We’ve all traveled the Wastelands of Fallout, or seen the Road Warrior make his journey across the plains in Mad Max. In some shape or form, we’re all familiar with a bleak vision of the post-apocalyptic future that could be in store for humanity. But what about the times before those visions, before the bombs dropped? In Sheltered : A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale, Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas take a look at the society of preppers getting ready to live through the end of days.
Sheltered focuses on the inhabitants of Safe Haven, a small settlement of Doomsday Preppers, people who know the end is coming and want to be ready to survive it, whatever shape it may take. They have bunkers, food supplies to keep them alive in the bunkers and a little bit of everything they need to rebuild once they emerge from their underground shelter. Or so the grown ups would have everyone believe. However, one younger member of the group, Lucas, a boy in his late teens, does a bit of math and the numbers just don’t add up. Lucas knows that there isn’t enough food to keep everyone alive for the three years they’ll need to spend underground once the End Of The World As We Know It. Like any forward thinking, charismatic, young man with an aim of preserving human life would do, he gathers a group of the other children and executes all the parents in the camp. That’s the bleak ending we get with Sheltered #1 and things never get much more cheerful after that.
On the opposite side of Lucas’s ardent belief that The End is coming, we have Victoria, a younger girl who has only just come to join Safe Haven with her father. Hearing what has happened to their parents, and not a believer in any kind of apocalypse, she immediately sees Lucas as a madman. She tries to escape, taking some other girls with her, but ends up trapped by Lucas’s followers, labeled as a traitor for putting the community in danger.
Ed Brisson knows how to write good characters. If there’s one thing that Sheltered does better than most stories it’s making the characters believable. Victoria is easy to sympathize with, being the only person who sees sense and is really willing to fight for a life without Lucas as judge and jury of every action. What truly makes Brisson a master of the craft, is how much effort is put into every other character. Mitch, one of Lucas’ right hand men, who believes that Lucas is doing what is best for the group, despite seeing every awful deed first hand, is in a constant state of doubt about just how far he can let this continue, if only for the sake of his sister Haley. Hailey, meanwhile, is in a similar state, she can’t imagine her brother doing anything wrong, but runs with Victoria, seeing that Lucas is trying to brainwash the group. Even Lucas, whose thought process we get some insight on as the story progresses, becomes a tragic character, rather than an insane villain.
Johnnie Christmas on art duty does a similarly fantastic job of capturing the world of Safe Haven and its inhabitants. Everything is dark and bleak as Winter rolls in, but still he manages to capture just how young these children are, without delivering a cast of 25 year old 15 year-olds. Despite having to create an unforgiving atmosphere for the prepper children, Christmas makes use of vibrant colours and doesn’t resort to making the images overly inked or dark. All of this comes together to make it all the more shocking whenever something violent or brutal eventually does appear on the pages.
Sheltered: A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale #1 was the first single issue I picked up when I started collecting comics monthly roughly two years ago. I chose very well. Sheltered‘s story is gripping, though at first it does suffer some pacing issues, mainly due to how much plot has to fit into the first few issues. Likewise, the epilogue feels like it could have been an arc all on it’s own, but that’s the problem with a story like Sheltered, you’ll never want it to end. The art is wonderful, the characters have depth. It’s everything you could want from a series. If you like the idea of looking at how things can go right before people get locked in Vault 111, or what can happen to turn a normal group of people into a tribe desperate for survival, Sheltered is the book for you.
Sheltered: A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale TPBs 1-3 are available now.