Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sheltered, Volume One

 If someone had told me, back in their infancy, that someday Image Comics would be publishing the most innovative creator-owned comics around, I would have laughed in their face. Hell, if someone back then had handed me a stack of SPAWN, W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S., SHADOWHAWK, WETWORKS, YOUNGBLOOD, etc., and even told me that Image would still be in business in 2014, I would have thought they were nuts. Yet here we are, and here Image is, cranking out new product every month. I can't say that I love all of it, but they're taking chances that no other publisher is at the moment, and you've gotta give them credit for that.

 Their latest oddball title is SHELTERED, which I was led to believe, by the ambiguous blurbs that I had read, was going to be yet another post-apocalyptic Zombie tale concerning entrenched survivalists against the hordes of the hungry undead. Given that the book's sub-title is "A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale", this is clearly not the case.

 What SHELTERED is, however, is a nerve-wracking mix of DOOMSDAY PREPPERS and THE LORD OF THE FLIES. The story opens with a small group of preppers getting their little community in order, but their quiet existence is soon upset by gunshots, and the discovery of a dead body. The group thinks that this is the inevitable "Big Brother" raid, but it's part of a plan hatched by one of the group's teen-aged members, Lucas, that will culminate with the "necessary" eradication of all of the group's adult members....Lucas believes that the volcano beneath Yellowstone is going to erupt soon, which will plunge the United States into a volcanic winter that will make survival near-impossible. The only way to outlast the cataclysm will be to hole up in the bunkers....but there's not enough food to last the three years that they'll be entrenched. So....kill the grown-ups!

 The beauty of SHELTERED, VOLUME ONE is that the reader has no knowledge of anything that is going on in the outside world, or, for that matter, of what is going on in anybody's head. There are no thought balloons, no narrative captions...we have to take each characters actions at face value. Is Lucas crazy? Undoubtedly. His actions show that clearly. But does Lucas believe what he's doing is just, or is he simply a murderous teen-aged Manson-wannabe? I don't know how long creators Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas can sustain a story like this, but what they've presented here was more than enough to make me want to come back for volume two.

SHELTERED, VOLUME ONE contains the first five issues of SHELTERED, complete with covers, and includes a small assortment of extras. As always, Image has the first collected volume priced at an irresistible $9.99, which makes it hard to pass up. This is a strong, well-told story, and at a time where everyone is saying "Enough with the remakes and reboots! Give me something original!", well...here you go. Here's something original and different. Put your money where your mouth is and support it.

 Image Comics provided a review copy.