Thursday, 26 April 2012

Shade the Changing Man Kills the DC Universe



Spoilers ahoy for Justice League Dark #8. Caution your eyes!

Justice League Dark and I, Vampire completed their crossover event this week, with both final parts of ‘Rise of the Vampires’  shipping simultaneously. It’s rather obvious that this was a story which had very different levels of editor involvement. I, Vampire more or less sidesteps the entire story, throws away the villain very quickly, and doesn’t pay much attention to any of the JLD team. The story is extremely light, with several pages which barely have any text at all. This is all done to showcase the astonishing art of Andrea Sorrentino, which makes it feel less like a cheat.

On the other hand, this is Peter Milligan’s last issue of Justice League Dark, and the strain shows. Now only does Milligan have to change his ‘important final battle’ to arbitrarily be this fight against a few mangy vampires, but Milligan is also asked to wrap up any dangling plot points at the same time as crossover with another title, and share a story with Joshua Fialkov. With Milligan getting shuffled off the book and pushed onto the almost-dead Stormwatch title, and Jeff Lemire coming on, Milligan also has to make sure his story lines up neatly into Lemire’s pitch for the book.

And that means getting rid of Shade, The Changing Man. Probably one of the most promising subplots for Justice League Dark was the re-emergence of Shade as both a threat and a character, with his self-denial and tortured psyche threatening to topple him into a full-on mental breakdown at any moment. Which, Jeff Lemire didn’t want to use Shade, so that has to happen halfway through this issue, very suddenly. It’s a damn shame that the editors pulled this book away from Peter Milligan so very quickly, because he had taken a slow-burning plot and cast of mostly Vertigo characters and turned them into one of the most enjoyable books on the stands. The rush shows in this book – it shows on the first page even, which contains a typo – and leaves Milligan struggling for space. As befits one of the greatest writers of all time, however, he manages to send Shade off in style, with the character having a crisis which causes him to destroy the entire DC Universe.

Only Shade is left, and he wanders around ‘the area of madness’ by himself towards the end of the issue, ultimately joined by his long-dead girlfriend Kathy as they explore eternity together. It’s a fond farewell from Milligan to one of his favourite characters, and a character he’s been writing for several decades now. It’s not stated whether Shade dies or throws himself into his own mind, or a different dimension. It’s simply shown that he’s removed everything else from existence, and has decided to live his own life, with only his conscience for company. It’s a sad finale, but a fitting one.

It really feels like DC have made a massive mistake by pulling Peter Milligan off this book.

2 comments:

Danny Djeljosevic said...

Nice work, Steve! This crossover felt totally crapped out and disjointed (just like the OMAC/Frankenstein crossover), but Fialkov offers one of the best lines I've read lately: "Anyone dressed like a stripper, get behind me."

Felt like Shade was totally underused in this series, but I found it kinda interesting that he and Kathy were rendered to look very attractive, as if Shade had to transform into a superheroic build when he entered the DC Universe to fit in. I feel like the Vertigo Kathy wouldn't be caught dead in that weird cleavage top.

coveredinbees said...

I thought the crossover was fantastic. Seeing the team work together, even poorly, made me feel a lot better about the slow introduction arc. I appreciate the time it took to show everyone's view of things, now, since this was more on the group.

Xanadu stole the show as always. I need to learn more about the Crystal One. After reading his first issue, Idon't have a lot of hope Lemire will continue the book in a way I'll enjoy.

Stormwatch doesn't look like my cup of meat, but I'll give any book by Milligan a shot.