Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sheltered, Volume 1 Review (Ed Brisson, John Christmas)

Set in the snowy backwoods of rural America, a group of survivalist nuts have been seting up fallout shelters filled with supplies for years in anticipation of the massive volcano in Yellowstone erupting soon and decimating the country. Except their children have other plans and decide to massacre all of the adults! While the kids and their leader, the quietly insane loner Lucas, prepare for the coming apocalypse, two girls, Vic and Hailey, didn’t know about the plan and have hidden away in one of the bunkers - which threat will they survive, their bloodthirsty peers or the volcano?

Sheltered isn’t a bad comic but there’s one major conceit that I couldn’t get past which marred the book for me: why would the kids kill their parents? I realise in the cases of Vic and Hailey that they wouldn’t because they liked their parents, but really, every other kid in Safe Haven would murder their parents because an older kid told them to? Because the older kid believes he has special information on the volcano in Yellowstone and knows more about food rationing than adults? So every kid would think, well, I guess I gotta off mum and dad because this weirdo with no friends and crazy eyes says so?!

Other than that the book is fine. Obviously comparisons to Lord of the Flies are bound to be made as its the kids now running the show and things falls apart as you’d expect, and chaos follows the authority vacuum. The only difference is at the end of the Lord of the Flies, the adults arrive to rescue the kids, and in Sheltered the adults are the first to die.

It’s an especially interesting look at what can largely be called an American story. Fringe groups like paranoid survivalists and cults tend to spring up all over the place in America with guys like David Koresh and Jim Jones being the most famous examples. Lucas very much fits this role of leader of an apocalyptic death cult and the comic is an intriguing look at the group dynamics of how a cult is created and operates through fear and intimidation.

Sheltered is a character-driven piece whose characters are thankfully very compelling. I was rooting for Vic and Hailey, our heroines, to survive and the sequence where Vic busts out of the shelter to look for medical supplies to help Hailey, dodging the guards, was very exciting. It reminded me of the David Fincher movie Panic Room where Jodie Foster runs out of the panic room to grab a phone before the crooks notice she’s out and try to stop her. Lucas is also a good bad guy, creepy and calculating but also vulnerable and ruthless in equal measure. Over the course of the book you see him growing in confidence and becoming crazier so that the series looks to become even more dramatic and exciting over time.

Despite my issues with the setup, Sheltered has an original premise and is well written with a fast-paced, gripping story and a fascinating cast of characters. I didn’t know a thing about the comic and had no expectations but nonetheless found myself caught up in it enough that I’ll be back to check out what happens next in Volume 2.

Sheltered Volume 1

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