Shade must convince someone of his true identity before people from his home dimension can unleash madness across America. But the only one he's convinced so far is the daughter of a serial killer's victim--the same condemned killer he now inhabits.
In this premiere issue of Peter Milligan's revamping of Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man begins with an introduction to various members of the main cast and the stage is set for the rest of the series. First we meet Kathy George, and learn that she sees hallucinations and spent sometime in an asylum after an event three years past. Her life went downhill after going home (to the South) with her African American boyfriend, Roger, only to walk in on Troy Grenzer mutilating her parent's murdered bodies. This was a shock all its own but it didn't help matters that when Roger and Grenzer were fighting on the front yard the cops shot Roger.
So for three years, every night since, Kathy has been haunted by Grenzer in her dreams and when it finally came time for his execution, she decided the best day to get closure would be to travel to the penitentiary where he was imprisoned and stand outside it while he got the electric chair treatment, so that's what she did. Only things went horribly wrong, Shade crossed over from Meta through the Madness, taking over Troy's body since he was already going to die anyways.
So Kathy finds herself in a crazy situation when the man responsible for the deaths of all her loved ones gets in her car and tells her to drive. She drives, he claims to be Shade and tries to explain what happened and she's so shocked she simply doesn't argue. They pull into a hotel and there Shade rests and tries to become accustomed to his new powers that stem from the M-Vest while Kathy prepares herself to silence this bogeyman once and for all.
The story is interrupted at this point when we go to the Farmhouse Mental Hospital and find a student recording a tape that he hopes is found before its too late. He speaks of a scream that started in the hospital, getting louder and louder, and now reaching critical mass. It's America's scream, the American Scream, it comes from the Madness and is now out to see free the madness inside everyone. While he says this, his legs have become worms, his torso flowers and then his head that of a bird until finally the entire mental hospital explodes in a nuclear blast.
Meanwhile, back at the penitentiary, Mr. Stringer and Mr. Conner go through the unbelievable events that were have said to have happened at Troy Grenzer's execution and try to figure things out. They also come across the dead body of an individual hit by a car who dissolves at being touched (Shade explained earlier to Kathy when she hit him that he was simply an unintentional rearranging of atoms by the M-Vest).
Finally, at the hotel, Kathy prepares to kill Troy (Shade) with a knife but he remains adamant that he is not Troy. Suddenly hallucinations come to Kathy and she sees her parents, and Roger, and then Troy, he kills them again and he comes for her. It's the Madness. Using the knife she kills the Shade that came alive from her thoughts and Shade begins to levitate with his surge of power. After that turmoil is over and things get settled down, he and Kathy agree to stick together when cops come on the scene, but Shade easily dispatches them with their fears come to life. So, he and Kathy make their escape, him sleeping in the back of the car with her driving into a horizon that looks all wrong. The madhouse.