By Kelly Gaines
The Cray are coming. We know how Paul Revere would have handled the situation, but Shade is having a much more difficult time sounding the alarm for Earth’s approaching doom. Readers have become well acquainted with the more risque and criminal parts of Loma/ Meghan/ Shade’s past and Shade the Changing Woman #4 visits a new memory. Though Shade has tried hard to forget this piece of her past, the memory holds a long lost fear that may be Earth’s only hope.
Before she was an interplanetary fugitive, before she tricked a museum worker into falling in love, Loma was a refugee to Meta. Loma, her mother, and thousands of other Avians fled their beloved homeworld to escape an invasion of one of the most feared creatures in the known universe- The Cray. Does Cray mean crazy? Crayola? Crayfish? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that a Cray invasion means doom for the planets they fixate on. Loma’s homeworld went first, leading to the devastating separation of her family, and all signs point to The Cray having a new target- Earth. Loma’s new home is in immense danger, and as fight or flight kicks in she struggles to overcome her Avian instincts. Everything in her may want to fly away, but there may just be something on Earth worth the fight.
Protecting an entire planet from invasion isn’t Loma’s only battle. It seems as though the madness is growing and developing a mind all it’s own with sinister and sometimes homicidal tendencies. Is this a product of Loma’s panic, a sign of The Cray, or the Madness developing as it was meant to? It’s hard to say, but the distinguishable signs of madness lashing out have left Shade in a tight spot, and her friends aren’t sure what to make of it. Much like Loma’s friends, readers have gotten used to the telltale pattern of madness- the splotches of black circles and rings that radiate off objects as Shade drifts through and around them. Suddenly it seems we can’t assume that the presence of the pattern is the presence of Shade, or even of Shade’s well-intended energy. There’s evil in the madness raising the anti-alien prejudice around Shade, River, and Teacup to new levels. So here’s the question: If everyone around Shade is bubbling with hatred for aliens, who is going to trust her when she tells them their lives are in danger? Teacup and River are already at odds, and the Metans tracking Loma have their handlike appendages far deeper in the rift than any of them realize. It’s possible that human pride is aiding this outside attack, and it may cost them all dearly.
Shade, the Changing Woman, has been a strange journey that interlocks morals of personal growth with exploration of the human experience. It’s interesting, heartbreaking, and beautifully written. I’ve been steadily enjoying Shade throughout the Young Animal run. The launch has honored the breathtaking Shade the Changing Man of the early 2000’s while telling an original story fueled by modern events. DC announced the upcoming end to the Young Animal line in August. It’s bittersweet news, but ending on a high note is much more satisfying to readers than watching the value of a title fade away. That being said, if you haven't caught up on Shade now is the time. Both The Cray and the ending are coming, and I’m certain it’ll be a wild and well worth it ride.
And a quick P.S.- Read Shade the Changing Man, whether you like Shade the Changing Woman or not, it has a similar madness with a different soul- the soul of Rac Shade. It’s one of the best comics I’ve read, and as a companion piece to the Young Animal version, it drives a deep message home.
Shade the Changing Woman #4