01/10/2010. Contributed by Ewan Angus
Shade The Changing Man: The American Scream book 1 by Peter Milligan, Chris Bachalo and Mark Pennington. pub: Titan Books/Vertigo. 216 page hardback graphic novel. Price: GBP13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84856-500-5.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.com and www.dccomics.com
What I don’t understand is how Peter Milligan can create this book, ‘Shade The Changing Man: The American Scream’, and then be responsible for ‘Greek Street. It makes no sense.
Where ‘Greek Street’ is all shock and sex, this is shock and sex but artfully done. This book actually has a coherent storyline, a great set of characters and art that isn’t nauseating.
Well, that last part isn’t exactly true. It is nauseating. The whole get up is nauseating. But in the best way possible. Unlike ‘Greek Street’ which unfortunately didn’t work.
‘Shade, The Changing Man’, is a tale of Shade, a young humanoid from the planet of Meta, that exists in another plane of existence, an alternate reality if you will. To get there you have to pass through the Madness.
It is also the tale of Kathy. After witnessing the brutal, twisted murder of her parents by Troy Genzer and the misunderstood murder of her black boyfriend, it seems that she’s had a break from reality or has she? She, in no finer terms, has gone nuts. But that’s alright because Shade is an expert on madness.
The madness itself is starting to warp reality, to get into the American subconscious and damage it, slowly driving the American people insane and taking the form of the American Scream. Get it? It’s a witty version of the American Dream. Its Uncle Sam made Demonic. Well I liked the idea.
Anyway, as this is happening, the killer of Kathy’s family is due to be executed by the electric chair. On the verge of death, Shade, on the way from Meta to Earth, hi-jacks Genzer’s body and makes a break for it. He then meets Kathy, who through much angst and horror, teams up with the body of her parents’ murderer and tries to help him deal with the impending madness.
The book itself is very trippy. It’s all swirls and bright colours. Bachalo’s art is pretty awesome throughout. The two-dimensional version of Shade is a convincing image and the American Scream is depicted in a fun and terrifying way.
Throughout the first six issues, the plot delves deep into the idea of America with its perfect yet ultimately flawed and twisted lifestyles. The weird and insane use of the assassination of JFK is a haunting yet poignant piece of storytelling in a world not yet scarred by the 9/11 bombings. It’s satirical, very clever and also a visual joy to behold.
Honestly, it’s a good thing this has been re-issued as it’s a book that should be read, it’s a great look at how mental American society can be and how it’s not the wonderland that other outlets insist it is.
Shade himself has also recently popped up in the ‘Hellblazer’ series as Milligan is the writer, so it’s fair to say this is the American version of the wandering hero, Constantine. Not quite the same, but with many of the great ideas that make ‘Hellblazer’ this is for those of you who are into it.
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