Sheltered is one of those rare comics where going into the book, there was no prior knowledge of it, the creators or the concept. Comprising five issues, it was a blind buy for $9.99 and in the end worth every penny. Dubbed A Pre-apocalyptic Tale, it takes a look at events in a small community leading up to a possible catastrophe. The key word of course is possible. The book also does not hold back any punches as it examines the extremes that could happen and sometimes do happen within compounds like the one in this tale.
During this story, Lucas and Joey have become aware of a series of earthquakes that are taking place deep beneath the earth. And not just a few either, but it is enough to get Lucas’ paranoia going and to initiate a plan of action which would see the camp’s population cut in half through a brutal cull. It also demands that Lucas step forward as a leader and to hold onto that power through any means necessary. The only problem being not everyone wants to go along with it. Victoria, who is the main resistance to his plan, and not having got caught up in it initially, may end up being the foil to his plot. He of course, will do whatever it takes to stop her.
Johnnie Christmas and Ed Brisson have come up with a great take on today’s fascination with apocalyptic type stories, in this case, there not even being one. It is more of a character study about group mentality than anything else, much like Under the Dome is. There is no dome present in this story of course, but it does take place in a small community of like-minded individuals called Safe Haven, the irony being it is anything but. In this community, everyone is preparing for the end of the world having bunkers filled with food, medicine and guns among other things. But after Lucas’ plan has been enacted he must now deal with the after-effects such as infighting and the distribution of supplies.
Lucas is very reminiscent of Big Jim, or even David Koresh in a way. He thinks he knows what is best for everyone and thinks he is doing right by them, but deep down he is disturbed more than anyone realizes. He is portrayed so perfectly in the book you can see him falling apart as the story goes on. You can see his insanity grow as his paranoia builds with each passing incident. In contrast, Victoria who is the main female lead and Lucas’ opposite in almost every way holds it together and only gets stronger and more resilient as time goes by. Seeing them play out against the other during the series is almost more interesting than the story going on around them.
And around them, the rest of the camp is starting to act out in different ways. Some are resorting to violence while others are starting to waver in their allegiance to Lucas. The strong are starting to separate themselves from the meek and take definite sides. Some know that what they have done is wrong and others simply do not care. Having this mob mentality also proffer itself so well in the book only lends credence to the fantastic storytelling ability of the creators. They take different facets of human character and blend them up to make it feel almost claustrophobic at times, like there is no escape except through death and the result is a truly wonderful story.
For a book that had very little fanfare around it and very little advertising to speak of, it turned out to be a revelation. Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas have come up with a tale that not only mirrors a part of civilization today, but have done so in a truly convincing, fictional world. The pace is rapid-fire and takes little time to read, but it is a book that you cannot put down, even when you come to the end, you just do not want the journey to stop. A true mark of great storytelling if ever there was one and one that introduces a fantastic new creative team. Volume two cannot come fast enough.
5 out of 5