Written by Kelly Thompson
“Wired” Art and Colors by Amy Mebberson
“Jem Wolf” Art by Arielle Jovellanos and Colors by Josh Burcham
“Angry Aja” Art by Rebekah Isaacs and Colors by Joana Lafuente
“Shana Wars” Art and Colors by Jen Bartel
“Jem Babies” Art and Colors by Agnes Garbowska, Color Assist by Lauren Perry
“Previously” Art by Sophie Campbell and Colors by Victoria Robado
Letters by Tom B. Long and Shawn Lee
Edits by John Barber
Published by IDW on September 30, 2015
The title begs the question: Is it truly outrageous? Unequivocally, yes. Diverging in style and structure from the normal Jem and the Holograms issues, the Outrageous Annual takes our characters and delves into their psychology via pop culture mash-ups. This is the “Avenging Angel” of Farscape, the “Changing Channels” of Supernatural, or the “Restless” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. By allowing the sisters to fall asleep and dream of their favorite films, the framed narratives explore anxieties of each character while playing in the sandboxes of other nostalgic genre favorites. The effect is an amusing riff on sisterhood and identity.
Outrageous Annual is overtly catering to, well, me. And all of the rest of the Jem readership who grew up watching the cartoon and also obsessing over other 80’s-era products. I crushed on Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf and religiously devoured Muppet Babies on Saturday mornings as a child, still consider The Empire Strikes Back as one of the greatest films of all time, and flipped my wig this summer over Mad Max: Fury Road. I suspect Kelly Thompson did too since these are the texts adorably mashed into the Jem-verse. Each parody offers a humorous juxtaposition of the positive, fashion-forward, sisterly foursome with an otherwise disparate genre paired with a subconscious concern for a character. The overall effect is a touch shallow, but lots of fun. The comic version of a banana split–just enough nutrition in the flavor medley to alleviate a gut ache.
In “Wired,” the frame narrative presents the Holograms after giving an awesome, adrenaline-spiking performance. The sisters can’t possibly sleep, despite the late hour, and decide to watch a movie together. Trouble is they can’t decide on what to watch, and it isn’t long before the foursome drift off into adorable snoring. The films they’d just been arguing over get interwoven with their subconscious anxieties. Amy Mebberson’s art antes up on the cute, but the simple line and coloring has the look of a digital webcomic.
In “Jem Wolf,” Jerrica dreams of her Jem persona as analogous to Teen Wolf. Out on the basketball court, her teammates (Kimber and co.) urge her to change into Jem to win the game in the last minute. Of course she does, but the adoration heaped onto Jem makes Jerrica uncertain about the value of her true identity. Is Jerrica getting lost behind the popularity of Jem? Even Rio seems to suddenly be enamored of her holographic side. Artistically, this was my least favorite. Arielle Jovellanos’ characters looked too close to fan art with an inconsistency in faces and feature placement.
In my favorite of the bunch, “Angry Aja Beyond Thunder-Rotunda,” Aja travels as a lone wanderer in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Mad Max. Rebekah Isaacs’ art and Joana Lafuente’s colors do justice to both Aja’s figure and fashion and the orange-blue desert of George Miller’s world. In the Thunder-Rotunda, the mysterious thief who tried to nab her guitar turns out to be a roughed-up version of herself. She refuses to continue the fight, and her sisters repel into the rotunda to support her. Aja gives her things to other-Aja and joins her sisters on a much upgraded vehicle that bridges the distance between Thunderdome and Fury Road–the theme of wanderer traded in for feminist sisterhood.
Shana’s dream episode, “Shana Wars,” places her in Yoda’s swamp from The Empire Strikes Back. A pint-sized, syntactically inverted Synergy attempts to guru Shana through a tough decision: remain in the Holograms or pursue her dream career of fashion-design. Shana’s lucid perspective calls attention to the creepy grossness of Dagobah and the nightmarish quality of the cave. Jen Bartel’s face and body representation is more realistic than the other artists, and the image of the song performance without Shana in the band is a tragi-comic masterwork of a panel with the dialogue presented in Star Wars alien text and the song lyrics changing to “all fail.”
The final dream belongs to Kimber, whose anxieties are not buried self-doubts. Instead, her worries concern her budding, but star-crossed, romance with Stormer, and thus this is the only sub-story that features the Misfits. In “Jem Babies,” the two bands are toddlers in Nanny’s infant room. To overcome the girls’ squabbling, Nanny gives them a kitten to join forces in the care of. Stormer and Kimber get the idea to write a song to perform for their fluffy friend and unite the bands. Agnes Garbowska’s take on the characters uses a deformed anime style and costumes them in their classic cartoon apparel. True to Muppet Babies’ structure, Nanny is seen only from the knee down. The comedic writing by Thompson in this story sends up the simple lyrics of both bands and throws in an amusing innuendo through the double meaning of “pussy.”
Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual #1 is fan candy. If you’re already a reader of the series (and if you’re not, you should be), this is a delightful riff on the series you love.