Review: Shade the Changing Girl #8

Thousands of comic books have taken place in Gotham City, not to mention the plethora of films, cartoons, live action TV shows, and video games set in its dark, sometimes Gothic/sometimes a stand-in for New York, Chicago, or Pittsburgh streets. So, it’s really refreshing to see the most used city in the DC Universe through the new eyes of an Avian in the body of a teenage girl in Shade: The Changing Girl #8 by writer Cecil Castellucci, artist Marley Zarcone, and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick with some inking done by Ande Parks. Shade has left the drama of high school behind to experience the world that she has read about through the poetry of Rac Shade or the 1950s sitcom Life with Honey.

It’s invigorating to see Shade literally transform the environment with her M-vest with Fitzpatrick turning the usually drab blacks and greys of Gotham into a real kaleidoscope of a color palette. Zarcone’s pencils and inks bend and flip with each whim that Shade has going from being cramped on public transportation to seeing a couple plays and even going to a museum and “talking” with dinosaurs, who honestly she has more kinship with humans because both Avians and dinosaurs had feathers.

Castellucci doesn’t give Shade #8 a straight ahead plot, but meanders with our narrator building up a kind of tone poem about how city dwellers take the wonder of theirs for granted. I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and was kind of amazed by the beauty of the Roman style gardens by the Art Institute, the fact that the play Hamilton is showing there, and the overload of good pizza places, which is something that someone who works downtown sees every day. Castellucci and Zarcone (Through Shade) find the every day beauty of the city and intensify it using the M-Vest and poetic narration.

One thing I liked about Shade #8 isn’t that aside from a joking reference to Batman (It’s the Gotham equivalent of small talk about the weather or local sports team.) that Castellucci and Zarcone avoid using guest stars, which would only stifle Shade’s pure experience of a day in the life of Gotham City. Sure, there are sub plots featuring her boyfriend LePuck being forced to wear an experimental version of the M-Vest, and people from her last city looking for Megan. (The girl whose body she is in.) However, these are seeded in for long term payoff, and in the here and now, we can revel as Shade easily understands the significance of a Statue of Liberty stand-in to welcome “aliens” of all kinds to Gotham, or how humans reveal more about their emotions through art (Like a Shakespeare or Henrik Ibsen play.) than every day conversation. And next issue is teased as being a musical one (And connected to the Life with Honey backup drawn gorgeously by Josie and the Pussycats‘ Audrey Mok.), which provides even more opportunities for Castellucci, Zarcone, and Fitzpatrick to play with emotions and colors in a magical way.

One thing that I have enjoyed about the Young Animal imprint as a whole in the sheer amount of imagination it adds to the DC Universe, and Shade the Changing Girl #8 is no exception. Using poetry, snatches of conversation, a whirlwind travelogue, and bursts of pop art colors, Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, and Kelly Fitzpatrick craft a comic that will even make the most jaded Batman fan smile and maybe scratch their head a little bit. The book is a lot like those music videos that Prince, Seal, and others did for the Burton/Schumacher era Batman movies, but with like 100 times less darkness and man pain.

Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone Inks: Ande Parks Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Backup Art: Audrey Mok Backup Colors:  Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 8 Art: 10 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics/Young Animal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review