By Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Jamie Coe, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Saida Temofonte
Part of DC’s Young Animal imprint and aimed at an older audience that started with the involvement of Gerard Way, along with other titles like Mother Panic and Doom Patrol, the relaunched and retitled Shade, the Changing Woman doesn’t waste time in hitting the ground running in an excellent series opener from Cecil Castellucci. It doesn’t follow the typical superhero conventions that fans may expect from DC titles, nor does it shy away from embracing the more surreal elements of the character that fans may have been familiar with from Shade, the Changing Girl, as writer Cecil Castellucci continues the reimagining of one of comics’ weirdest characters.
This issue is a bold beginning to the new series that really pays off. The artwork is fantastic, bringing back Shade creative veterans penciller Marley Zarcone and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, as well as letterer Saida Temofonte, who all in turn bring their A-game to the table here. Every page is stunning, and it’s Fitzpatrick’s colors that stand out here in particular. They’re really unique and distinctive, giving the first issue a vibrant feel that helps make it stand out from pretty much any other title on shelves right now. Zarcone’s art is immersive from start to finish too, as both artist and colorist really play to each other’s strengths. The chaotic, sprawling nature of the panel structure really adds to the uniqueness of the series, and the issue can get incredibly trippy at times, but then that should be expected for older fans of the character.
The book isn’t the most action-heavy issue that there has ever been and if you’re looking that, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. But Shade, the Changing Woman doesn’t need to be action-heavy in order to work. Sometimes a character focused approach is better and that is very much the case here. This issue is more reflective than anything else, providing an interesting character study of Shade, who has grown older and is now an adult, allowing for the series to move in different directions as it explores her life, establishing her personality and traits from the start.
The short backup, also written by Castelluci entitled “Menagenie: Gan” has art by Jamie Coe and provides a nice little short with a disturbing twist that fits at home with the tone of the series. The change in art style between Coe and Zarcone’s work doesn’t feel jarring at all. The book flows naturally, allowing it to tap into the more insane elements that can be brought to the table in this comic, taking full advantage of the target audience that the book plays to. It’s going to be interesting to see how the backups tie into the storyline going forward, as they are reportedly due to share a connection.
Shade, the Changing Woman is a very promising first issue that explores the full potential of the character in a Shade-centric storyline that rewards readers. It’s a soft reboot, so newcomers may take a while to get accustomed to the tone and style if they aren’t familiar the character, but it’s definitely worth checking out all the same.