‘Everything Is Ethereal’ – A Hymn To Love And Madness In Shade The Changing Girl

by Hannah Means Shannon

This has always been a book about love and madness–don’t be fooled by any of the other dozens of themes that make their way through this comic and render it interesting and thought-provoking. But love and madness–those twin pillars–have always set the stage.

The series is part of the Young Animal imprint at DC Comics, and is written by Cecil Castellucci, drawn by Marley Zarcone and Ande Parks, with colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick and letters by Saida Temofonte.

This second arc of Shade the Changing Girl has taken us to Gotham City, then cross-country, through the haunted past of nuclear fallout associate with Loma’s favorite cold war era TV show, Life with Honey. Meanwhile, the original madness-jacket wearer–Rac Shade–has a regretful former lover in Mellu who is tracking down the madness jacket for her own purposes. And killing Loma’s vacated body is no small matter to her.

Where will Loma’s spirit and being end up? Especially once she manages to swap bodies with the aged and infirm Honey, having tracked her down in Hollywood. Normally in a comic, the life or death of a protagonist would reach a kind of fever pitch, and it would all come down to clear answers: do they live or do they die?

But the creators of Shade have always been able to make the story about more than just one thing, and even though we’re in a life and death situation in the current issue, #12, we come back firmly to those central pillars: love and madness.

And those become, in a way, even more important than life and death here. We have Mellu seeking out the original Rac Shade, a love who she feels she failed. Then we have Lepuck, who against all odds, has managed to put himself in Loma/Shade’s path on earth, only to mistake the body he’s interacting with for Loma/Shade and not the inhabiting Honey.

This failed connection is emotive–we get to hear Lepuck’s confessions of love to a stranger, who looks on with some sympathy, and we don’t know if Loma/Shade will ever hear them.

But we hear them. We also get treated to a ride into madness, encountering the famous Rac Shade, and seeing how he handles an encounter with Mellu. Madness takes on even more of an ecstatic, all-engulfing force in this issue as we move into its realm and get to see the various elements of these characters’ lives getting shifted, scrambled, and reassembled.

It’s far from certain what the outcome will be, but watching it all happen has a strangely significant feeling. People may die, but there’s some bigger principle at work that gives it all meaning, in a way, so that tension is more a sense of empathy, combined with curiosity.

On the plane trying to find Loma/Shade, Teacup and River talk about the role of technology and the increasing lack of connection between human beings, even as they are using technology to make a connection. River’s line, “Everything is ethereal”, meaning mainly “ether-based”, wifi connected, is both ironic and poetic, with layers of possible interpretation. The connections between people are “ethereal”, too.

Lepuck has journeyed distances beyond human comprehension, really, to find Loma and give his confession of love in this issue.

The connection Loma makes with Honey both endangers her existence and is a climax to her fandom and longing.

Love moves people, and changes the trajectory of their lives in Shade the Changing Girl. In this final issue of the arc, we see a kind of flash-point between madness and love. Are they the same thing? Maybe not, but they are certainly related.

In the words of Rac Shade, “love and hate sleep spooned”, and yet the reader may get the sense that they both exist within the realm of generative, destructive madness.

Issue #12 brings with it some intense revelations and a very satisfying sense of emotional resolution as it closes this second arc of the series.

Will there be more Shade the Changing Girl? Check out issue #12 and form your own opinions…