Sheltered is the second Image book from Ed Brisson, following his collaboration with Michael Walsh (art) and Jordie Bellaire (colours) on the excellent series Comeback, a series that demonstrated the Canadian writer’s skill at crafting comics via a tight and suspenseful tale of time travel and complex betrayal. In his new book, Brisson is joined by artist Johnnie Christmas, colourist Shari Chankhamma and fellow writer Ryan K Lindsay in tackling a story set within the tight confines of a paranoid and isolated ‘prepper’ community, where several families are getting ready for a doomsday scenario of unknown origin which might be on the immediate horizon.
The nature of an apocalypse-afflicted world has provided fertile ground for comic storytelling in many different incarnations, however by inverting the frequently seen ‘post-’ scenario and showing a world yet to fall, the same sense of solitude and escalating fear is retained but gives Sheltered the space to focus more on the mental rather than physical landscape its characters occupy to great effect.
Early teasing of barely contained rifts simmering amongst the inhabitants of Safe Haven suggests Sheltered aims to draw the reader along paths already well-trodden elsewhere, but here there exist no zombies hammering at the door or deadly virus ravaging those outside the central characters to force them into either cooperation or division. Instead they are simply alone with one another, their resources and thoughts.
Christmas’ art makes great play of the contrasts between the physical distance of the outside world and the claustrophobic community and the subsequently awkward nature of the interactions of the inhabitants. The movement between these states is deft, and the often sharp cuts give a distinct visual identity. The colour choices of Chankhamma are excellent; dull hues expose the ‘bulk-buy’ similarity of the equipment and dress of Safe Haven’s inhabitants, and provide its practical and no-nonsense design an extra layer of believability. This also gives room for expression, when in the more frantic moments the line work and colours combine in bursts of unexpected vivacity which feel appropriately out-of-kilter with the sedate setting.
Ultimately, the story hinges on an irony present at the very heart of the community, and Brisson expertly arranges the dramatic beats of the book in support of what is an unexpected yet coldly logical reveal. Though there are several shifts of both perspective and pace, none of these feel awkward, and it is of great credit that in the space of one issue the creative team manages to both introduce a world so tangible and also shake it up so hard.
Special mention should also be made of the back matter supplied by Lindsey, providing as it does information in the form of a ‘preppers’ newsletter, that both clarifies and expands on the more obscure aspects of the culture seen in Safe Haven. It will be interesting to see the progression of this fascinating additional content as the series continues.
All told Sheltered has all the hallmarks of being another hit book for Image Comics, and with its unique and intriguing premise and already gripping story, it looks a book well equipped to make an immediate and lasting impact on pull lists.
Sheltered issue 1 is now available from Image Comics