Shade the Changing Girl #1 Review

Written by: Cecil Castellucci

Art by: Marley Zarcone

Publisher: DC’s Young Animal

DC’s second launch in their new Young Animal line is a massive improvement over the disappointment that was Doom Patrol. Castellucci and Zarcone’s Shade the Changing Girl launches with that feeling of strangeness and alienation, but with a tone that feels much more like the early vertigo stuff. It’s a pretty compelling and at points beautiful debut issue that makes me excited for the future of the title.

Unlike Doom Patrol, I’m not at all familiar with Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man series, so I came at this issue with completely fresh eyes. While there was some initial confusion (understandable considering the series is about a bird alien creature inhabiting the body of a teenage girl who’s been in a coma for an undisclosed time), Castellucci manages to provide her script with enough context and clues that you feel that you can figure out what’s happening, without having to slow down the pacing or get too far aware from the madness that sells the title. I’m not sure how much I can say about the script without giving away all the details you should pick up on your own, but essentially a student obsessed with the poetry of the original changing man Ric Shade steals his M-Vest in order to travel to Earth. There she inhabits the body of a girl who’s in a coma, which as the script reveals more details of her previous life, seem to spell trouble for Loma.

Being about madness and alienation, Castelluci’s script manages to tap into a solid vein of poetic prose that gives the title a very strong identity of its own. Loma’s (the aforementioned bird alien) narration is really what sold me on this title where Doom Patrol failed. Having a constant voice throughout the issue struggling to understand the madness around them made for a much more compelling read. It made the script feel immersive, pulling me into it’s bizarre world rather than keeping me shut outside and subjecting me to weird imagery.  While it may take some readers a little while to find their groove with the issue, they should hopefully by the end be as absorbed as I was. There’s a lot of great metaphorical drawing on teenage isolation and trying to discover your identity, which I feel gives the series a very strong hook and feels perfect for the type of outsider market the Young Animal books were designed for.

My absolute favourite aspect of the issue though is the gorgeously trippy art of Marley Zarcone. It’s almost impossible to describe, it reminds me a little of Travel Foreman’s art on Animal Man, but with an injection of utter abstract madness. There’s so many inventive layouts and images that feel like magic eye pictures. They’re really set off by the incredible colours of Kelly Fitzpatrick, a bold and varied pallet that really bring across the lucid madness of the script. I’m very aware that all I’ve said is “the art is gorgeous and indescribable!” but really it is, I can’t do it justice, you really just have to buy the book to check it out, which is absolutely worth it.

The only real element that didn’t work for me what the backup story by Natalia and Gilbert Hernandez. It’s a cute enough 3 page strip with a decent punchline, but it doesn’t at all really add anything to the main story and feels a little bit out of place. Even in a comic about weirdness and madness, it felt a little strange to be included here.

Overall, I was very much more impressed with Shade the Changing Girl. It’s given me a bit more faith in the Young Animal line, and is definitely a title I’ll be checking out in the future. While it’ll take a while to get into this issue, once it clicks with you, it’ll click hard and leave you excited for the story ahead. This one’s for the outsiders, and man is it good to have a comic like this again.