Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sheltered #6

By: Ed Brisson (writer/letters), Johnnie Christmas (art), Shari Chankhamma (colors)

THE STORY: Adults from the outside world appear at the secluded compound.

REVIEW (WITH SPOILERS): This was a pretty solid issue.It does a lot of things well, but has some problems that we'll get to in a minute.

On the good side of the ledger, we get to see a fully fleshed-out backstory on the adults who had arrived at the compound at the end of .If you'll remember, at the end of that issue, a truck with adults showed up to disturb Lucas' little Children of the Corn scene.It was a really good cliffhanger because we didn't know how it would affect Lucas' plans.Were these armed thugs showing up?Other preppers?Family members of some of the parents who Lucas had killed?

Well, it turns out that this guy is nothing but a dude delivering some second hand solar panels to the compound to make a few bucks.Where I thought this issue was effective was in just how well it illustrated this delivery guy's situation.I mean, he's hustling and scrambling to act as a kinda sales agent for used solar panels!They're not even his solar panels.He isn't like an entrepreneur who is in the solar panel business; he's just a guy who knows where there might be some quality used panels and if you give him some money, he'll track them down for you.Then through this whole unfortunate sequence of events, he ends up having to deliver the panels himself to make any money on the deal.It's a really effective demonstration of how a man can end up with no career, no skills, no capital and be forced to desperately scramble to make money for his family.The flip side is that it shows the type of trouble you can get yourself into when you're THAT extended and have to make marginal choices.Stay in school, kids!

See, if you deliver enough used solar panels to survivalist groups in remote Montana, eventually you'll roll that natural 20 and hit the nutball group that robs you, takes your stuff, turns out to be a cult, etc.This guy is just unlucky that he rolled the natural 20 on his first visit and now he's in deep doo-doo.He seems like a nice guy - family and all that - but now he's walked into Lucas' nuthouse and he'll have to pay the price.What's ironic is that this guy was probably on the phone with his wife 30 minutes earlier saying, "I'm almost done with this trip.It took 8 hours to drive here, but I just have to drop off the panels and leave."He was probably already planning what he would do with the money.Little did he know that what he perceived as the END of his adventure was really just the BEGINNING.

So, if this issue was such a good window into the desperation that so many n0-career/no-skills people feel in this lousy economy, what could possibly be wrong with it?Well, what I didn't love about the issue is how it didn't really fit with the Sheltered story (like I'm sure he'll run into those girls in the woods).I'm sure it'll end up being important but for now, it just doesn't fit.A couple of things made Sheltered great and this issue isn't true to any of those themes.

One wonderful thing about the first story cycle of Sheltered was the sense of claustrophobia.These kids are STUCK in Lucas' madhouse until they band together to kill him - or until the outside world intervenes.The idea of being alone with Lucas is really scary, but it can't really persist if delivery men are arriving at the compound.Lucas dealt harshly with these guys, but you can't keep killing the delivery guys for long before the police show up.I mean, now I'm imagining that someone is about to deliver a second-hand generator to the compound or maybe it's just that someone ordered survival manuals from Amazon Prime.It just shows that there is an end to Lucas' little cult and if the kids can just hold out for a few days, it'll all be over.

The other cool thing about Sheltered was the idea that perhaps Lucas was right.His reason for killing the adults was the the shit had already hit the fan in the outside world and it was necessary to kill the adults because there wasn't enough food for everyone.We all assumed that Lucas was just a nut-job who wanted to be in control, but we were left with the question, "What if Lucas is right?"Well, now we know that he is NOT right.The outside world is perfectly normal.I'll be eager to see what happens with the Sheltered story, because there was probably a good opportunity to keep the story tight and claustrophobic for another story arc and then have the adults show up and tell the kids that the world was going to hell in a handbasket.Suddenly, Lucas would look like a blessing in disguise: A true leader of the apocalypse; not the leader you want, but the leader you NEED.I think that would have been a cool story.I'll be curious to see how this other path materializes, but so far .I don't like it as much.

The art remains effective.Again, it isn't the type of art that makes you squeal with joy, but it is incredibly effective at depicting the characters.I mean, the delivery man in this story really does look like a loser who is at the end of his rope and has to take on crappy jobs - like delivering second hand solar panels to preppers in remote Montana.There's an art to visually selling that guy.He can't be fit and in-shape because he needs to meet the stereotype of a guy who has made some questionable decisions.He can't be wearing a starchy shirt because he's unemployed.His friends have to look similarly shiftless.It's just nice to read a comic by an artist who understands that sort of visual shorthand because it allows us to know a character more deeply that the dialog itself would allow.

CONCLUSION: A good issueI'm just not sure it was a good Sheltered issue.Let's see how the story develops.


-Dean Stell

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