"Jem and the Holograms" #12 does a good job of maintaining its central story idea without feeling overblown or out of control. Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell's revamp of "Jem and the Holograms" continues to move the action forward, allowing some conflicts to die down even as new ones rise to the surface and prove to be just as dangerous as what they replaced.
The concept of Dark Jem is a smart one, in that it not only affects Synergy, Jerrica and the rest of the Holograms, but also that it starts to spill out into those who aren't part of the band. Up until now, the conflicts have been confined to the main and supporting characters of the title, centered around interpersonal and business-related problems. Here, however, we see that the Dark Jem virus does far more than just affect members of the band. In doing so, it makes the threat that much more important to stop; up until now, failure merely meant that the band's dream of success would come to an end. This is a rapidly growing epidemic that could spiral out of control in the blink of an eye, with each new infection. While Thompson is deliberately vague about just what damage Dark Jem does to one's personality (aside from some wonderfully bonkers style choices), it's made very clear that this is a bad thing.
It's to Thompson's credit that the B-plot of "Jem and the Holograms" #12 (and this story arc in general) also moves forward at a nice clip and doesn't feel sidelined. I appreciate that the Misfits, having been backed into a corner about finding a temporary new lead singer, are doing so in a way that keeps both Clash and Blaze front and center. The Misfits may be the ongoing villains of the series, but the way that they care about each other and are worried about Pizzazz makes them three-dimensional and interesting to read about.
If I had to pick just one great thing that Campbell does with the art in "Jem and the Holograms" #12, I think I'd have to choose the Holograms' outfits after they're infected with the Dark Jem virus. The shredded, spider-web style dress Jem wears is the sort of design that is almost impossible to make look both plausible and cool, and somehow Campbell instantly nails it. All of the Dark Jem alterations are immediately eye-catching, taking rock-and-roll excess and combining it with avant-garde couture.
Fortunately, that's not the only thing that Campbell succeeds at here. There are so many little things, like the fact that -- despite her big nose, freckles and cascading hair -- Blaze still manages to be attractive (but just not in a overly perfect, professional model way). The way Aja stares right past Rio in a cold, dismissive manner when he confronts her about the Dark Jem look is absolutely chilling and one of the first hints of what the Dark Jem virus is doing to their personalities. Even Stormer's look of worry when she tries to get Pizzazz to respond is adorable, and it helps Thompson's depiction of the Misfits as people, even if they are on the other side.
A year's worth of "Jem and the Holograms" later, this series still hits all of the right notes thanks to Thompson and Campbell. The only thing that's constant here is strong storytelling, and that's exactly what brings me back month after month. "Jem and the Holograms" #12 is another hit single.