Story: Cecil Castellucci
Art: Marley Zarcone
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
What They Say:
Far away on the planet Meta, Loma’s going nowhere fast. She’s dropped out of school, dumped her boyfriend, and is bored out of her mind. She longs to feel things. That’s where her idol, the lunatic poet Rac Shade, and his infamous madness coat come it. Loma steals the garment and makes a break across galaxies to take up residence in a new body: Earth girl Megan Boyer. Surely everything will be better on this passionate primitive planet with a dash of madness on her side and this human girl’s easy life. Only now that she’s here, Loma discovers being a teenaged Earth girl comes with its own challenges and Earth may not be everything she thought it’d be. Megan Boyer was a bully whom everyone was glad was almost dead, and now Loma has to survive High School and navigate the consequences of the life she didn’t live with the ever-growing and uncontrollable madness at her side. Not to mention that there are people back on her homeworld who might just want Shade’s coat back.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Well, that was a thing.
My experience with the Shade property is one that’s strictly with the 90’s series that Peter Milligan wrote. At the time, it was one of those really trippy series that made its own kind of sense as part of the Vertigo line and it delivered consistently, especially with the visuals, to be a standout book for a cult audience. You kind of felt like an outsider reading it because it wasn’t doing massive numbers but had a faithful following. With the series revived and remolded here a bit we get it in the capable hands of Cecil Castelluci for the story with the really strong visuals from Marley Zarcone as they have to bring the weirdness to life. But also hugely important is Kelly Fitzpatrick, who does great work in general, as the colors here are critical for things like the madness vest. Mix it together with some masterful lettering work to handle the weirdness from Temofonte and you have a book that’s… well, strange.
Seemingly taking place some years after the events of the first series, the madness vest program has been retired because of what kind of damage it does. Rac Shade is something of a hero to many people for what he accomplished and we see that through the eyes of Loma, an avian from the planet Meta where Rac was from. She’s interested in following in the footsteps of Rac and works events to gain hold of the madness vest. That event leads her to enter the body of a young woman in the midwest, allowing her to experience life on the fabled Earth and all that it entails from Rac’s stories. It’s a straight enough setup that allows us plenty of modern America, weirdness of Meta, and the surrealness of madness as we see Loma in her avian form/true form coping with all of it as an untrained user.
Naturally, there’s a tale to be told with the Earth girl as well and that’s pretty damn intriguing. Megan, as we get to know her, has been in a coma thanks to an incident that happened with her “friends” on the swim team. Things are pieced together slowly with this first issue but it delivers some tantalizing ideas of who Megan is through the eyes of others since Loma is playing her as fairly normal once she gets her to wake up from the coma. You get a sense of a true mean girl with a really bad streak about her since her parents are afraid of her coming back and her teammates refuse to give into what they think she’ll be like. Watching the seething coming from all of them while Loma tries to get into Megan in this new form is really engaging to watch because you keep waiting for the fallout. While the doctors did say that Megan might be different after waking up from her coma, nobody expected her to be this different.
With a book like Shade, the Changing Girl, you really have no idea what to expect. I don’t recall much of the previous series but I recall really strong positive memories toward it and the surreal nature of it all. The team here has captured it in their own form and are making it their own while also keeping what happened in the past a part of things instead of a wholesale reinvention, which I can definitely appreciate. Castelluci’s script is solid here as we get the slow teases and reveals and I really like what Zarcone brings to the page in trying to capture this flavor of madness. It’s hard to tell where a book like this will go but it’s exactly the kind of book that will keep you intrigued if you like the unexpected and the weird. This team looks to deliver handily with this and I can see it being a strong overall work once we get a handle on what it wants to do.
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: DC Comics via ComiXology
Release Date: October 5th, 2016