Over its first two storylines, SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL has become my favorite corner of the DC’s Young Animal imprint. Of all the titles, I think it strikes the most effortless balance between a strong visual narrative and a plot full of solid character development. In the second volume, LITTLE RUNAWAY, we see Loma Shade coming to accept the consequences of her actions in taking the madness vest and coming to Earth, while also accepting this new heightened state that she is going to live within probably for the rest of her life.
Writer Cecil Castellucci has created a journey for Shade to go on that is not all that different from the experiences we all go through as we grow from teenagers into the adults. We eventually have to look back at who we were as a person and decide how they relate to the adult personality that has emerged, whether we wanted it to or not.
Granted, with Shade, the drama is a bit more heightened. Megan, the rancid personality that used to live in the body Loma Shade invaded, is back in full force in the pages of Little Runaway and she wants her old real estate back. Shade struggles with urges that she can identify as belonging to Megan and the warring personas culminate in a pretty epic fistfight that nobody but the two combatants can see the full scope of. This is a nice evolution from the arc of the first volume of Shade, the Changing Girl where she was struggling to discover how exactly Earth works in the first place.
Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks and Marguerite Sauvage all share art duties across the six issues that appear in Little Runaway. It’s fascinating to see other artists take on the style of the series that was established by Zarcone all the way back in issue #1. Fans of the DC Bombshells comic series are sure to enjoy Sauvage playing in a sci-fi present, rather than the pin-up past that many of us are so familiar with. Sauvage handles the first issue of this collection, which boasts plenty of flashbacks to Loma’s time on Meta, giving us a chance to learn much more about the type of person that would want to throw themselves headlong into madness in the first place.
Also, shout out to colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick for continuing the pop art palette into the second volume of Shade the Changing Girl. Her flourish really makes this book unlike anything else on the shelves right now.
Little Runaway dives into Rac Shade, Vertigo’s original Shade, the Changing Man, a touch more. There are compelling parallels to be deduced between him and Loma as you make your way through their dueling narratives. While it is not immediately clear the similarities they share, I think you can see in both of these characters the whimsy with which they approach their worlds and their lives, and perhaps it is this quality of focusing on the divine, rather than their internal struggles, that allows them to commune with madness instead of being ruined by it.
Shade’s embrace of who she is going to be, while learning that she may never be able to return to Meta, builds toward an excellent chapter where she tracks down the star of her favorite Earth television show, Life With Honey (an I Love Lucy-esque comedy that gives new meaning to the term "nuclear family"). Loma discovers the truth of the idiom “don’t meet your heroes” while simultaneously coming to understand that she will be okay even if she is alone out in the world with Teacup or River or Lepuck to have her back in case she falls down. Although Shade’s journey is probably a little grander than most people’s, I appreciate that in going out and being in the world she learns that she possesses the faculty to find her own way through this strange, strange life. Hers is stranger than most, so I think that’s really saying something.
Plus, Lepuck’s story gets an ending! He’s such a tragic figure in the mythology of Shade, the Changing Girl. Even though the ending that he gets is sad, if not dire, I was pleased that he wasn’t just forgotten in the wake of the search for Loma, the revelation of his involvement with her and their brief reunion. Poor Lepuck.
Shade the Changing Girl Vol. 2: Little Runaway gives a definite conclusion to this chapter of Shade’s story and sets up the Young Animal MILK WARS event nicely. It gives us higher stakes, diverse stories and even more mind-blowing art. It hints at answers to questions that a universal and reminds us that everyone—even extraterrestrial visitors from Meta—eventually needs to stop running and embrace who you are.
I mean, is it really such a mad concept?