Review | Shade, the Changing Girl, Vol. 1, Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone

33233008In Shade, the Changing Girl, an alien takes over the body of a high school bully in a coma and learns how utterly despised this girl is. It’s part of DC’s Young Animal series, which gives a fresh take on classic DC characters.

The best part of this book is the artwork. Marley Zarcone’s psychedelic panels are absolutely beautiful and create the impression of a feverish dream. The story itself feels a bit thin and unnecessarily complicated, but the artwork alone is worth obtaining a copy of this book.

The story started off really confusing. An bird alien named Loma who idolizes a poet named Rac Shade puts on his colourful cloak, and it somehow allows her to possess the body of a young girl, but also will eventually cause her to go mad. Bad guys on her home planet want the coat back and so capture her best friend (who is secretly in love with her) to track her down. The story is based on a character called Shade, the Changing Man, and likely readers who are familiar with his story would appreciate the references a lot more. I was just confused, and it took me a while to figure out what was happening. For example, the cloak makes its wearers go mad, and both the bad guys and Loma’s best friend are very concerned about its impact on her sanity, but I can’t quite figure out how long it’ll take for her to be mad, or if the way she acts in Megan’s body is already symptomatic of her madness.

The heart of the story lies in the human elements. Loma inhabits the body of a girl named Megan, who was the bitchy head of a high school clique. Megan’s classmates react mostly in dismay that she seems to have recovered from her coma, and Loma-as-Megan needs to figure out how to navigate this world being so utterly despised. In that way, the story is a wonderful metaphor of high school — how does it feel to realize how unpopular you really are?

A lot of high school stories that deal with being unpopular drive a sharp divide between the popular and the unpopular girls, so it’s a bit of a karmic twist to have someone who started as a powerful figure suddenly have to come face-to-face with the consequences of her actions. If the story had been about Megan coming to terms with this reality, it would have been an absolutely emotional, heart-wrenching tale. Unfortunately, this story makes it clear that Megan’s spirit experiences no remorse for her actions nor growth from her experiences, and it’s only Loma’s alien possession that accounts for her apparent change of heart. I figure Megan’s spirit is kept evil because it’s Loma who’s the heroine of this series, but I couldn’t help thinking that Megan deserved her body back, even if it meant she’d end up dead. The story does somewhat address this moral ambiguity, with Megan basically saying it’s her right to inhabit her body for better or worse, but it’s done only in passing and I hope future volumes delve deeper into that.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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