What happens when an alien of many colors arrives in the drab bleakness of Gotham City? Find out in Shade, the Changing Girl #8! Is it good?
Writer: Cecil Castelluccibr>
Artist: Marley Zarcone
Publisher: DC Comics
Loma’s really figuring out this human thing, as she does what a lot of young people do — abandon their familiar town for the bright lights of the big city. But be careful, kid. Those lights are bright enough to blind.
Once you get past the darkness, that is. The stranger in a strange land is about to discover that even great gifts can be misused, and when you change a city, sometimes it changes you. At least there’s theater.
Just like the rest of the series, Shade, the Changing Girl #8 is labeled as being for “mature” readers, but aside from a few errant cuss words, it’s hard to see why. It reads as a coming-of-age story, albeit a non-traditional one, though the trope of “girl full of light comes to city full of dark” is pretty overt. Maybe it’s “mature” because the ordinarily thin veil between DC’s Gotham and the real New York City is even wispier in Shade, going so far as to feature a large, green female statue.
Writer Cecil Castellucci is reverent of the Vertigo series from which Shade, the Changing Girl is inspired, even including an homage to the artist best remembered for it, but at the same time is not beholden to that history. If Loma is going to save the world, it’s incidental to her exploration of it. She loves the city and its people, but wishes they could see it the way she does.
How the reader sees it is dictated by the minimalist style of artist Marley Zarcone, another seemingly strange fit for a “mature” series. Yes, we’ve seen less realistic imagery in more adult-oriented series like Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, but the pop art sensibilities in Shade #8 are usually more prevalent in young adult books. The bright, psychedelic colors of Kelly Fitzpatrick help age it up a bit, though, making the whole thing trippy enough to resemble an acid flashback. I’d assume.
Shade the Changing Girl #8 is a beautiful story, full of striking images, haunting words and dazzling colors … but it’s difficult to know what the point of it all is. The narrative is hard to pin down, other than an overall search for belonging in a foreign land, exemplified by Loma’s identification with anything avian she encounters. Her senses must be deadened on Earth, though, because when visiting a natural history museum, she mistakes the skeleton of a pterosaur as being more bird-like than the dinosaur directly behind her. Maybe it’s a metaphor. It’s hard to tell.