Shade, the Changing girl is a weird read, but in all the right ways.
Shade’s world tour continues this week and she’s exploring the awful research done on the Manhattan Project. She’s a bit mad herself, so it makes sense she’d check out the maddest thing humans have ever done with science.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Following her encounters in Gotham City, Shade decides to head out west and check out Los Alamos, New Mexico, the one-time location of nuclear test sites, and also the setting of her favorite TV show, ‘Life with Honey.’ But it’s been half a century since those bombs went off – and since ‘Honey’ went off the air. So what kind of ghostly memories await Shade in the desert? Plus, a brand new ‘Life with Honey’ backup story.
Why does this book matter?
Cecil Castellucci has been writing a very unique tale with an interesting protagonist that’s a bit weird and perfectly embodies the awkwardness of teenage youth. The narrative of this series has been quite strange and that has given the reading experience a uniqueness even well read comic readers will find original and fresh.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
What a delectable adventure Shade goes on in this issue, at once exploring the madness of humans creating the nuclear bomb, but also experiencing it as a tourist. Marley Zarcone continues to dazzle with the psychedelic shapes and colors that flow around Shade and the awkward realism of nuclear-themed restaurants and stores. Zarcone mixes realism with the strange very well, like a background that has good detail showing the boring diner behind Shade in one scene, but then a panel overlaid that with Ben-Day dots right behind her next to that. As the story progresses it cuts between the alien world and the real world, which further adds strangeness to the narrative since the alien world is like some kind of junior art theater with its large shapes and undefined look. There’s also a fantastic double page spread of a board game complete with fun “lose turn” and “go back” text. It adds a certain innocence to the very serious topic of creating the nuclear bomb.
The plot moves nicely too. Castellucci is clearly building towards a confrontation–hell, there’s a great one in this issue–and it’s nice to see the narrative move past Shade simply experiencing the world and reacting to it. The alien enemies are getting closer to catching her and there’s a real toll taken in this issue. She still reflects on the world in weird ways–and talks via captions in a lyric-like fashion–and there’s no mistaking her strange point of view. Castellucci has created a character that’s at once understandable, but not, and that’s the beauty of this series. It exemplifies being a teenager very well.
Which one of these people is actually mad?
It can’t be perfect can it?
There are times this book can be too weird not because it’s strange, but because it’s confusing. The narrative can jump cut to a set of characters that’s easy to forget who they are or why we need to see them. I suspect this will be curtailed when read in the collected format, but in a single issue it sometimes takes a second to figure out what is going on or why we’re seeing a scene at all. That can create a frustrating experience.
Is It Good?
This issue is deeply meaningful as it explores the madness of the creation of the nuclear bomb while Shade reflects on it. This is a deeply unique series that’s addictive if you’re well read in comics.