2.25.2014

Sheltered #7 [Advance Review]

Sheltered #7 (Image Comics): Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas follow two distinct story threads in this issue, one involving a determined Victoria intent on affecting some change to her current status and location, and the other involving the fallout directly following events with “the outsiders” who made contact with Safe Haven in the last issue. Lucas’ attempt to quell the disturbance brought on by the arrival of the outsiders (and of course, trigger-happy Curt!) show how he’s beginning to lose physical control of the group, as well as ideological dominance. People are starting to think and act for themselves in the absence of truly effective leadership. There’s a moment when Lucas utters a quiet “I told them” as a bit of brief recognition that maybe he’s in over his head, or possibly even showing the slightest twinge of remorse about some of his decisions.

On the art front, Johnnie Christmas is able to carry so much emotion in the faces of the characters, or the way hair seems to bounce off of Victoria’s agitated shoulders, continually connecting sharp poses with sharper words. Shari Chankhamma’s lustrous coloring gives Christmas' strong art all the more dynamism. I love how she handles lighting with stuff like the kids’ rosy cheeks, the differentiation of the cast wardrobe, and sudden gun-spatters of blood in the moonlight. Chankhamma’s colors are brilliant, and it’s not often you get to witness the birth of a rock star colorist. The artists depict a gripping sequence of frenzied violence in the woods. It’s an interesting example of how misdirected violence only spins out of control and begets more unpredictable violence. My critic friend Dominic Umile has taken to calling Sheltered “winter noir,” and that’s as intelligently apt an aesthetic description as you’re likely to find of this close-quarters breakdown of humanity. It’s chilling example after chilling example of how poor choices have an uncontrollable ripple effect.

Brisson focuses the majority of the Victoria thread on a heated conversation with Mitch, and you can feel the balance of power begin to shift right here, as Victoria takes command, not only of her holdout ally Hailey, but of a small squad who knows the truth and has slowly come to some of the same conclusions Victoria has. Brisson is so natural and fluid with the language. His dialogue never sounds like the staged monologues you see so often in comics, with contrived flowery writing. Victoria is pissed. It’s done believably. Her anger lends a matter-of-fact truthiness to her words, it focuses her anger, gives her clarity over what’s occurred, and what she wants to do next. In some ways, Victoria is the heart of the book, the emotional center of Sheltered, and as she gets more outspoken and stronger with each issue, the series itself gets stronger and stronger. Ryan K. Lindsay’s backmatter about Near Earth Objects is an interesting stand-in for any foreign object which has an impact on the known world, and caps off an OMFG cliffhanger that’ll leave you fist-pumping until the next issue ships. #TeamVictoria. Grade A+.

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