At a glance, “Sheltered” #1 has Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas taking a slow, methodical approach to their new series. Set in a survivalist compound that’s still getting off the ground, things don’t really start rolling until the end of the first issue, when the greater thrust of the series is revealed and readers see the direction it’s heading. Here’s the thing, though: it is absolutely the right decision, one that should pay off in the long run.
A lot of “Sheltered” #1 shows what life is like in the compound on a day-to-day basis. Brisson and Christmas present an idea of the sort of things that the organizers have assigned to everyone, their plans for the future, and what it’s been like for everyone on the inside up until now. This is important, because in order for a huge shift in the status quo to have impact, you need something with which to compare it. A book like “The Walking Dead” doesn’t have to dwell that long on what life is like before the zombie outbreak (although even it has the pre-outbreak opening sequence), because most readers would already know what everyday life is like for its characters. A survivalist compound is a different beast, one it’s safe to say that the average reader wouldn’t have experienced. This slower start eases into what normalcy is for them, and gives the attack at the end of the first issue some added punch.
Only the characters of Vic and her father David Eckersly feel fleshed out in “Sheltered” #1; while Vic very feels like the central character for “Sheltered,” it’s some of the other characters (especially Lucas and Joey) who I think could’ve used a bit more motivation. I can see why Brisson didn’t want to delve into their psyches too much at this early stage — it could potentially give away the big reveal around the two-thirds mark — but it does mean that it doesn’t come across quite as robust as it otherwise could. Right now it feels like “Sheltered” is going to be as much packed with psychological horror as it is full of physical danger, and for that to work, readers will eventually need to see what makes them tick.
Christmas’s art in “Sheltered” #1 was new to me, and it’s something that grew on me over time. His characters are very lanky and gangly, which at times works well but other times look almost misshapen. Page 2 is an example of one that has pieces that look great and others that feel like they could have used a little tweak. The second to last panel, as Vic mutters, “Hailey, you sneaky little…” looks great. I love the out of place locks of hair, the look in her eyes, the way that her jacket falls around her shoulders. But look at the panel just above it, and it’s not quite right. Hailey’s face feels like it’s missing some details, and drawing Vic mostly in silhouette ends up with her just looks odd and like a color block had accidentally fallen off. As “Sheltered” #1 progresses, though, I feel like the art strengthens and the odd moments become fewer and farther between, which gives me hope.
Small issues aside, on the whole “Sheltered” #1 is a solid debut, one that should have readers back next month for the next installment. I’ll definitely come back for more.