DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with!
THIS WEEK: Louie gets all emotional as he reads the finale of Shade, the Changing Woman. I’m not crying, you are!
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Shade, the Changing Woman #6
Written by: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by: Marley Zarcone
Additional Inks by: Ande Parks
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Cover: Becky Cloonan
Edited by: Molly Mahan & Jamie S. Rich
Shade, the Changing Woman is really something incredible.
I am love. I am madness. I am everything.
It’s a remarkably pretty book, with vivid hues and hallucinogenic landscapes. Colors swirl throughout the panels and seem to drip right into the story. There are aliens and birds and chaos. It’s a book about madness, and the world gets more melty and sparkly around the title character, Loma Shade.
Loma is an alien in a girl’s woman’s body trying to save the Earth from an invasion. It’s an invasion unlike anyone expected and it may have already gotten too far, but it’s important to Loma that she try. Or at least it used to be, back when things mattered to her. When life seemed easier. Her emotional predicament feels familiar, doesn’t it?
We all feel it these days. The unease. The crushing anxiety. An emptiness where there used to be something lifelike. Shade feels like a hand reached out to share comfort. The various descriptions of pain in this book are both poetic and alarmingly accurate. Reading it can leave you feeling revealed.
All our ghosts come back to haunt us. But no ghost can save us.
Loma Shade has a past that she doesn’t really connect with anymore and a handful of estranged friends that she’s hurt and pushed away. She doesn’t feel at home anywhere and has been slowly shutting down her emotional awareness for some time. It feels like it’s almost too late for her to come back.
One of the more difficult challenges for our Shade is the realization that her idol, the star of previous Shade books, is not quite as perfect as believed. Rac doesn’t live up to the ideal picture she had of him in her head, but turns out to be broken inside. Like all of us. He keeps secrets in his heart and shuts them up tight to fuel his addiction to suffering. Shade has to learn to rely on herself and to let go of anger and self-pity.
Love always disappoints, doesn’t it. When the blush rubs off.
Shade is a powerful story, and it’s also a guidebook for those who can see it, written plainly on the page. If we’re all feeling these emotions, we can help each other to grow strong. We can start again. We can ask for help and let go of inaccurate, unhelpful memories. Embracing the darkness will hurt, yes. But this final issue reminds us that forgiveness is the only way to reconnect with our innate spark of life. And thus to save the world.
Shade is a book about emotions. About knowing your true self. It’s an exploration of the messier things hidden in our hearts. Despair, rage, love. The book can get dark at times, but it’s a dark you can recognize and understand. Shade is also full of hope and simple pleasures and happy endings.
Nothing ever ends.
I imagine some people will pick up this book and not know quite what to make of it. My advice: Put it on the bookshelf and ignore it for a while. When the time comes, you’ll read it again and it will change you.
Justice League #5
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Somebody must have watched the same Saturday morning cartoons as I did growing up, because the Justice League is fighting against the Legion of Doom and it makes me feel all warm inside. They’ve even got their black domed skull of a headquarters rising out of the swamp (well, molten lava in this case) and a board room where they can sit and be outrageously evil in an orderly fashion. I never could understand how Luthor could possibly get Sinestro, Cheetah, and the Joker to sit quietly at a table together. But I love it.
That same somebody must have read Grant Morrison’s and Howard Porter’s JLA book from twenty years ago, because there are parallels between these two series that are hard to miss. The Rock of Ages storyline in particular saw Lex Luthor holding a cosmic thingamajig and assembling an Injustice Gang that consisted of Joker and some other entrepreneuring baddies. And like JLA, this book has reassembled the “Big Seven” (plus Hawkgirl and Cyborg) after years of less exciting rosters. And I also love it.
But this ain’t your father’s Justice League. Aquaman’s got both his hands and Superman isn’t made of electricity. This time around, the heroes inhabit the Hall of Justice and meet in a psychic boardroom created via telepathic link. The team jokes around a little more and Martian Manhunter is calling the shots, as he should be.
The story has been anything but slow. The obligatory cosmic threat hurtled towards Earth, sending reverberations through space and time. Vandal Savage had a plan to stop it, but the Justice League thwarted his evil plan to save us all (yay?) and managed to blow up the moon in the process. So the mysterious space thing landed on Earth and set up camp. Seeing that anyone who got near it was ravaged by spontaneous cellular mutations, the League decided to send in its two toughest members, Superman and Martian Manhunter, basically because they could last the longest before dying. To help them out, two other members were shrunk down into tiny jets and injected into their bloodstreams to zap any mutated cells as they popped up. Foolproof.
Except it all went wrong. Superman and Martian Manhunter are being mind controlled, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are beating the tar out of each other, Hawkgirl is locked in a small space with the Joker and a chainsaw. Oh, and Sinestro has discovered a terrible new type of Lantern ring that has turned every living being in the galaxy into an instinctual killing machine. Probably should also mention that Luthor has just laid his hands on the Worlogog…I mean the “Totality” which gives him power over the fabric of the entire multiverse itself. This was all before issue five.
This week’s Justice League #5 is something of a calm before the storm, as Scott Snyder is spelled for an issue by James Tynion (writer of sister book Justice League Dark). The entire story takes place in mere moments, as Lex Luthor is about to seize the power of his dreams. As he reaches out, he remembers what brought him to this point, in the form of Doug Mahnke drawn flashback scenes.
After the events of the No Justice miniseries convinced Lex that his brief sojourn as a hero had gotten him nowhere, he goes back to home base — full-on mad scientist. He explores time and space and finds that there is power right under his nose if he is bold enough to grab it. He envisions forming the Legion of Doom and the unlocking of the seven hidden energies of the universe. All he has to do is throw away civility, abandon the quest to be better. Luthor knows that we could all be gods if we dared, which he does, but to wield the power he’ll need some help.
If you’re wondering why powerhouses like Sinestro and Grodd would agree to hang out in a clubhouse together on Saturday mornings, this issue (along with another that Tynion is writing in September) shows how Luthor convinced the League’s worst enemies to give up any thoughts of helping the broken universe and instead join his Legion. His pitch boils down to this: Why should any of us pretend to be better than our animalistic impulses? Why feel guilty about who we are? Fuck Justice. Side with Doom.
- Adventures of the Super Sons #1 is a welcomed addition to the line. I much prefer this version of Damian Wayne to the one we got in the Teen Titans Special a few weeks back. I like my Robin silly, not murderous. DC television execs take note.
- Green Lanterns #50-52 are straining my tolerance for secret-bad-guy-in-the-shadows scenes. If Jurgens hadn’t written Zero Hour, I’d be concerned that he doesn’t know how it’s supposed to work. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the September solicitations spoiled this reveal already. My original guess was Entropy, for what it’s worth.
- Bruce Wayne is the ultimate dick juror in Batman #52. On shelves now!
- Priest is still writing Deathstroke? Holy hell.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!