Art by Becky Cloonan/DC Comics/Young Animal

By Arpad Okay. A poet. Bored. Her ambition: to break a few rules, get a new start. Who doesn’t dream of this?

Also, she’s a bird. Armed with a magic jacket. The spirit of one creature telegraphed across the universe into the vessel of a teen. This isn’t a carefree, Freaky Friday transformation — it’s something much messier. Using the infamous coat has warped reality so much that even the reader can’t really trust what they see. Not a carefree condition, the host our bird finds herself suddenly occupying turns out to be a horrible person. A bully. A sadist. The most feared monster in her zip code.

The story Cecil Castellucci tells here is that the unintended consequences of our actions are still our responsibility. Shade jumping worlds and stealing bodies has created problems beyond her ability to handle. She has help from friends and family in ways that she might not notice, but at the same time she has no one to turn to regarding the things that haunt her most. She got what she always wanted, and it turned out to be terrifying.

It says Mature Readers on the cover, but I think Shade, The Changing Girl might secretly be a YA title.

And just when I’m getting a grip on things, Shade makes me lose it. She finds a path from madness to empathy by listening to Pixies records and watching old movies. The iconic circle target of the series becomes a series of vinyl LPs, floating up off the top of the turntable. The whole book is like that, albums that fly away when you listen to them, crawling into the television and embracing the characters you love. Relatably surreal.

Marley Zarcone’s artwork synthesizes the world of a bird in a trenchcoat with swim team drama… and all the psychedelia that comes with it. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop meets The Virgin Suicides. Visions sewn up by Kelly Fitzpatrick’s continuous, creative coloring choices and background patterns. Everything in Shade comes together, just so.

So if you have been following this book, this issue should cinch things for you. If you haven’t, and you’re curious about how deep the stories told at Young Animal are willing to plunge, take the dive with Shade, The Changing Girl #4.

DC’s Young Animal/$3.99

Written by Cecil Castellucci.

Illustrated by Marley Zarcone.

Inks by Marley Zarcone and Ande Parks.

Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Letters by Saida Temofonte.

Edited by Jamie S. Rich and Molly Mahan.

8 out of 10