Review: Shade the Changing Girl #12
The first year of Shade the Changing Girl concludes in multiple body swapping, life and death fashion as writer Cecil Castellucci makes all the story threads collide and artists Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, and Kelly Fitzpatrick channel madness, love, and poetry in surreal psychedelic form. It’s the end of Honey Rich’s life, and the beginning of Loma Shade, Earth girl’s. The comic begins with a nod to Mulholland Drive and some satire of the Hollywood blockbuster system, but leaves Hollywood behind for human connection even if most of the characters are aliens.
I cannot praise Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors on backgrounds and the Madness circle things enough in Shade #12 throughout the series. There’s blue for when Shade (in Honey’s body) runs to reunite with Lepuck, and then an intense red when Lepuck realize that he’s talking to Honey in Shade’s body. Then, it turns a more subdued background when Lepuck remembers that Life with Honey was Shade’s favorite. The biggest highlight of Fitzpatrick’s work is the full page rainbow and pink splashes to mark Rac Shade’s triumphant return and shunning of his not-the-nicest boyfriend, Mellu.
The return of Rac Shade marks the most experimental part of Shade #12 with Castellucci, Zarcone, Parks, and Fitzpatrick firing on all cylinders to craft a psychedelic delight. His words have filled the margin of numerous pages of Shade the Changing Girl, and his physical-ish presence in the Madness is pretty overwhelming. Castellucci and Zarcone show the non-linear nature of the Madness where “time means nothing” by having a double page spread where you spin a pencil to pick a scene to read. This double page spread does a decent job of distilling all the major relationships into one cohesive, color shifting, panel flipping unit. It’s an ability that only a true great soul, like Loma or Rac, can control, and Mellu ends up going all melting Nazi in the Raiders of the Lost Ark with his short lived powers.
It’s definitely more of a C-story, but I really latched onto the River, Teacup, and hippo friend, who is a Madness tracker, sub-plot throughout the second arc of Shade the Changing Girl. They are just smart, normal, yet outsider kids looking for Shade, who transformed a mean bully (Megan) into a quirky friend. I love River’s remarks about using the power of technology and the Internet (In his case, hacking his way to plane tickets, hotel, and a fake field trip to L.A.) to make a real life connection with Shade and bond with Teacup along the way. In the middle of a mind expanding, metaphysical story, Castellucci and Zarcone manage to capture the simple pleasure of meeting Internet friends in real life with a side of floating hippos, sort of chestbursters, and body swapping.
There is a real feeling of closure to Shade the Changing Girl #12, especially in Honey Rich’s death scene, which is richly philosophical (And Teacup quips about this part of it.) and down to Earth. Honey realizes that she would be pushing her boundaries to seek stardom in Shade’s body and finds a sweet release in mortality. Zarcone brings back the black and white Life with Honey Honey Rich as a final reminder that her sitcom touched the lives of people beyond the stars. Also, her death in the chrysalis shaped Madness vest gives Shade a new lease of life as a whole girl and not just an Avian messing around in Megan Boyer’s head.
Death and rebirth: it’s doesn’t get more beautiful and poetic than that. Shade the Changing Girl #12 explores these universal themes through the insights and character arcs crafted by Cecil Castellucci; the clean, yet bad dream-like art of Marley Zarcone and Ande Parks, and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s kaleidoscope rainbow color palette. It also sets up a newly whole Shade the Changing Girl for more adventures as a human girl.
Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone with Ande Parks
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick Backup Art: Katie Jones
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy