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Shade, The Changing Man, Vol 3: Scream Time

19 Aug

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Artists: Chris Bachalo, Bryan Talbot, Mark Pennington

Collects: Shade, The Changing Man issues 14 -19

Published under VERTIGO

And now, we come to the third and final (at least till date) volume of Peter Milligan’s Shade, The Changing Man. The inevitable confrontation between Shade and The American Scream does occur here, and we learn a few secrets about Shade, Kathy, Wizor, the American Scream, the zone of madness and the Madness Vest.

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Shade the Changing Man Vol 2: Edge of Vision

13 Aug

Writer: Peter Milligan

Artist: Chris Bachalo

Collects: Shade, the Changing Man issues 7-13

Published under Vertigo

Welcome back to another long overdue edition of Deciphering DC. Continuing with the original series on Shade, The Changing Man, (read the review of Vol 1 here) who currently appears in Flashpoint: Secret Seven and is slated to appear in one of the DcnU 52 titles, Justice League Dark.

Shade and Kathy continue their road trip through America in their quest to circumvent the madness stream and the American Scream. The issues here start having more of a surrealistic flavour than the preceding ones.



The first issue focuses on a very realist, down to earth topic – garbage. Probably the best issue of this series (yet) this one features a man in search for the identity of a homeless derelict he buried some time ago. In large cities, garbage abounds, but not all of us can see the small places it escapes to. When the madness stumbles onto a man who buried a man whose name he did not know, chaos results. All the garbage of the city comes out, and the writer succeeds in inducing a very claustrophobic feeling.

Next comes a two parter inspired by the hippie era of ‘totally rad’ communes. The madness stumbles upon a man whose goal is to unite the country with love. Of note is the absurd number of communes and their nature – a few I can remember fondly are the Pink Heaven commune, the soppy sleepyheads commune and the crack in the bathroom ceiling commune. Of note is a long running character, Lenny, who is introduced here. She’s a devil may care person who Kathy runs into, and travels with Shade and Kathy here onwards. While over the top and absurd, it all feels good.

The Madness stream takes our heroes to a town out of Norman Rockwell where to be different is analogous to being taken over by aliens. If a person takes coffee without milk, or writes with his left hand, he is taken to a ‘correction’ machine. With the flavour of a sci fi flick, this one works well as a one and done short.



Up next is the three part ‘Edge of Vision’ where Shade becomes involved in a murder mystery, with Stringer, who has been following them from the beginning. The identity of the murderer must remain a mystery, and he’s definitely someone who we have seen before. We also get a view of Shade’s scattered (shattered?) psyche, and all multiple personalities are out for everyone to see. Plus, Kathy makes love to Shade, but it’s not the Shade she (or we?) know.

Peter is traversing really weird territory here, and writes a very different comic. Chris Bachalo is doing some wonderful work here, especially on the Commune issues here.

Rating: 9.5 on 10. Peter Milligan’s knocking ‘em out of the stadium here. I feel this is Chris Bachalo’s career best work

Full covers, 19.99 US$

Next Week:

SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN VOL 3: SCREAM TIME

Shade, The Changing Man Vol 1: The American Scream

23 Jul

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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.


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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

Animal Man Vol 3: Deus Ex Machina

2 Jul

Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencillers: Chas Truog and Paris Cullins
Collects: Animal Man issues 18-26
Published under Vertigo

Review by Aalok Joshi

As promised, this is the review of the last of the three collections of Animal Man by Grant Morrison (you can catch previous reviews here and here) which is quite superior to the previous two volumes, in that much it presents a series of events without missing a beat. Most earlier stories seemed like collections of single issues (which worked pretty nicely, in fact) but here it’s nice to see Grant tackle a serial storyline, well until the last issue at least, but here we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

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Animal Man: Origin of the Species

25 Jun

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Chas Truog, Tom Grummett

Published under VERTIGO

Collects: ANIMAL MAN issues 10-17, origin story from SECRET ORIGINS

(SPOILERS continue, though no interior pages this time around! )

And I continue into Vol 2 of the unbridled harrowing rollercoaster ride that is Animal Man. I think the only problem I’m going to have in this series is I’m going to hate to see it end. But end it must, eventually.

