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The first issue of Shade, the Changing Girl was very inventive and impressive, both from a story and art standpoint. While Shade, the Changing Girl #2 is somewhat less dazzling, it does start to fill out the new world of Megan as well as Loma’s confusion at her new world. Much of this issue is centered at school, and that is handled well, with some new characters. There is still a question though, about what kind of series this will be: the weird and trippy one from the debut or a more grounded fish-out-of-water story like we get in this latest issue.
Shade, the Changing Girl #2 seems to occur pretty soon after the first issue. Loma is trying to adjust to her new life as a high school girl. That is really a number of different adjustments. She must figure out the human body, which for Megan is changing as she goes through puberty. She must also adjust to high school, both the structure of class and the social structure. Megan used to be a “mean girl,” but Loma does not have her memories. That is freeing for Loma but also constantly puts her at disadvantage with other students who had feelings (mostly bad) about Megan. It’s fitting then that she connect mostly with River, a new student, since he has no pre-existing baggage with Megan, and can accept the girl he sees at face value.
I thought that writer Cecil Castellucci did a great job managing numerous important elements in the first issue: setting up a plot, establishing character, offering impressionistic dialog. Her approach in Shade, the Changing Girl #2 is more streamlined. The issue is mostly dedicated to seeing Loma/Megan in her new environment. While I think the interactions are handled well, the ordinary and familiar nature of high school levels down Loma’s extraordinary character to a degree. I realize a teenage girl has to be in school. Still, I think pinning too much of Shade, the Changing Girl at her school runs the risk of making this another high school story. Yet Shade… has the possibility to be so much more.
By contrast, there are relatively few scenes in Meta, Loma’s home planet, but they actually stand out more. Those in charge know that someone has gone to Earth and are trying to find out who knows what. They’re not very good at it. There is a bit of an absurdist detective story feel to this storyline that is quite refreshing. Although the Meta characters are not as firmly established yet as the Earth ones, Castellucci should attempt to make them interesting. Having the story with Meta be as vibrant as the Earth one will be an important counterpoint.
Perhaps the most outstanding element of the first issue of this series was the art. As with the story, there is less focus on the outlandish and extraordinary. However, there are moments of it for artist Marley Zarcone and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. Even the ordinary moments are fun to witness. Additionally, Zarcone and Fitzpatrick do add a wonderful out-there dream quality to Megan’s daily activities. It’s these bits of weirdness that make Shade, the Changing Girl #2 rise above the standard outsider in school story. As with the plot, though, I’d like to see the art go with its crazy tendencies more often.
After such a great first comic, I did find Shade, the Changing Girl #2 a bit more ordinary. However, that is probably unfair. It is still a very good issue. I think high school stories are a bit overdone, so I’m hoping that this element of the series will be balanced by other, more unusual aspects of Loma and Megan’s story. The set-up for the issue is still fantastic. Her friends tried to murder her, so I’m sure that will become an important plotline soon. Castellucci and Zarcone are still doing something pretty unique. As long as they give readers the type of originality shown in the debut, the series will still be well worth the trip.