Megan is a typical popular teenage girl in a small American town. She leads her clique with an iron fist and threats of high school hierarchy banishment. But after a night of partying Megan falls into a deep coma. She awakens, but someone else is inside her head. That someone is Loma Shade, an Avian alien from the planet Meta. Using the hijacked Madness coat once worn by the mad poet (and original Shade the Changing Man) Ric Shade, Loma possesses Megan’s body in an effort to explore the planet Earth, a world she has been obsessed with since old TV shows began to stray into Meta’s airwaves. Soon she is forced to live the life Megan had left behind, and become a fugitive from her own world
There really is nothing like this book on the stands. Even among the other Young Animal titles, Shade is unique. For one, it seems to be the only one with no connection to the DCU, and writer Cecil Castellucci really seems to have created her own world. Two worlds actually, as we essentially have parallel tales being told. Earth and Meta; both of which are richly developed and feel lived in.
The teenagers in “our” world ring true. All the adolescent hierarchies make sense (as they only do at that age) and the dialog and voices of all the kids have a very realistic tone about it. Everyone from the popular kids to the awkward loners are three-dimensional.
This issue dives heavily into Megan’s backstory and events just before the coma, and we can see what a high school terror she really was. The scene where she is training her fellow cheerleaders in the lake really reveals not only Megan’s place but also how her “friends” feel about her.
The fact that Loma is sorta watching these memories also gives them an eerie feel, and also expands Loma as a character as we can see her reactions to them and how she tries to understand this new world she is in. Loma seems to be finding a connection with Earth and trying to repair Megan’s life.
The scenes in Meta continue to be great as well, with Castelluci relying on story rather than exposition to create details. And the sprinkled use of some of Ric Shade’s poems throughout the entire issue was one of my favorite things about the whole thing.
This is one beautifully illustrated, colored and designed book. Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick (who has become one of my favorite colorists in comics) are at the top of their game. The line work here is soft, yet defined, invoking the 60s vibe of Silver Age Steve Ditko, but also referencing modern masters like Mike Allred. There is also a great use of icons, a modern and refreshing technique I love seeing more of.
The color pallet is just fantastic, with primary and pastel colors giving it a very “pop-art” vibe. There are great patterns used throughout the backgrounds and between the gutters that add to the overall originality and identity of the book. It shows you that a lot of thought and care was put into even the smallest of details in things like clothing, hair, room settings, panel flow, etc.
Admittedly, this may be the least accessible book from Young Animal, but I would not let that keep you away. It’s a strange, challenging and unique book. But it is a comic well worth reading and giving a chance. It reminds me of the kind of books Vertigo released in its early days, which of course led to a revolution in the industry. I have a feeling the same is being done here.