Review: JEM: THE MISFITS #2

JEM: THE MISFITS #2
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Jenn St-Onge and M. Victoria Robado
Published by IDW Publishing
Release Date: February 1, 2017

This month, the focus is on Stormer, as the Misfits get used to the idea that their lives are going to be filmed 24/7 for the reality show that could save their careers. Only Stormer has concerns about the upcoming exposure — big enough that may lead to her leaving the group in the process.

“How are you going to love someone else if you can’t first love yourself?”

There’s been no shortage of love in Stormer’s life in recent months, with her relationship with Kimber on the upswing once again. But as writer Kelly Thompson unfolds the story over the course of an appropriately chaotic flashback/forward issue about Stormer’s past and present, old wounds never fully heal.

It’s a deeply emotional issue that Thompson has crafted here, tackling the emotional drag that comes with the reality of being overweight. It’s something we’re so blessed to have to explore, as Thompson blew out the original vision of Jem and the Holograms with her original artistic partner Sophie Campbell to produce a much more inclusive vision of womanhood that included bodies of all shapes and sizes.

But the notes throughout hit with a kind of precision usually reserved for acupuncture, delivering a real sharpness to Stormer’s self-body image without overdramatizing it. Because, while the character admits she still struggles with it every day, it’s clear that struggle has produced some very real results: the self-love and confidence it takes to refuse centering a storyline on weight loss or any other type of transformation that presupposes she’s not exactly who she’s supposed to be.

It’s a tricky subject, particularly when intertwined with queerness, that Thompson navigates with grace. As someone who struggled for many years with the exact same body image issue in being overweight, and have come, blessedly, to a place very similar to what Stormer describes, the way in which the writer has Stormer describe the pain point — and her resistance to it — is simply perfect.

As with issue #1 (not to mention the bulk of the Jem and the Holograms series), Thompson is also delivering a Pizzazz who has quickly won my heart for being as brass and uncompromising as the original character from the cartoon, without holding onto the callousness and sheer meanness that she seemed to embody. By far, Pizzazz is my favorite character in either book, because she exhibits a self-awareness few besides Stormer around her exhibit. And she is more and more often showing that smart, kind, compassionate side to her through her friendships most of all.

Jenn St-Onge truly steps up to the challenge of what Thompson lays out in this issue, mostly a talking heads scenario, and brings a range of body language and facial emotion that sells every point the script seems to want to make. Her Stormer vacillates between self-conscious and impatient, a very subtle roller coaster of emotion that keeps me moving through the pages at precisely the right pace.

The idea that Stormer “has to be” so fierce and brave — and understands that to be true — is such a magnificent moment for a character, because it’s honestly representative of that turning point a lot of hit in our overweight lives, and sadly many many more continue to not quite reach.

Accepting yourself doesn’t really change the physical or mental burden of what it’s like to have a body like Stormer’s — or mine — but it does help to build up courage. And I’d like to think that some of that courage gets to rub off on those who choose to pick up Jem: The Misfits #2. Because what Thompson has built her with her collaborators is much more than just a licensed throwback to our youths. It’s a revelation for every queer, overweight outcast that had to grow up and either be fine with who they were, continue to suffer, or fall somewhere in between. Thanks for delivering a vision of that experience to me this week. It’s more important than most people think to see it outside of your own life.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

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