By Levi Remington
For an issue that's been marketed as "stand-alone," this week's Shade, the Changing Girl is surprisingly reliant on context. It may not be new-reader friendly, but it's a must for anyone following the series. Read ahead for my thoughts as we dive deep into Loma's past and prepare for the annual winter dance.
This book has consistently been one of the most exciting titles coming from DC, a feat only made less impressive when compared to its equally ambitious brethren in the Young Animal imprint. The series tackles identity, what it means to be human, and the struggles of belonging. It's humorous, tragic, poetic, and madly insane all at once. As Loma Shade takes a crack at being human, stumbling over all the emotional baggage that comes along with it, you realize just how much her story mirrors our own. This isn't just coming of age, it's coming of humanity. It's about connecting with others and tangling with your true nature. It's beautiful and strange and within its metaphysical core you'll find a truth that's painfully real.
Until now, Cecil Castellucci has written sparsely about Loma's past. In this issue, that all changes. We're given a hefty dose of flashbacks that chronicle Loma's upbringing, including her troubled adolescence under assigned parents, fascination with the poetry of Rac Shade, and progressive withdrawal into Earth's wishful allure. Meanwhile, in the present day, Shade enlists the help of River and Teacup to prepare for the winter dance. The book is split about 50/50 for each story line, but the two stories are entwined thematically, with River and Teacup intermittently commenting on Shade's experiences. The narration is appropriately foreboding, and this is magnified upon repeated readings.
Something I found especially intriguing about this issue was the interactions between Shade, Teacup, and River. As their friendship develops, you see Shade become more open, experiencing emotions that she has never felt before. She finally learns trust and it's a very satisfying moment for both her and the reader. All the while, it's difficult to gauge just what kind of friends River and Teacup are. Their motives are deliberately mysterious. Their sincerity is uncertain. The resulting doubt helps emphasize the natural fear that someone like Shade faces when they choose to confide in another being.
The singular nature of this issue is amplified by Marguerite Sauvage's wondrous contributions on art. Her style is much different than series regular, Marley Zarcone, but nothing is lost in the translation. Characters retain their signature looks, the psychedelic imagery takes on a lighter flavor but is still pleasantly abstract, and the panel layouts continue to emphasize a wide perspective. Her work is clean and glowing with a soft, pale color palette. It's a stellar match for the series.
While the issue is stand-alone in the sense that it exists between arcs, it is an absolutely essential and cathartic piece of the story that greatly benefits from the context of the previous issues. I wouldn't exactly recommend this for new readers, but I strongly suggest you pick up the first volume when it releases in July, or at least catch up digitally so you can stay current with this marvelous series.
Shade, the Changing Girl #7
Written by Cecil Castellucci
Art by Marguerite Sauvage
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Choreographed by head dancer Gerard Way (I love the way each issue plays around with citing Gerard Way's involvement)
Published by Young Animal (a DC Comics imprint)