Review: Shade the Changing Girl #5

by Matthew Lloyd
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[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

By: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by: Marley Zarcone
Inks pgs 6-7, 12, 14,15 by: Ryan Kelly
Colors by: Kelly Fitzpatrick

While previous incarnations of Shade may have been a super-hero or science fiction book, Shade the Changing Girl is really a book about feelings. Sure it’s masked in the trappings of science fiction, but at its core it’s a book about emotions. Top to bottom, Loma, Megan, Wes, River and Lepuck- it’s about feelings. Consequently, there are times when this title feels like it may have lost it’s way or be swimming up stream. But, for the sensitive reader who can handle subtlety and enjoys an exploration of emotions, Shade the Changing Girl is not only well executed, it is enthralling.

After her confessions and apologies last issue, Shade is left feeling extremely unsure of who to trust. The school is on a field trip to the zoo. Shade’s interior monologue takes us around the zoo as she is stunned and amused by the animals she sees, as they are at times familiar and pitiful in their captured state. The class is split into groups and River is perfectly fine with letting Shade be Shade, while the other member of her group is bewildered. She doesn’t believe what’s Shade’s told River and still only sees Megan. Shade rebuffs Wes a couple times and he’s confused and in emotional turmoil, believing that everything was OK after they spent the night together.

Back on Meta, Lepuck is being questioned and refuses to give up any information on what Loma’s done. And seemingly adrift in limbo, we finally get some specific details on Megan’s spirit. As she drifts along, she’s met by an astronaut who turns out to be an aged Wes. He explains they are dead and can now pass into oblivion together. Megan’s spirit cannot accept this and she races away.

On Earth, Shade is at the lake with River and attempts to leave Earth, but ends up getting mired in a band of colors. She has to return to Megan’s body. As she rises to leave she is assaulted by a highly agitated Megan, or at least her spirit.

The uniqueness of this book cannot be overlooked. There’s nothing like this on the market. If it were not a science fiction title, but a more grounded teen love story genre it would still have the same emotion. Throwing in the casual curse word or suggestive situation doesn’t make this a mature readers book, but rather the direct approach to emotion that is found in every issue.

From a more traditional perspective, the cameo of classic Steve Ditko Rac Shade was a nice reminder of the provenance of this title and its relation to the DC Universe as a whole.

The back up story “Life with Honey” is amusing as it mirrors the notion of aliens experiencing human life and may give a glimpse into Loma’s notions of what life on Earth was going to be like.

As different as this book is, the negatives for this title are also different. The biggest negative is that some readers aren’t going to get what the creative team is doing. They are giving their all on fronts not usually attempted in comics and that is admirable. Any failings so far fall on the consumer. Shade the Changing Girl is doing exactly what it needs to do to be the book it is trying to be.

Shade the Changing Girl #5 continues to develop the emotional threads between the characters and build a dramatic tension as Loma is unable to leave Earth and is faced with the challenge of fighting Megan for her body.  This title is proof that taking one’s time can prove just as if not more satisfying than immediate gratification.

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