It used to be if you were weird you were a freak and nobody wanted to give you the time of day. Then movies and TV glorified said geeks and their nerdom and made it cool. Enter Shade, the Changing Girl, a certifiably weird comic with a certifiably freakish main character. How can you blame her, though–she’s from a planet millions of light years away!
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Marley Zarcone (backup by Brittney Williams)
Publisher: DC Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Part two of Shade’s visit to Gotham City, the first stop on her tour of America. What will happen when she uses madness to get reality to line up with her American dreams? And now that her enemies on Meta have tracked Shade and the madness coat to Earth, she no longer has to worry about how she’s going to get back to her home planet—because Shade’s home planet is coming to her! All this and a new “Life With Honey” tale illustrated by guest artist Brittney Williams (Goldie Vance).
Why does this book matter?
Introduced in issue #7, writer Cecil Castellucci revealed Shade discovered a fascination with Earth people via a TV show called I Love Honey. This issue showcases Shade enjoying a rock concert from guests on that show, but little does she know they’ve all aged and she’s none too happy about it. Castellucci explores a story where its main character isn’t happy about growing older and aims to change it.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
How will this play out.
Part of the genius of this series is how Shade’s captions are sometimes incomprehensible. Castellucci has somehow managed to exude a feeling in these captions without making it overt. You get inside Shade’s sometimes nonsensical thinking process and it imbues the confusion and outright pure emotion she feels in a moment. It’s one of the reasons why this series is so good at capturing the teen angst we’ve all experienced (or are experiencing now). As she witnesses the band play in their old age she positively freaks out and quickly decides she will have none of it. She gives a bystander what she wants and de-ages the old farts. So begins a wacky issue that ends up delivering a proud message about getting older.
Outside of this, the folks on the lookout for her get ever closer, which adds some much needed tension and anticipatory elements. She may be living life and attempting to figure things out on Earth, but change is coming and she has no idea.
The art by Marley Zarcone has a thin line that suggests realism, but then uses white space and some rather funky effects throughout to amp up the weirdness. Funky 80’s style backdrops are used to push the characters to the forefront, which helps focus the reader’s eye on the solid facial expressions and emotional states of the characters. In a rather awesome, weird final few panels, Shade puts her face into…something, and it’s an unnerving yet almost welcoming visual that Zarcone simply nails.
The backup story continues to be a delight, showcasing a plot from Life with Honey complete in granulated black and white. Drawn by Brittney Williams and written by Castellucci, the story per usual highlights the sexism of early TV and the rather ridiculousness of their stories. It’s a nice way to shine a light on how far we’ve come with women in storytelling, but also serves to give you a chuckle with how nonsensical they could be.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I’m sure many folks have felt it, but it’s easy to not relate to this character. At times her utter confusion and weird captions alienate the reader and can frustrate. Maybe that’s the point, but it certainly makes it difficult to track the overall point of the series. I might argue this series succeeds most if you reflect on it later as the content on the page can perplex more than most entertainment should.
Is It Good?
This is a fun and wholeheartedly weird issue that should satisfy fans. It’s also a great look at how we reflect on age, and if given the chance, how if it were fixed we may not like what we get.