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Animal Man by Grant Morrison

18 Jun

ANIMAL MAN

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Chas Truog

Published under VERTIGO

Collects: ANIMAL MAN issues 1-9

Reviewed by Aalok Joshi

Colossally MAJOR SPOILERS ahead…if you have decided to go and buy this book and read it, STOP RIGHT HERE! If not, well, this post gives you umpteen reasons to, including select samplings.

With the slowly and steadily growing mess that is my life pushing my insides out, I find far and few books that are as satisfying a read; driving me towards the fringes, far from the relative comfort zones of the standard Superman , Batman or Flash story and into the morass where the more seedy characters lurk…not all of them are seedy, just…odd. Places inhabited by THE QUESTION , GREEN ARROW, SWAMP THING & ANIMAL MAN.

In particular, when I was reading Batman under his current scribe Grant Morrison (I know that other people do write Batman currently, but the one Grant is writing, whichever it is becomes THE Batman book, just like there are starters, appetizers, desserts but there is always THE main course) I figured that Morrison has always brought some sort of interconnection between his titles, so his titles, whatever they are would always benefit from an individual comprehensive read, and later point out to where they fit into his whole picture. His first work for DC Comics was a portrayal of a lesser known character ANIMAL MAN.

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It’s a Bird…

28 May



Today, we take a break from the ‘chronological’ DCU & delve into a daringly different iconic treatment of Superman.
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IT’S A BIRD…

Writer: Steven T. Seagle

Artist: Teddy Kristiansen

Sat down to arranging my trades & singles of…..um, the “World’s Greatest Superhero” in proper order…….and came a lot of different iconic interpretations of the World’s first superhero….THE KENTS, a western history of the ancestors of the Kent family by John Ostrander, Timothy Truman & Tom Mandrake, SECRET IDENTITY, the story of a young man from the normal world who just happens to be named Clark Kent by Kurt Busiek & Stuart Immonen, BIRTHRIGHT, a re-interpretation of the origin of Superman by Mark Waid & Leinil Francis Yu, and this little ditty called IT’S A BIRD by Steven T. Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen.

Jokes apart, when he was created, way back in 1938, by two Jewish Immigrants, he wasn’t the all powerful, oh so tough character he is built up to be nowadays. He couldn’t fly, just leap really high. He couldn’t fly faster than light, sound or time (Note: Even today, what Superman’s powers are is really open to interpretation by the writer of the current story)

But what makes him tick? How can a man be so goody good all the time? These aren’t just questions in the mind of the popular public, but also in one of the writers of the title, Steven T. Seagle (Not to be confused with the movie star)

When departing writer Joe Allen (meant to be “Joe Kelly”, one of the stalwarts who brought about the new look of Superman) gives Steven T. Seagle the opportunity of writing the Man Of Steel in one of his flaship titles. Unforeseen by any of us, Steven refuses as he cannot identify with the character. This is where the story actually begins.

What follows is a romp through the life of writer Steven as he reminisces what makes him have unpleasant memories of the ‘S’ on Superman’s shirt, struggles relationships with his girlfriend, brother and father, and thinks about what would actually make Superman a hero. At one point in time, he even belts the erstwhile writer of Superman over a disagreement. How he eventually comes to terms with his life and Superman is what forms the crux of this story.

The specific things that I liked here are Steven Seagle’s memoirs…..he seems to be so honest, so unashamed, it actually hurts. Steven’s father has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (also called Huntington’s chorea or St. Vitus’ dance) and the chances of it being passed down to him and even further make him wrestle with his life. Being from the medical profession myself, I appreciate how easily the writer explains the disease so that the readers are not left bewildered. The art is wonderfully simplistic. Teddy makes the use of simple images to convey the bleak aspects therein. The charm here lies in knowing where to stop….the minimalist pallette employed actually suits the story. Just check out this image as a quick sample.

Writer Steven shows considerable depth here, in contrast to his actual Superman run with artist Scott McDaniel. Steven wrote this book based on how he felt when actually offered the title. Also, most of Steven’s other work is pretty funny, like AMERICAN VIRGIN; in contrast this book has pretty serious overtones.

On top of everything, this is a VERTIGO book. I love the fact that only the idea of Superman is the topic of a mature readers imprint. Just shows how deep you can go with comics, generally called “kiddie books”. If that’s what you can do with Superman, think of how lengthy volumes written simply on the ideas behind THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK & UNCANNY X-MEN can be.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 10 out of 10 points

Published as a graphic novel, 17.95 US$