SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 by Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Kelly Fitzpartick, Saida Temofonte, and Ande Parks
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 is full of emotion and self-reflection, and it's beautiful to behold. It discusses time, interpersonal relationships, and the importance of the heart in a way that enhances the characters and how they relate to each other. The art is stunning, as it always is in this series. Yet the imagery in this issue takes it to a whole new level.
92 %
Heart-Wrenching

If the books of DC’s Young Animal do anything, it’s make you think. Time is one hell of a thing to muse on. As Shade grows from a girl into a woman, we see her grapple with that concept, and even more existential crises. Her story continues in SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2, spoilers for which there are ahead!

Time’s Up … Or It’s Ripe

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 begins with a conversation between Loma and her hero, Rac Shade. They’re in the madness, where he’s been stuck for quite a while. She, however, is determined to get out.

Rac is talking about the complexity of time, and how the madness can affect both perception and mental stability. Shade attempts to grab on to anything stabilizing, either in the past or present — then or now.

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She goes to her friend, River, in the present, where he’s attending college and is starting a relationship with a fellow alien-enthusiast, Kelvin. They’re both becoming a part of DCHE — the Department of Capture and Holding of Extra-Terrestrials — so he tells Shade to leave. He can’t hide her there, as he’d have to report Loma if she stayed around too long.

As Shade returns to the madness and attempts to find her way out of the maze, Rac encourages her to let go of her heart. Shade explains — in Castellucci’s genius, beautiful prose — that her heart is too important to leave behind. She’s determined to find an alternative route. After exhausting options in the past, she reaches out to Teacup in the present, but that’s also fruitless.

Meanwhile, a strange young man shows up at Shade’s first home on Earth, still occupied by the parents of Megan, the comatose girl whose body Shade was originally inhabiting. In a frightening twist, the man turns out to actually be Megan and, full of hate and fueled by revenge, attacks her parents.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

At the conclusion of SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2, River and Kelvin begin training at DCHE. They see numerous aliens held captive behind glass. While Kelvin is enthusiastic, River says he may be sick.

The Heart of SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2

Semi-connected moments compose this story. Although it may seem disjointed, that creates an effect that will put the reader in a similar mindset as Shade. The story isn’t linear because Shade’s experience isn’t either, and those moments are powerful.

For example, River’s rejection of Shade is particularly painful. Writer Cecil Castellucci sums it up perfectly through Shade’s narration: “It’s hard to see a friend’s heart break when they are breaking your heart.” It seems like a simple concept, but it’s all too relatable.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Also poignant are the discussions between Rac and Shade. Here, Castellucci shines again: “No light seems strong enough against the darkness. The unknown is where hope rests.” Lines like these make this installment incredibly impactful and relatable, which is a feat for a comic about an alien with a coat made out of madness.

At its core, SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 is about identity and self-reflection. Every single character is struggling with a crisis of some sort. Shade is obviously trying to find a way back home, wherever that may be. Teacup is hurt by a friend, grappling with the difficulty of helping someone who has — in her mind — betrayed her. River is on a new path, but it’s one that he clearly feels morally conflicted about. Even Megan is on a journey of revenge — one that her lost identity fuels. The paths are wildly different, but the routes are still familiar to all of us.

Still as Beautiful as Ever

One of the many strengths of SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2, as with the SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL before it, is the art team. Illustrator Marley Zarcone, colorist Kelley Fitzpatrick, and letterer Saida Temofonte are all rock stars, and they knock this issue out of the park with some help from inker Ande Parks. Their collaboration, as always, is incredibly impressive. It creates a whole, cohesive piece for the audience to marvel at.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Images like Rac’s shriveled, grey heart, juxtaposed with the heart that he and Shade climb into and explore, speak volumes. The placement of the madness into seemingly mundane places shows the reader that those effects are inescapable. Old black and white images of the past create painful nostalgia, but the male body Megan’s possessing turning into a bird-like horror will send chills down your spine. A highlight is a full-page image of Rac making paper dolls from Shade’s heart. It’s uncanny, and it works on a visceral level.

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These artistic contributions have made SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2, as well as the previous series, a true accomplishment. The combination of linework, coloring, and lettering really sets SHADE apart. Even if you aren’t captivated by the story (which is just as amazing as the art), there’s a lot in this book to look at and enjoy.

It’s a visual feast as well as a thought-provoking narrative. The story always shifts just when it needs to, and this issue is no exception. The reintroduction of Megan is both stunning and exciting, and I cannot wait to see where it goes. This is a comic that deserves its praises sung from every mountaintop.

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