Meet Shade The Changing Woman: An Alien Evolves

by Hannah Means Shannon

One of the most interesting books on the market in 2016 and 2017 was Shade the Changing Girl, a product of the Young Animal imprint at DC Comics curated by Gerard way, but written by Cecil Castellucci, drawn by Marley Zarcone, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, with covers by Becky Cloonan. The overall impression of the book was one of all guns blazing from a creative team who were all equally committed to presenting something new and different to readers. It was fabulously weird, as a comic about madness, youth, and even American history.

Shade has returned in a new arc as Shade the Changing Woman. Like the other main Young Animal books, she’s seen a descriptive change in title, setting this comic apart from the previous series. The creative team returns, too, with Saida Temofonte on letters. But in what ways is the series different, and in what ways is it the same?

There’s been a time lapse as Shade has been dead, accompanied by mad poet Rac Shade in another dimension of being, and yet is in some sense reborn and still alive. She’s lost her avian body, and now inhabits fully a human one, and that’s a cause of reflection for her.

Many readers will be pleased to see a return to some familiar characters, including River and Teacup, who we might not have assumed we’d meet again, but now in a slightly older context, starting off at college. In the previous series, we did get to see Shade set out into the wild world of the city and even the West Coast in her quest to meet Honey, exploring nuclear fallout along the way, but she was still very youthful and naive.

Now we get a version of Shade who has tasted death, in a way, and a greater degree of madness, and even now isn’t certain how much time is left on her clock of being alive. And we’re going to see her in a different context of college life–though that may contain some similar elements to seeing her in high school, surrounded by other young people and navigating strange human ways.

But at the same time, this first issue of the new series gives the sense that we’re might be getting bigger focus on other characters around Shade, like River, and the increasingly alien-fearful world he inhabits. That bigger picture could provide a good contrast to the internally-driven story of Shade’s own exploration of madness and her experiences among humanity. In other words, as fascinating as Shade’s trippy thoughts and experiences are, this might provide a welcome breath of fresh air to get that outside perspective on her and the world she inhabits, too.

Thought it’s certainly possible to read and enjoy this first issue without reading Shade’s appearance in The Milk Wars, that book does help bridge a gap between the first series and the second through the theme of identity-seeking where as “Shade Force” she is multiplied into various aspects of her nature, but all supressing her madness, and hiding that she has “other feelings” beyond happiness. She’s splintered, divided, until Cave’s eye returns her to herself.

Though the Shade we see in the new series has undergone that splintering and reunion, we don’t yet see much exploration of the ways in which Shade is now a woman in this first issue, but we do get the seeds of future growth. She’s a little darker, less wide-eyed, and but also more emotionally complex, judging from some of her thoughts this issue.

The first arc of the series helped frame human experience in an outsider perspective, and was also an artistically gorgeous approach to a very experimental form of storytelling in comics, with plenty of visual elements drifting across panels and splash pages. This issue suggests we’ll see more of that, but perhaps more of a distinctive switch between the two modes of art–the psychedelic and the realistic.

Either way, it’s a promising first issue that doesn’t seek to retread old ground, but paves the way for something new. This could be very good news for Shade and Young Animal fans. Solicit copy also teases that coming up, Shade must “face her namesake, the original Changing Man”, which could lead to interesting conflicts and further explorations of identity. Also a win.

Shade the Changing Woman #1 arrived in shops from DC Comics on March 7, 2018. Issue #2 lands on April 4th, 2018.