by Johnnie Christmas, Ed Brisson and Shari Chankhamma
One of the most engaging and fascinating aspects of a story is when the author is able to present a scenario that has the audience attempted to interact with or inhibit the actions of characters. In tragedies, this is best accomplished when readers know of the fate awaiting the characters in the story. No matter how much a person dreads what they see coming, there is nothing they can do to keep that tragedy from occurring. Whether a reader wants to turn a page or not, the character’s fate remains the same. Johnnie Christmas and Ed Brisson have created such a scenario, and as the events of this issue unfold, readers will find themselves fearful of the bleak, but unavoidable, road ahead.
After the events of issue twelve, Sheltered finally reached the point where the world began to catch on to what has been transpiring in Safe Haven. Justin is dead, and the cops know. Victoria and Tab are nearing the town, and the ticking clock until people show up looking for answers at Lucas’s door is closing in on zero. Before Violet and Tab can reach the police, two officers head for Safe Haven looking for answers. It is on this drive that Christmas and Brisson clue readers in to the compound that has been the main setting for the story and how it came to be. One of the most fascinating aspects to this story so far has been the inability to truly know if, in this fictitious world, is a threat actually imminent. The creators have done a great job at never showing their hand. No matter how awful Lucas has been and how terrible the actions are that the teens and kids of Safe Haven have carried out, it is possible that Lucas and the leaders before him were right.
On this car ride, readers learn that the compound was developed over a decade ago, and when nothing came of the initial threat, those in charge looked to the next reason to need to stay there. After not being sure of what to think for so long, this brief conversation sheds a light on the reality of Safe Haven, its members and the tragedy that has occurred over the past dozen issues. But as Tab has pointed out, even for those who have recognized the truth of what has been done, it is easier to continue to live in that lie than face the reality of their actions and the consequences of those actions if they were to look for help. The impossible corner that Christmas and Brisson have backed the characters into is truly masterful and it makes the approaching conclusion all the more devastating. No more hiding. No more illusions. At this point, the world is learning what has happened and Lucas presents those that still remain loyal and readers, alike, with the plan he has in place to hold on to their community. These types of false realities are horrifying, and the desperation to maintain it for one’s own sanity rings true to human behavior. Time and again, Brisson and Christmas have showcased their impressive craft in developing this series.
The creators had said that the overall story of Sheltered would last fifteen issues. Considering the positions that the many pieces have moved to on this grand game board, the actions they have previously carried out, and the time remaining, it is no question that the final chapters will play out in true tragedy. These mislead and influential minors are beyond the point of no return. Colorist Shari Chankhamma continues to do an excellent job with the story. Her colors feel a bit bleak, avoiding any sense of over saturation. Instead, the colors of the book match the tone, with much of the panels being filled with white of the snowy setting. Similarly the line work and inks appear thin. The fusion of the pencils, inks and colors depict a world that looks somewhat fragile and slightly unsettled or off-kilter. There is nothing bright or polished about this world, nor should there be.
Sheltered #12 does not feature any massive plot changes or character moments. Even though it features a shift in the story towards its inevitable resolution, the episode feels quieter, preparing for what comes next.