SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 by Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Saida Temofonte
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
This issue is about two things that we can all relate to, amongst a lot of other-worldly chaos. The madness has become an adversary for Shade and her friends as another threat hurdles towards earth. For them to come out on top, they'll have to come together, and Shade will have to find her heart. With excellent art bringing vibrant characters to life, this issue propels the delightful story forward with something we all need -- hope.
95 %
Madness and Friendship

Loma Shade’s dealing with a lot in SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4. The trauma of her past comes back to haunt her, threatening everything she’s built on Earth. With her friends scattered and divided, she’s going to have to work double time to make things right again.

The Time is Right for SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #2

Perhaps her biggest hurdle is the fact that she gave up her heart. Rac Shade, the poet that spawned her entire journey, gave her some bad advice. It turns out that the old adage is true — don’t meet your heroes. Perhaps it’s better to put your faith in friends.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 Raises the Stakes

Shade knows Earth is in trouble. The same lobster-like aliens that made her family refugees are coming to ravage her new home, along with everyone she cares about. Yet, she can’t care. Because her heart is gone, she doesn’t have the reaction she knows she should. Even so, she decides she still needs to help her friends.

Yet her friends, unaware of this bigger threat, have their own problems to deal with. River and Teacup are fighting because of River’s job with the DCHE — an anti-alien organization. He tries to explain that he does everything he can to keep Shade secret and safe, but that’s not enough for Teacup. She still feels betrayed.

There are warning signs of an impending crisis everywhere. Madness is popping up in unexpected places, and a drug called “folly” is wreaking havoc. Yet nothing is as awful as the events at the Ludi Games.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

When two of Teacup and Shade’s old synchronized swimming teammates compete in an event at the games, Megan sets a weaponized, monster-like spell of madness upon them. The world watches in horror, unable to fully comprehend what exactly is happening, as the madness injures the two swimmers and removes all the water from the pool.

Shade knows that enough is enough, and sets out on a journey to find the thing she’ll need to combat the threat — her heart.

If I Only Had a Heart

Even though Shade doesn’t have a heart right now, SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 has an abundance of it. At its core, this is a book about friendship and love. It’s uplifting and positive in the face of adversity and hopelessness — something that’s sorely needed in this political climate.

This issue also takes some chances, which is awesome to see. SHADE has always been a little dark, but this issue makes the madness a threat — something we’ve never truly felt before. Meanwhile, Megan is only getting scarier. The dissonance between the brightness on the page and the darkness in the story is only becoming more effective.

“Through it all there is friendship” is just one example of the incredible prose Cecil Castellucci writes in SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4. She strings words together like poetry or lyrics, adding a layer of depth to the narrative. Her work truly elevates an intelligent and refreshing concept.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

She’s aged these characters so well from where they were in SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL. They’re still the same people with the same hearts, but situations have altered them ever so slightly. It’s believable, realistic, and accessible when it could so easily be derivative.

The characters are also flawed. They have fears, hold grudges, make mistakes, and can be hypocrites. These traits only make them more interesting and realistic. They jump off the page in ways they haven’t before.

Madness and Feelings

Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Saida Temofonte once again prove that they’re an art team to be reckoned with. While the madness is clearly an accomplishment in every issue, it really comes alive in SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4.

Anthropomorphizing the madness, making it a solid entity, is a twist for the book in term of plot and narrative. Yet making these pretty, appealing colors appear menacing is a whole other task. It’s one that this team accomplishes with finesse and skill.

The facial expressions in SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 are also impressive. Teacup specifically has some notable moments in this issue. She takes a hit to the face and smiles with a black eye in the next panel. It’s the epitome of putting on a happy face for your friend, and it says something about her as a character.

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4
SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Although the SHADE covers are always admirable, Becky Cloonan’s one for this issue is mesmerizing. This is something that collectors will flock for and line up at conventions to get a signature. There’s a world of emotions in Shade’s big eyes here, so you’ll want to spend some time exploring.

Give Me More

SHADE, THE CHANGING WOMAN #4 is a great installment in the series, clearly winding down to a big finale. It’ll be a shame to say goodbye to these characters, but at least we still have two more issues to consume.

We’re at a wonderful part in the story, where the outcome is unclear but our hero seems to have an inkling of a plan. When there’s even a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, there’s hope, and that’s something we can all cling onto.

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