Saturday, 14 March 2015

Sheltered, Volume 3 Review (Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas)

Sheltered is about a group of survivalist nutters whose even nuttier children decide to murder them. This is what the kids did next! 

Try as they might, the troubled, paranoid kids of Safe Haven are unable to keep the outside world away from their increasingly anarchic enclave. In this final volume, the police discover what’s been happening in the remote compound and soon the FBI descend for a Waco-like standoff. 

One of the aspects I liked so much about the second volume was the potential direction the story could’ve gone. It was about a few non-crazy kids trying to make it out alive while the brainwashed maniacs with guns set out to hunt them down. The possibility (and certainty as it turns out) was always for a recreation of Waco but I was hoping Ed Brisson would take it in a less obvious direction. 

Unfortunately, obviousness prevails and we get an armed standoff, just like every other cult cornered by the government. The story plays out in the most predictable way once the police are made aware of the murders. Negotiators show up, more shooting, more armed police, more shooting, splosions, people die, the end. It’s not badly written, just weakly plotted. There are no surprises in the script and therefore no tension either which is unfortunate for the finale. 

About halfway through the book, as yet another scene that’s been done a hundred times before played out, I began thinking about how I’d want it to end. Once Brisson went down this road, the standoff between the US government and teenagers with assault rifles was the only one way this could end, but beyond that, how to go out with something more? I instantly knew how I wanted it to end but I didn’t think Brisson would do it – but, right there in the final panel, he did! Kudos, guys! (The clue is in the series subtitle)

I like the limited series format and, while Sheltered isn’t an amazing book, I think it’s benefitted from the compactness of a 3 volume/15 issue run. It kept things fast-moving and exciting unlike a title like, say, Sweet Tooth, which went on about two volumes too many. Long form indie comics don’t need to be 10 volumes like Scalped, Transmetropolitan or Y: The Last Man, or even 7-9 volumes like The Invisibles or Preacher, and I’m glad to see the limited series format getting a new lease on life over at Image (the brilliant Alex + Ada is another three volume series). 

Sheltered disappointingly bows out in an acceptable but lacklustre way with an unimaginative third act – even that final page, as crazy as I thought it’d be, was predictable. It’s not a bad series to check out though keep your expectations low going in.

Sheltered, Volume 3

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