Deadshirt is Reading: Justice League and Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions!

Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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Max Robinson is reading…

Justice League #34
Written by Priest
Art by Pete Woods
Lettered by Willie Schu
DC Comics

“I blew it.”

Priest’s return to the world of monthly superhero comics was predicated on one rule: that he would not be relegated to black character solo books in the way that many other comics’ African-American writers so often are (although his short story in an upcoming Black Panther annual can probably be considered a forgivable slight bending of the rules). As a result, readers not only get new Priest comics for the first time in years, but comics featuring characters not traditionally tackled by a black writer, like Deathstroke or the Inhumans. All of this is to say that Priest sticking to his authorial guns means we now have a person of color helming a Justice League title for the first time since 2009—related fun fact: Dwayne McDuffie’s Justice League of America run ended with that book’s issue #34—and his debut issue with former Superman artist Pete Woods is pretty interesting.

The initial installment of “The People vs. The Justice League” feels extremely old school in a way JLA books haven’t felt since…well, Morrison’s JLA. A “day in the life” look at the League’s attempt to juggle three separate crises (natural disaster, an invading alien armada, and a hostage situation) with a sleep-deprived Batman stuck running point. Woods packs his pages with tons of detail (like a dog licking a background rescue worker’s face or the design of alien teenager’s t-shirt when he’s talking to Green Lantern Simon Baz) and contrasts the massive scale of lumbering alien shops with the comparatively smaller scale of a SWAT team preparing to enter a building.

Story-wise, Priest is so aware of what a traditional non-supervillain Justice League “crisis” comic needs to look like that Batman’s hyped-in-Previews failure is still shocking and impactful. He also tosses in enough fun curveballs that the story never never feels warmed over (Aquaman and Wonder Woman in crappy civil servant disguises staking out some terrorists is genius). Honestly, the only real con here is that the issue’s sword-wielding “YouTube jihadists” feel a little tone deaf for a comic dropping at the tail end of 2017. After a few years of Earth-3 invasions and Darkseid Wars, it’s refreshing to get a Justice League comic from a top tier creative team that’s more interested in testing the mettle of the World’s Greatest Superheroes than tossing them into yet another cosmic slugfest.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #1

“Catnapped”
Written and drawn by Sophie Campbell
Colored by M. Victoria Robado

“Roll With It”
Written by Kate Leth
Art by Tana Ford
Colored by Brittany Peer
IDW

“Don’t you Jem groupies have some comment threads to troll somewhere?”

IDW’s fan-favorite Jem and the Holograms reboot gets remixed in Dimensions, a new anthology series featuring short comics about Jem and her rivals, the scene-stealing Misfits. It’s a smart idea to let new creative teams (and significantly, all-female teams) play in the Jem toybox and re-imagine their favorite candy-colored characters, especially since the series can jump between genres—adventure, romance, humor—so easily. (It’s also interesting to see new authors playing in this world, since Kelly Thompson’s writing didn’t always live up to her concepts.)

The big draw (heh) to Dimensions #1 is the return of the book’s original artist and character designer, Sophie Campbell. “Catnapped,” written and drawn by Campbell, features Clash unwisely taking Pizzazz’s beloved Siamese cat on a ski trip, where some Jem superfans decide to flee with the feline. Campbell’s art is a real blast, featuring wonderful touches like Pizzazz’s gravity-defying, seaweed-like hair, or Clash’s canary-yellow ski suit with acid green tiger stripes. And I will always–always–bless the Jem creative team, IDW, and Hasbro for making this modern reboot so gloriously, unabashedly queer. But “Catnapped” also embodies my biggest problem with the reboot. It’s…kind of obvious when the Jem creative team is more interested in The Misfits, and it tends to have a detrimental effect on the actual main characters, who can seem much more boring and wallpaper-y by comparison. “Catnapped” makes Clash, a for-real saboteur who nearly killed the Holograms in the cartoon and the comics, the cute hero who gets to save the cat and kiss her girlfriend, while Jem’s fans (including Video and Graphix, who Jemophiles will remember as a character who never made it onto the show because her doll was cut from the toy line) are portrayed as stalkers and trolls. It’s a weird, bizzaro-verse take on the characters, and not one I buy.

“Roll With It” catches up with the Holograms playing Dungeons and Dragons, with Jerrica as their frustrated DM. Kate Leth’s story is fun and sure to be familiar to fans of role-playing games (I just played a game with a similar “Fuck it, he dies!” ending), though the script feels a little cliche making Jerrica the humorless scold of the party. Tana Ford’s art wisely takes advantage of the fact that hey, Jem has her own hologram-projecting AI, and her designs for Aja, Kimber, Shana, and Raya as warriors, half-orcs, and warlocks are cleverly executed. All in all, a nice little side quest.

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #1 offers two fun new singles for fans of the cartoon pop group. With a revolving slate of creative teams, it also promises to be pretty accessible, and despite some flaws, I’m glad to see this new take on Jem and the Holograms continuing and thriving. And hey, I made it through this whole review without saying “outrageous” once!

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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