This issue of Young Animal’s Shade The Changing Girl is a turning point in the series so far for many reasons. We have Marguerite Sauvage on art duties for this issue, and we have big shake ups in the trajectory of the comic, which in hindsight place the first six issues of the comic within a specific arc of rising action and conflict, issue #7 forming a kind of transition, and going forward, we are following a new line of thought for Loma/Megan/Shade. The first six issues of the series, in fact, will be collected in a trade edition this summer, also reinforcing this movement in the story. Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick will return to art on #8, continuing in new directions on the series.
[Cover by Becky Cloonan]
Written by Cecil Castellucci, the series tells the story of a bird-like alien, Loma, who steals a “madness coat” once used by a famous poet to travel to earth to follow in his footsteps, and does so by inhabiting the body of a teen who has become brain-dead in a tragic accident. Though Megan’s life has been tragic for other reasons–mainly in her cruelty to all those she calls friends, and even greater cruelty to those she doesn’t. Loma, carried by poetic madness, inhabiting Megan’s body, has to navigate high school, a world who justifiably hates her for being a “mean girl”, and being a young person.
In the first six issues, Loma came to the point where she had to scuffle with Megan’s spirit/soul trying to reclaim her own body, and overcame Megan–we think. There is enough room left in the plot to suggest that Megan may yet get her revenge. However, Loma is finally in a good place in issue #7, getting to know her two friends and partners in overcoming Megan, River and Teacup. They even have plans to go to the school dance, and spend the issue picking out outfits and doing their makeup. Meanwhile, however, we learn the most we’ve ever learned about Loma and her home planet, Meta.
This is the Loma download we’ve been waiting for to help us understand this interloping alien as well as we now feel we understand Megan. And as teased in Young Animal convention panels, getting to know Loma may prove a little shocking. She’s sweet and innocent by comparison to Megan’s awfulness, but she has serious problems. She was raised as an adopted refugee, perhaps even as part of an enforced racial indoctrination (for instance, the enforced “white” schooling of Native Americans in our country’s history), and she did not take well to her perfect little family who were not interested in her differences to their own biology and nature.
We get a ‘story within a story’ comic of Loma’s favorite Earth show, “Life with Honey”, drawn by Dan Parent, with colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick, taking us inside the strange sitcom world of a wife at Los Alamos whose husband works on nuclear weapons, seemingly drawing on shows like I Love Lucy and Bewitched. And reminding us of the commodification of our own culture and the ways in which an alien might perceive us.
There are two things popping up in these flashbacks which seem to make Loma, Loma: the tendency to collect and pick up bright shiny things, and the tendency to migrate and move on, in keeping with her avian nature. Those things are both making it hard for Loma to settle down with her new friends and make a new “flock”, but she does feel that pull. Castellucci does a great job here of pulling back the curtain on Loma’s deep internal issues through flashbacks and reflections, and also of encouraging the reader to accept the good and the bad of Loma in a way that still allows you to feel sympathy for the emotional cataclysm that’s going to drive her to move on from her new home to find new horizons.
Marguerite Sauvage’s art is never anything less than gorgeous in the many projects she takes on, from covers to interior art, and this issue of Shade is no exception. It’s a delight to see unfolding, and a perfect fit for this more “glam” issue where we see three teens trying on gowns and smart outfits and walking what seems to be a more positive and upbeat line in their lives. Sauvage’s art style almost seems to suggest Loma’s budding happiness, as well as fitting flashbacks, however harsh, into a slightly dream-like vein.
The most important thing about this issue, in terms of the Shade comic, is that it needs to be believable in order to set up transitions in the series. It has to have an emotional core. And that happens in this comic. By revealing Loma’s past, and pinning our own empathy on her new feelings of connection, we get to know Loma and her vulnerabilities in ways that are going to enable us to follow her, wherever she may go. And, in fact, that’s Gotham City.
The description for issue #8 says Loma’s in for police from her homeworld seeking the stolen coat of Rac Shade, and encountering Gotham’s own madness, though her wider goal is to keep moving on a grand tour of America, and maybe beyond. Taking Shade on the road could be a really fabulous adventure. If the series sticks with the heart it’s established so far, readers will gladly follow.
Shade The Changing Girl #7 is currently in shops. Issue #8 arrives in shops on May 3rd.