By Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas, and Shari Chankhamma
Nothing is more delightful than a series that just gets better with every issue. Sheltered is one of those series, coming seemingly out of nowhere from fairly unfamiliar creators and really making an impact. Every issue peels away another layer much like an onion to just reveal another layer the deeper you go.
Using the familiar theme of human survival by adding a Lord Of The Flies twist helps elevate this story over others. The plot itself seems quite simple so far but it is the characters that make Sheltered very compelling. Lucas is the stand out character and depending how you look at him he is either a hero or a villain. The story seems to lean towards him being the villain who has somehow taken the leadership role of this small commune of teens. His ability to persuade all of the kids to kill their parents over a hunch really gives you that young Hitler vibe, using words and power to persuade the weak. He always plays cool but has these dramatic moments where he snaps and releases his rage and reveals his true personality. This side of Lucas is obviously the reason why the others listen to his orders, because they’re scared. However, Victoria on the other hand, would be the Yin to Lucas’s Yang. New to this group, she is strong-willed and surprisingly is the only person who challenges Lucas’ decision of mass homicide, standing against his lead.
The conflict between these two seems to be a big driving force behind the story, coming to a head this issue when Victoria pistol-whips Lucas right in his stupid face before running off into the woods. That is one hell of a way to end an argument, she made sure Lucas got the point. Another standout moment is how Brisson takes background characters from earlier issues and slowly folds them into the main story. The baby-steps he takes fleshing each teen out never gives you that moment where you forget exactly who is who.
You can’t talk about well fleshed out characters without mentioning Christmas’ designs, which makes each memorable. The art is simple but still engaging, it’s exactly what this story needs to help it flow without being distracting. Another thing that stands out is how the panels are arranged in unique ways without making pages feel cluttered or losing track of where to read. Honestly, this series would be remarkable if it was just black and white, like The Walking Dead, but the coloring from Chankhamma escalates the art to another level. The coloring is so subtle at times and it fits the mood, then suddenly you get these flashes of bright colors with fire or blood that really pop. A specific scenario this issue when an older boy tries to enforce rules on a pair of younger kids and a fight ensues and the bright orange background really heightens the rage and frustration of the scene.
Sheltered has really had a remarkable start and the cliffhanger this issue ends which assures us next issue things will get interesting. Christmas and Chankahamma make a great artistic duo and when you throw in an engaging story with well developed characters from Brisson and you really have an engaging series. As the old saying goes, “the plot thickens,” and who doesn’t like a thick plot?