Shade, The Changing Man Vol 1: The American Scream

23 Jul

Writer: Peter Milligan /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Artist: Chris Bachalo

Collects: Shade, the Changing Man issues 1-6

Review by Aalok Joshi

Welcome back to another edition of Deciphering DC. Right now, we’re moving out to the fringes of the DC Universe. In the late 80s/early 90s, there were a lot of experimental titles, most of them treading new genres (remember, Vertigo as an imprint wasn’t around back then) like The Question, Suicide Squad, The Spectre, Green Arrow, Skreemer, Time Masters, Doc Savage, Sandman, Hellblazer, The Books of Magic among others.

Shade, as such wasn’t a new title – neither was Sandman. But like Neil Gaiman, up & coming writer Peter Milligan chucked the original character created by Steve Ditko out of the window, and created something…..else. He did keep the original character history in an……innovative way, but all of what he created didn’t depend on that in any way. However, Shade, while a very critically acclaimed title never got the sales it deserved, and fell below the radar for most of it’s run (70 issues, not very less than Sandman which was 75 issues plus Specials. This run, never before collected in paperback beyond the 1st six issues, suddenly becomes significant, as we see Shade appear in recent issues of Hellblazer, and is currently appearing in Secret Seven, slated to appear in Justice League Dark, all written by Peter Milligan.

The story opens with a mentally “disturbed” girl, Kathy entertaining thoughts of killing the man in her hotel room, but not without having a drink first. The man in her room appears to be her parents’, as well as her husband’s murderer. Troy Grenzer is as sick as they come. Brilliantly epitomised by the line “I’m not mad. I get mad, but I’m not mad.” This guy is a perpetually talking nutcase who is actually looking forward to the electric chair. Waiting outside the penitentiary, where he was supposed to be executed Kathy starts seeing weird things, like a walking electric chair with the hood actually smiling at her.


Meanwhile, through a disturbance in the fabric of reality, an entity possesses Troy’s body, making it levitate and find it’s way out to Kathy’s car, whereupon it urges her to drive away. Kathy wants her revenge on Troy, and so plays along. The entity claims to have possessed Grenzer’s body through the electric current, and is from the planet Meta, having come here through the power of something called the M-vest or Madness vest, or so he claims. The real Troy is gone…well, almost.


/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} Shade claims he’s here to stop the madness from taking over the earth, which is spreading from the Zone of Madness, between Earth & Meta. After reconciliation with Kathy, wherein she kills the personification of Troy Grenzer, Shade and Kathy set out to stop the madness, wherever possible. Meanwhile, the madness is slowly making itself known, through the possession of affected individuals.

Further, Shade elaborates of his life on the planet Meta, establishing himself as a hopeless romantic, and we see as Shade is trained in astral projection to go to Earth to combat the madness by Wizor & the Changemasters (it’ll all make sense when you read it) who have devised how to keep an agent indefinitely (earlier they could do it only for 3 hours) on Earth.

The entity of the Zone of Madness, the American Scream, is the personification of the madness who claims that Wizor has betrayed Shade, his original body is dead in the zone of madness and there’s no way back to Meta. Slowly but surely, Shade settles himself to life on earth.

On the way, Shade and Kathy encounter the Kennedy Sphinx who threatens to eat all of America until it’s question, “Who killed J.F.K.?” is answered and a movie camera, which is possessed by the Madness. These stories are too weird and trippy to elaborate further. Suffice to say, they read very well on multiple readings.


Peter Milligan writes weird, maybe on the same level of Grant Morrison, but with Milligan I feel that it’s just not ‘weird for the sake of weird’ which unfortunately Grant falls prey to sometimes. Milligan is weaving a wonderful story around, which does make sense, and it’s all before the collected editions era,so it doesn’t read like it’s written for the trade, rather reads like single issues. Chris Bachalo’s artwork is wonderful, and though it isn’t his signature style (yet) Bachalo is well suited to drawing a lot of detail, as well as experimenting with different styles. The covers by Brendan McCarthy are just too good for words, which is why I include all the six covers (TPB cover is the original cover to issue 5), also the original cover to the 1st collection in this article. It’s printed on non glossy paper, which I just love and adore.

My Rating: 8.5 on 10. It’s a good story….too good, but it’s getting there. I feel the best is yet to come.

Full covers, 17.99 US$

Next Week:

SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN VOL 2: EDGE OF VISION

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One Response to “Shade, The Changing Man Vol 1: The American Scream”

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