SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 by Cecil Castellucci, Mirka Andolfo, Marissa Louise, and Saida Temofonte
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
This book is crazy and off the wall, but it isn't nonsense. It's conveying a very clear message about the place of women in the world, and what's expected of this segment of the population. It's the resistance story we'd expect from a Shade and Wonder Woman team-up, and it keeps on delivering. This all-female creative team absolutely crushes it on all fronts, and keeps us from having Milk Wars fatigue halfway through the insane series.
96 %
Manic And Feminist

This post contains spoilers for SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1

Are you looking for a book that continues the absolute insanity of “Milk Wars,” but also has things to say about the patriarchy? Well, you’re going to love SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1.

What else did you really expect from a Shade & Wonder Woman team-up? SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL is known for being crazy, psychedelic, and occasionally political AF (allow me to forcefully point to issue #11 and a very smug comment about men controlling women’s bodies). While Wonder Woman is, well, Wonder Woman; she’s been a feminist icon since her introduction.

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The history of these characters combined with writer Cecil Castellucci’s general badassery was a recipe for an empowering story and damn, did it deliver.

How Am I Supposed To Feel?

The plot here is pretty simple. At least, it’s simple for a “Milk Wars” story.

Wonder Woman has clearly had a little too much of Retconn’s brainwashing milk and thinks she’s the hero of housewives. Every single thing she does is for Steve, and she only allows herself to feel one emotion at a time. Those emotions are represented by several different versions of Shade, who really has no idea how she got there. There’s a Happy Shade, a Sad Shade, a Fearful Shade… you get the idea.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1
SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 page 13. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Well, Happy starts to realize that she can’t feel just one thing all the time. She’s starting to feel sad and doesn’t really understand what that means. The cracks in the milk facade show even more when Cave Carson’s eye turns up and gives Happy Shade a vision of Wonder Woman as she should be.

After a lot of resistance and Wonder Wife forcing her to aid in strange household duties, like breastfeeding a Dustbuster, Happy Shade is able to break through a wall in the “Hall of Moms,” where she reconnects with her other emotions and become a singular Shade again. Wonder Woman also wakes the hell up, and the two go off to help the other members of the DC & Young Animal teams.

The Not-So-Subtle Messages

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 isn’t just a fun romp. It’s sending a very clear message about the position of women in households and in the world. It’s represented in 1950s ideals and imagery, but it still rings true.

Many call women “crazy” or “overly emotional” just for having more than one feeling at a time. People often tell us to keep our emotions in check. They claim women are too erratic to even hold political office or be in leadership positions. We’re punished for being complex, both in reality and in fiction.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1
SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 page 10. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 plants its feet and firmly says: “Screw all of that.” Women are not complacent, and we’re not going to behave because it’s easier on the men if we do. We have our own lives and our own voices. And hey, if you choose to be a homemaker and mother, that’s freaking awesome. Do your thing! Choosing that role isn’t an abandonment of your own identity as an individual.

That’s what makes the “Women’s March” scene in this book so jarring and impactful. Seeing protest signs that say things like, “My Body, Your Choice,” and “Nevertheless, She Remained Quiet and Stayed In Her Place,” was almost amusing because of the sheer absurdity of the sentiment conveyed. This is what’s expected of many women all over the world, and it’s something we need to face head-on.

This Team Is On Fiyyaaaaaaah

One of the things that makes SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL so notable is the fact that it has an almost all-female creative team. SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 followed that tradition, and it’s absolutely awesome.

Mirka Andolfo’s illustration is an absolute pleasure to behold. Her skill with expression and character work is both effective and lovely. The Wonder Wife character design is utterly breathtaking, and she is especially captivating and eerie as an in-between version of the Diana we know and the one ravaged by milk. The tiara and apron juxtaposition truly upsets me in the best way.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1
SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 page 12. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Andolfo’s treatment of Shade is especially impressive since it’s quite different from what we’ve seen from Marley Zarcone in the solo SHADE series. In this case, different is good. The character fits in with the world around her, but still stands out as unique and odd. It’s a tough balance to strike, but strike it Andolfo does.

Colorist Marissa Louise also shines. The SHADE Madness isn’t an easy thing to convey, and it’s all in the colors. Even though the Madness looks a little different, it’s instantly recognizable and does a great job of disorienting the reader just enough, and not too much. The dress colors of the different Shades also captures the eye. The subtle blends are magnificent.

Saida Temofonte’s lettering is also wonderful, especially in Shade’s inner-monologue. They truly do appear as an after-thought, showing that Happy Shade is trying to push all of these other emotions and ideas down. It’s pretty genius stuff.

MILK WARS Fatigue?

Is this getting to be too much? No, not yet. SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 is a wild ride, but it’s still part of this new, fresh insanity that’s so enjoyable. It’s a fun time for the reader, but it could also get old really quickly.

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Two things prevent this issue from driving us into MILK WARS apathy. First, this book is saying something about our society, which keeps it from being just utter nonsense. Second, this is the pivot point. This is the middle book in the series; just when it could start to be too much, the story is going to end.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 is a perfect balance of mania and poignancy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

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