer complains that they’re dressed as bullies. “Why are we the villains?” she asks. Roxy responds, “Villainy is, like, a matter of perspective, Storm.” I imagine Pizzazz thinks of herself as the hero of this story, despite her clearly antagonistic actions. Stormer, however, has a stricter sense of morality and Kimber’s judgment in the back of her mind. She sees the lack of virtue in Pizzazz’s behavior and questions how long she can be party to it.

When she sees Kimber dressed in a Shark costume–a nod to the left dancing Shark of the Katy Perry half-time show–she doesn’t immediately recognize it for what it is. Instead, she attempts to hide from her feelings for Kimber. But when Kimber sees her later and they finally talk about their relationship, that costume is a bridge. Stormer loved the Sharks. Kimber didn’t. But she wears the costume because Stormer loved them.

StormerSharkKimber

And it’s not just Stormer and Kimber who mend their relationship. Rio and Jerrica also kiss and make up after Rio apologizes for surprising her with the Misfits article. And Aja and her boyfriend Craig both show up in Imperator Furiosa costumes, causing much nausea at their ever-loving adorability. Side note: the progressiveness of this comic gives me great joy. Craig wears the costume of a woman without any mocking sense of cross-dressing. He just loves Furiosa. She’s a BAMF, and he wants to emulate and celebrate that. I think Aja’s found herself a winner.

mucking

Meanwhile, Roxy and Jetta are looking to push someone in the pool and Pizzazz is following Jem, attempting to see what she’s hiding. Emma Vieceli depicts this sneaky business with arrows pathing Pizzazz through the hallways of the manor. It’s retro and charming. Later, as the party is in full swing, Vieceli gives an overview of the various storylines in progress by mapping out the whereabouts of each character and summarizing what they’re up to. It effectively brings together the bits and pieces of story and humorously pokes at the drama.

However, this issue, while having great fun with the romantic pairings and the Misfits’ “mucking” antics, also has a dark side. Jerrica is dressed up as Black Swan. This is perhaps the most important costume of the issue. First, it reinforces the anxiety Jerrica feels about being two people and losing sight of who Jerrica is when all around her people clamor for Jem. Thompson presented this same anxiety in a different pop culture homage in the Jem Annual’s Teen Wolf dream. The Black Swan costume carries more horror than Teenwolf’s comedy. That gothic horror foreshadows the dark twists of the ending: Pizzazz’s accident and Techrat’s discovery in the pool house. It ultimately points an arrow straight at the next story arc: “Dark Jem”.

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