Friday, November 2, 2012

Shade the Changing Man #15

I've been slowly rereading my all-time favorite comic book series, Shade the Changing Man. And while I've been enjoying it, remembering specific moments but still being surprised by others, it wasn't until this issue that I was reminded why I loved it so much. Because it was this issue that caused me to fall in love with this title the first time. The cover didn't mean much to me when I pulled it out of the musty, cat-clawed comic book box and set it on my file cabinet to sit for a week. But when I opened it up and looked at the first page, it all came back to me. Not the story, though. I wasn't entirely sure yet what the story was going to be about. But the feeling that first page evoked pulled me back to twenty years ago and I remembered instantly: it was this one. This issue. This is when I fell in love.

I'll admit I was surprised by the amount of Narration Boxing taking place in this comic. But as I pointed out in an earlier New 52 book I was reading (Superman #13, I believe), it turns out my problem isn't really with the Narration Boxing. It's with the way a writer handles it. Oh, and the way the writer writes, of course!

This is the first issue that really nails down the future look of the series by Bachalo and Pennington. The art is cleaner, sharper. The characters look like I remember them. Gone is the gritty realism and heavy ink. Now the characters are more expressive, a bit cartoony, and absolutely gorgeous.

This story is about Kathy. The mad, chaotic pop culture themes of previous issues are replaced by stories of humans lost, desperate, and alone. Lenny makes a brief but important appearance. She establishes herself as integral part of this group. She's a bridge between Kathy and Shade with a foot in both of their existences and probably the most grounded of the three characters. She doesn't like the role of most normal and responsible but she'll accept it when the people she cares about need her.

Kathy is struggling to cope with her life sans alcohol, parents, and possibly sanity.

The man Kathy has come to love resides in the body of the man who killed her parents. Shade has manipulated the body to not look like this psycho, this Troy Grenzer, but both Shade and Kathy know a small bit of Troy Grenzer has survived within Shade. And at times he's taken control. Earlier in the series, Kathy and Shade had sex for the first time. Only it wasn't Shade at all; it was Grenzer disguising himself as Shade.

Kathy doesn't know she was with Troy and not Shade. But Shade knows. And he feels hurt and betrayed. He can't help blaming Kathy. Lenny also knows but she basically forbade Shade from telling Kathy. But Shade, being the sensitive poet he is, can't keep it inside. Subconsciously, he's telling Kathy the truth with his Madness Vest. He's infiltrating her dreams and forcing her to deal with it. He really comes off as impotent and pathetic throughout this series. And he's the same too sensitive poet in The New 52 Reboot as well where we first see him spending night after night in seedy hotel rooms creating fake Kathy after fake Kathy in his guilt and loneliness.

Kathy meets an old man named Chester while in recovery. He's seventy years old and still doesn't know how he's supposed to live. He doesn't know how to help himself but he still tries to help Kathy avoid finding herself in the same place in fifty years.

While Kathy is dealing with putting her life back together while it's still falling apart, Shade is off dealing with The American Scream and his own stupidly hurt feelings.

And then the issue ends with Kathy and Shade (kind of! Subconscious Shade!) confronting the issue. Perhaps tearing their world down is the only way to fix things. Or perhaps this revelation will just cause more turmoil. You'll have to read Issue #16 to find out!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's some crazy shit right there. I've always heard that Shade's a really good series, and I can see why.

    I recently bought the Flashpoint:Batman mini-collection, and after I just read this, I wondered why the Shade: Secret Seven series isn't a little bit more like this. Although that Seven's not bad, but Chris Bachalo on art would have been better' even with his more animated style now.