This series has a bright future.
I like all the Young Animal books. The idea of repurposing older DC characters for a newer and younger audience has been tried before, but never to this degree. Shade has been the best of the original books, as it walks the perfect line between trippy old Vertigo books and that fresh, young feel publishers are so desperate to tap into these days. In the first volume, Loma struggled with the fact that her body was not her own but finally severed herself from Megan, the bitchy teenager who originally inhabited the body. At the beginning of Vol. 2, Megan’s frienemy, Teacup, sets up an elaborate prank at the school dance to humiliate her despite the fact that it has been made clear to Teacup that Megan/Shade is not who she used to be. This pushes Loma to take off to see the planet and people she has admired from afar since she was a child on Meta. From Gotham to Hollywood, she discovers that some things are nicer in your mind than in reality and that some things are so much better.
The “road trip across America” aspect really reminded me of early Milligan’s Shade, the Changing Man. It’s always fun to see things that we, as members of the western world, think nothing of from the eyes of someone whose society is much different. Loma’s almost childlike wonder with the hub city of Gotham is a different perspective than the usual “scum of the earth” portrayal of the city. Loma going to Gotham was a nice way to connect the book to the larger DCU without, I don’t know, Batman showing up and beating the Sonic Boom’s asses. At the Sonic Boom show, Loma learns that her Earthling idol, Honey Rich, is ill and makes it her mission to find Honey and save her. Back in Megan’s hometown, River has also made it his mission to find Shade. Teacup is hesitant but ultimately helps him despite her complicated relationship with Megan/Shade. This part of the storyline is the one that drags the most, but River and Teacup were used well enough in the first volume, so it didn’t bother me as much.
When Loma finally does meet Honey, they end up swapping bodies, and Honey gets to experience being young once again while Loma gets to hang out with her idol. Honey being selfish and obsessed with recapturing her youth, and Loma’s subsequent realization of this, was interesting. We all worry that our idols will let us down, especially celebrities, so this rude awakening for Loma was one that hit home. The revelation that Loma’s body was pregnant in this part was out of the blue, and it isn’t mentioned again for the rest of the volume. Sure it makes Loma realize she doesn’t know what love feels like, but that could have been achieved in another, less weird, way.
On Meta, Mellu Loran is using Loma’s ex-boyfriend Lepuck, to find her and find the coat. Loran’s desire to find Loma and the madness coat is revealed to be more of a desire to find Rac Shade than to actually help Meta. In the end, when Rac finally shows up I was excited, but since most people reading this book probably aren’t here for the Shade lore, ultimately, it was pretty random.
Some weird crap happens, and Loma is reborn in her own body as a new Shade. This sets up the next phase of the story well enough though, and also got me excited to see what comes with the relaunch in March. The Life with Honey backup stories were nicely illustrated but lacked a certain something; I enjoyed the Lepuck epilogue much more. Marley Zarcone continues to kill it with the art for this series. The page that has three different scenes on it and asks you to place a pencil in the middle and spin it to pick which to read first was an especially inspired use of reader interaction in comics. I love the rounded panel edges and patterns that appear in the backgrounds of panels instead of just solid color. When the story is doing its cerebral thing, the art always brings everything back into perspective. It’s colorful, alien, and everything this series needs to bring it to the next level.
Shade, the Changing Girl Vol. 2 continues Young Animal’s winning streak. Despite a few minor gripes, it keeps you engaged and really channels the original Shade series without getting bogged down in continuity. The high school parts of the first volume are toned down, but it still keeps the youthful ideals. With the series changing its name to Shade, the Changing Woman and digging into Loma and Rac’s interactions when it comes off hiatus, this series has a bright future.