Hey everyone! Welcome to the latest and greatest edition of Pulp, Forte’s home of capes, cowls and comic book goodness! This week, I’ve delved into the psychedelic realm of madness that is DC’s Young Animal imprint, and somehow ended up with a copy of volume 1 of Shade, The Changing Girl, Earth Girl Made Easy, written by Cecil Castellucci (The P.L.A.I.N. Janes) and drawn by Marley Zarcone (Effigy). While Young Animal has been around for a while, I hadn’t had the opportunity to really dive in to any of the fledgling imprint’s content until now, and honestly I’m not surprised that I’ve left both entertained and confused. Anything that has connections to Vertigo’s heyday – and, more specifically, their classic series Shade, The Changing Man – is always going to be a trippy affair, and Earth Girl Made Easy is no exception.
Loma Shade is restless. An Avian 20-something university dropout from the planet Meta, Loma is obsessed with old-school Earth culture, and the deceased poet Rac Shade. Flitting from one casual romance to another, she longs to get away from her dead-end life. When she convinces her security guard boyfriend to let her try on Rac Shade’s madness coat – stored at the Museum of Alien Curiosities on Meta – she finds her chance to escape, travelling through the streams of madness to end up on Earth. Loma decides to make the body of Megan Boyer her new home, and it seems like Megan has everything – youth, beauty and a conveniently damaged brain. The downside? Loma’s new to this whole human thing, and apparently, everyone hates Megan. She was a bully to friends and enemies alike, and Loma has to deal with the social ramifications of her host’s actions.
Meanwhile, back on Meta, nefarious forces are aiming to reclaim the priceless madness coat, and they’re closing in on her comatose body. Assuming she can survive the pitfalls of teenage life, Loma’s real body is still in danger.
Boy oh boy, does this book require some explanation! The premise can be a bit tricky to explain, but once the initial set up is out of the way, the story really gets going. A lot of the conflict and interesting story threads comes from Loma’s attempts to fit in with her new life; Megan’s pre-existing social status makes her life very difficult, and the murky circumstances behind her host’s coma make her fledgling social interactions all the more difficult. It’s a classic “fish out of water” story, except in this case, the proverbial fish is actually a bird-like alien with weird powers. The book is part teen drama, part acid trip – Marley Zarcone’s art is amazingly coloured, alien and utterly psychedelic, and fits the Shade mythos perfectly. Castellucci does a fantastic job of exploring the ins and outs of teen life, and sticking a literal alien in a Mean Girls-esque clique war is absolutely inspired. Loma’s attempts to integrate herself into this incredibly complex social situation are fascinating to read through, and while I understand that the series as a whole appears to have come to an end after issue 12 (at least for now), I’m confident that the story will be contained enough to make for a fitting end.
Given its subject matter, Shade, the Changing Girl can be a little hard to follow at times. Once you get used to the mind-bending visuals, the story will draw you in quite quickly. It’s given me the urge to revisit the older Vertigo titles again, so when I’m talking about classic Shade stories in a few weeks time, you’ll know where the idea came from!
By Alastair McGibbon