By Stefania Rudd, Brandy Dykhuizen and Jarrod Jones. Our Week In Review collects our thoughts on the comics that demand attention. Do you have a deep-rooted desire to know what we think about all your favorite books? Well. This is where you need to be.

STL002513Jem and the Holograms #14

IDW/$3.99

Written by Kelly Thompson.

Art by Sophie Campbell; colors by M. Victoria Robado.

Letters by Shawn Lee.

SR: In issue #14 of Jem and the Holograms the ladies have a tough decision to make: disconnect Synergy and end her reign of terror while losing Jem in the process, or leave things as is and allow the harmful Silica to continue zombiefying people. (Oh, all while being on tour with The Misfits.) There are tough choices this bands will have to make together, but this is one that can permanently impact their fate — say nothing of their friendships.

Jem has always been a strong and consistent series, with humor, heart, and relatability. Writer Kelly Thompson (who collaborates on story with artist Sophie Campbell) has really taken it to the next level with this “Dark Jem” story arc. Seeing our characters develop and react to the circumstances has been fun and insightful. In the cartoon we got brief glimpses of the characters’ backstories (like in the episode where we found out Roxy was illiterate), but a lot was left in the dark. In the comic book series, and especially in this arc, we are getting some major realness. (How punched in the gut was I when Pizzazz had that long-awaited phone conversation with her dad? Answer: very.) I also enjoyed the way the women reconnected with their loves in a very rom-com sort of way — though those reunions were abruptly interrupted. Sophie Campbell’s artwork and M. Victoria Robado’s coloring seriously give me goosebumps: the thing that sticks out the most are the way the panels seem to melt into each other towards the end of the book, when the black detailing drips and oozes — it gives us an ominous feeling for the next issue.

Overall, the synergy between Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, and M. Victoria Robado give us a strong issue that really kicks the action of the story arc into gear. We know that in the end the women will come through this ordeal stronger and more united, but first we have to go through the darkness. Fortunately, The Holograms are in good hands.

8.5 out of 10

cc38559738e5c68820e7444d5d88cd36_xlWelcome to Showside #4 

Z2 Comics/$3.99

Written by Ian McGinty and Samantha Knapp.

Art by Ian McGinty.

Letters by Fred Stressing.

JJ: The chance to harness the power of a wildly entertaining cartoon in your hands doesn’t require a smartphone or a tablet — all you need is a copy of Ian McGinty’s Welcome to Showside

When one reads through an issue of Showside, there’s this inescapable feeling that we’re on the inside track to television’s next big thing. It’s a vibrant, colossally funny spectacle that cribs liberally from what’s worked for animation in the past, but somehow feels like it’s come from the future. That Welcome to Showside isn’t dropping new episodes on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon right now, this minute is criminal. (If you need further proof that Showside ought to be a series, check this out. Also, this.)

But don’t let that sentiment diminish the quality at hand here. Z2 Comics has a serious ace in the hole with Welcome to Showside; each successive issue gleefully (and, at times, thoughtfully) expounds upon its world with a phosphorescent glow and a synthesized hum. It has jokes, sure, but its humor has a bite to it — the comedy is sharp, quick-witted, imbued with a nostalgic lust for the early Oughties and its punchlines land so hard you’ll often be like, “aw, snap!” Trudging through so many self-serious books every week can grow wearying. Welcome to Showside is here to remind everyone that we need to periodically chill out.

So, this issue. We’re familiar with the Nexus (a hyper-reality of demon monsters and crystalline shapes floating blithely in the sky), enough to know that putting in time there can be a real chore. So agrees Frank The Lesser Demon, a vaguely evil entity who isn’t so much a threat to heroes Kit, Belle and Moon as he is a pain in the tuchus for his boss, The Shadow King. Frank’s had it with pulling shifts as the Nexus’ resident stooge, so he takes a powder to Showside in the hopes to steal the Teenomicon from our heroes in the hopes to rule… well, everything. Frank’s a pretty shrewd fellow, one who considers his time more valuable than others — so much, in fact, that he feels the need to announce whenever he’s about to monologue, just so everyone knows to strap in for the duration. (“All right,” he says to a floating Squidbilly named Climp, in one of the issues’ more indelible moments. “Here’s the deal. This is a lot of exposition so pay attention for once.”)

Frank’s mission comes into direct conflict with our lead protagonists — as it must — but instead of going through the motions Welcome to Showside #4 perfects the thrill of the chase, crafting stakes that make its cliffhanger ending all the more maddening. (McGinty!!!) You want adventure? You want excitement? You want waffle tacos? You need Welcome to Showside.

7.5 out of 10

1Dept. H #1

Dark Horse Comics, $3.99

Story and Art by Matt Kindt; colors by Sharlene Kindt.

Letters by Marie Enger.

BD: As refugee conflicts and pandemics haunt the Earth’s surface, espionage and murder compel astronaut Mia to hang up her space suit to scuttle across the floors of silent seas. A mole deep within USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration and Research) is thought to have killed her beloved father, and it is up to her to explore the murky trenches and nose out the one thing that brings her fear: Truth.

Like an aqueous game of Clue aboard the Calypso, Dept. H introduces us to its shifty-eyed ensemble right away. In issue #1, we see the characters through Mia’s objective eye, as she strives to tap into an impartial logic and suss out a primary suspect within the salty crew. The Kindts portray Mia’s unwavering strength and singular approach to her mission in an even, straight-forward narrative style in which the darkness and depth of the abyss surrounding her and the void within become almost suffocatingly palpable.

And what better way to tap the textures and mercurial nature of life deep beneath the waves than with fluid, bleeding watercolor? The art and colors are equally captivating, displaying both the weightlessness of a dive combined with the intense pressure Mia feels as she comes face to face with the crime scene. (Re: “All the weight of humanity pressing down on [her].”) The contrast between a deeply personal story and Mia’s relative detachment render the Dept. H debut fantastically intriguing. As Mia sets aside emotion in favor of her scientific approach we earnestly root for this woman we know nothing about. I can’t recommend this book enough.

9 out of 10

From earlier this week — 

AfterShock’s ‘Black Eyed Kids’ Is Some Seriously Spooky S#!% 

‘Gutter Magic’ Opens Your Mind And Stashes Such Secrets In It 

Books For Babes: We Recommend ‘My Little Pony’, And It’s Time To Revisit ‘Fun Home’ 

Required Reading: ‘Criminal’ Celebrates Its Tenth Anniversary With Its Most Heartbreaking Story Yet 

Agree? Disagree? What books are YOU reading this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.

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