Sheltered #6

Johnnie Christmas and Ed Brisson take their series on a bit of a detour with "Sheltered" #6, establishing a new situation and set of characters that take place concurrently with the events of past issues. The children of their slain survivalist parents have remained at and taken charge of their compound despite the gradual unraveling of the social order there, and now the arrival of these new characters adds a new and welcome complication to the status quo of the series.

This series can evoke obvious comparisons to "Lord of the Flies" and the past few issues have focused almost solely on this aspect. The infusion of a new conflict in this issue elevates the story back to something with a little more of a hook not seen since the older children's surprising takeover a few issues back. Christmas and Brisson spend the majority of this issue, in fact, introducing the new cast members, taking their time setting up this subplot that unfolds over the course of two weeks before folding it into the main storyline.

The biggest problem with this subplot is that it's not terribly exciting, by itself. The main character is a financially struggling worker at a small business caught in the middle of a troublesome deal that requires him to literally go the extra mile to make good on. Its relevance gradually becomes apparent and its level of interest goes up accordingly with it, but until it reaches the point where readers realize how it all ties into the conclusion of last issue, Christmas and Brisson rely largely on readers' patience to get them there.

Once the story does get to that point, though, the tension rises as the two storylines join, and when they do a tense situation becomes explosive. The confrontation leading up to the end of the issue makes up for its slow start, and in actuality gives the issue as a whole the feel of a musical number that starts slowly before building up to its satisfying crescendo.

Christmas handles the art chores with a kind of minimalist restraint; there's really nothing fancy to draw here, so he doesn't try to. Instead, he captures the Joe Sixpack look of this issue's protagonist with an appropriate sense of simplicity, and ditto with the main survival compound setting with its bleak, snowbound locale. Colorist Shari Chankhamma keeps in step with mostly subdued tones, which helps make a bloody gunshot would all the more gorily vibrant.

The series had been coming along okay, but "Sheltered" #6 gives it a shot in the arm that ratchets up the excitement a little bit. It's not quite so insular now and is all the better because of it.

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