Originally when it was announced that Shade would be relaunching and following a new storyline, I was kind of bummed. The original twelve issues of Shade, the Changing Girl were some of the best Shade material since the original Milligan/Bachalo run, and to extend that to a new series where things might not necessarily be the same as they were before seemed like the wrong move.
I will be the first to admit I was wrong. This new series has found a way to take what made the original twelve issue run (and more than that – the Shade mythos as a whole) and turn it into something even better. Loma and Rac hanging out in limbo is a really interesting move, and I like how Rac seems to be guiding Loma in a direction that might not be best for her. When he encourages her to cut out her heart because all it has done is cause her grief, it rang a little villainous to me, which is a great move for the character as he’s always dabbled in the morally gray area of the alignment chart. I also really like Megan coming back, and hopefully she’ll cause more trouble in the future. Megan is a good counter to Loma, and her resentment towards Loma for stealing her body and her life has the perfect making for an antagonist in this series.
I’m not completely sold on River joining an anti-alien task force, and I don’t trust the RA that has been guiding him one bit. The storyline with River could be great, but it also has the potential to be weird and disjointed, and I sincerely have no idea which it will be. This coupled with the hint in the back-up story that the scientist in charge of the Madness Program on Meta planned to destroy Earth for the better of the rest of the universe might make for a really great climax at some point in the series.
Of course Zarcone kills it every issue, but this one was especially trippy and interesting visually. There’s a lot of great imagery – my personal favorites being Rac’s heart shaped paper cutouts and the page where it directs you to do the Friendship Flap. These make for a unique reading experience and engage the reader in a way most artists just don’t attempt. I really like the flat coloring for this series. If there was more shading, it could be too much when the art gets more cerebral, and it gives the book a very unique look.
Overall, this series has done a great job of expanding on the original. It certainly has carved out a niche for psychedelic comics for young people that previously were all aimed at a more adult audience. This issue really digs deep into Loma’s innermost struggles, hopes, fears, and dreams, and sets up the rest of the series well without feeling like only setup. If Shade, the Changing Woman can continue this winning streak I can sincerely see this run with this creative team going down in comics history. It’s a collaborative effort through and through, and while I don’t know if Castelluchi and Zarcone are fans of the original Shade, the Changing Man run, they have honored the original and brought new things as well.