by Johnnie Christmas, Ed Brisson & Shari Chankhamma
The best cult leaders put their followers in a position where leaving the group is simply not an option, and that is not simply because of a threat against them for leaving. As the story has progressed so far in Sheltered, Ed Brisson has refrained from tipping readers off on what is fact or fiction in this survivalist town. While it seems quite clear that Lucas has sold everyone on a lie, there is nothing definitive just yet. That opacity, amongst a few other pieces, keep the group and the audience from picking a side. In issue eight, that plays out as the story slows a bit.
The overall momentum of the series hit a high when a group of outsiders, led by a man named Cliff, came upon Safe Haven to make a delivery. Shots rang out as the men posed a threat to the society, and the children acted violently to protect their growing number of secrets. Meanwhile, factions have split off and there is a growing opposition. In issue #8, Victoria pulls Lucas out into the center of the bunker and calls him out for his actions in an attempt to wake everyone up and free them of their delusion. The scene takes up a larger section of the chapter, though it is offset with another storyline. However, the tension is thick throughout. What is fascinating is that this group has acted heinously simply by one person’s say so and based on no hard evidence. With that in mind, even with Lucas held at gun point, there is no telling what any of his followers may do when Victoria emerges in the center of Safe Haven.
Another great aspect of this issue of is the problem that has existed since the first issue, but is illuminated most clearly here. As the story progresses further and readers feel the sense of the ticking time bomb of this group as to when they will turn on each other or the prophecy comes true, there comes the reality of what happens if they decide that the threat of the apocalypse and what Lucas has led them to believe is untrue. If this is the direction that any members choose, how will they explain their actions? For most of them there is simply no turning back. For these kids, they may almost be desperate for the apocalypse because the fallout of it not coming may be harder to face. That corner that Brisson has painted his cast into is quite impressive.
Johnnie Christmas and Shari Chankhamma continue to propel the book forward and capture the visual tone necessary to communicate the scripts that Brisson has created. There are some great, quiet moments in this issue that help magnify the tension. As the story for this issue comes to its gut-wrenching conclusion that is intentionally telegraphed all issue, the art almost glorifies the promise of what the scene should signify, leaving the reader to grapple with the knowledge of what lies ahead.
Sheltered #8 is mostly a between-peaks issue. Tension lingers and readers are left to wait until next month to see where the events of this issue will bring the cast. Nonetheless, chapter eight of Sheltered is as well written and drawn as the rest.