Shade the Changing Girl: amazing, gorgeous new comic about aliens and mean girls

Vertigo has tapped Cecil Castellucci (previously) and Marley Zarcone to reboot Shade, a Steve Ditko character last rebooted as a weird 1990s comic book about a transdimensional alien shape-shifter poet who used a "madness vest" in his quest to stem the tide of insanity leaking from Earth into his dimension; in Castellucci's capable hands, the new Shade is a fugitive who steals the madness vest in her escape to Earth and finds herself in the body of a Megan Boyer, a comatose mean girl who was about to have the plug pulled on her.

Now Shade ("the changing girl") has to live Megan Boyer's life, while staying away from the Meta police who want to bring her to justice.

Issue One hit stands last week and it sets up the story beautifully, combining Castellucci's snappy writing and Zarcone's strong, psychedelic imagery to quickly establish the scenario and reveal the first of many mysteries about Boyer's life, and the nature of Shade's own criminal past.

This is one of the strongest new titles in recent memory, a match for other recent new releases like William Gibson's Archangel, Brian Wood's Starve and Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther.

I've added it to my pull-list at my local comics shop, and I was lucky enough to score a signed copy of #1 at Castellucci's launch-party last week at the amazing Secret Headquarters.

I don’t want to give too much away, but yes, Shade is from Meta. And yes, I am definitely pulling things from both Ditko’s and Milligan’s runs. I think people that read “Shade, The Changing Man” from either the first or second run will be delighted by some smaller moments. I want it to have echoes and nods to the past, but I want it to be fully its own thing, as well.

I can also say that Shade is an alien and possesses the body of a 16-year old girl in America. It turns out that the girl was the biggest bully in her school, and she now has to navigate the consequences of living a life that she didn’t lead. There are some pretty horrible consequences because of who she’s possessed. In a way, the main difference is that Rac Shade was a grown man, and this isn’t a grown man. This is a 16-year old girl, and there are certain restraints on her because of that. I feel that works really well, because one of the things that I love about writing young adult fiction is that we often feel, when we’re teenagers, that we’re sort of aliens in our own body. There are a lot of changes happening, so I think it lends itself really well to a character like Shade.

I also think madness and teenager-dom go together really well, as well, because when you’re a teenager, everything is the end of the world. And everything is the first time everything has happened. It’s the first time you’ve been betrayed. It’s the first time you’ve fallen in love. It’s the first that you’ve realized that your parents are separate humans than you are. Everything is life or death, and I think that’s really interesting to explore, having that constraint on Shade.

SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL #1 [Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone/DC Vertigo]

CECIL CASTELLUCCI EMBRACES MADNESS IN “SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL” [Jeffrey Renaud/CBR]