Review: Shade, the Changing Girl #3

stcg_cv3_dsWhen asked in interviews about the body horror of her series InSEXts, Marguerite Bennett would often describe the central conceit of the series in regards to how being a woman in this society is a body horror of its own. When asked by Paste Magazine about that common thread in her works, she said, “…If you are told that by virtue of your birth, you must offer your body and heart and compliance and emotional labor in the service of others and be grateful for the chance to be subservient to someone your society actually values and reflects in stories of heroism—you are going, very much, to be consumed by the ideas of monsters with power instead of human beings without it.”

I was thinking about that quote a lot when reading over this particular issue of Shade, the Changing Girl. While Cecil Castelucci and Marley Zarcone aren’t exploring body horror with Shade, they are taking more of a route of introspection, making it very clear that beneath all the Madness, alien visitation and the horrors of high school, Shade, the Changing Girl is a series about changing yourself and coming to grips with the person you used to be and the person you’re expected to be because of it.

While the reader still doesn’t know much about Loma Shade’s past, we and Shade are learning more and more about Megan’s. In short, Megan Boyer was kind of the worst. The palimpsest of Megan’s memories is becoming clearer and Shade struggles with the balance. “It’s hard enough to sit with your own thoughts. Even stranger to creep around in someone else’s leftover memories.”

Shade has been a dense work since it began a couple of months back, but this particular issue took me a couple of reads to fully appreciate. Now that Shade’s initial enthusiasm about being on Earth has faded off, she now has to begin to face the complications of actually being a teenage girl. Let alone a teenage girl who has been called a “toxic human” and a “sociopath” by her peers and distressed her parents to the point they were willing to pull the plug on her before Shade took over. Castellucci’s balance of telling finding oneself in the madness is gorgeous and made even better by Zarcone’s art and paneling. The two-page spread of Shade crawling around in Megan’s memories shaped like the plan of a house was particularly brilliant.

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As a result of trying to figure out the balance, Shade realizes that she’s going to have to start acting like Megan in order to survive the Madness and live on Earth. Probably not a moment too soon because not only is Meta getting closer to figuring out what is going on, but River starts to suspect that maybe there is something alien about her. Just in time for her to rise from the pool to strike her teammates, give into the Madness, get detention for it and for Megan’s spirit to feel the call of the Madness, of course.

Speaking of Meta, we get to see a bit more of life on the planet in this particular issue. Mellu Loran is trying to close in on the Madness Vest while Lepuck tries to figure out how to wake Loma up from her enclosure before it’s too late. Since I’m not as familiar with the original Shade, The Changing Man series, the importance of Loran was initially lost on me, but this month’s bio material includes a biography of her and what she’s been up to since she and Rac Shade called it quits. Between this, Mad Dog showing up in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and the brilliant and mostly silent Dial H for Hero backup in this issue from Tini Howard and Sanya Anwar, I feel like I’m learning more about obscure DC and Vertigo characters from Young Animal than I have anywhere else.

Shade, the Changing Girl #3 continues the brilliant work of the series as Shade travels deeper into Megan’s psyche and memories to try and understand both Megan and herself. It leaves a certain vulnerability that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting besides high school and Castellucci and Zarcone tell a story that makes it worth revisiting.

Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copy for review