First Impressions – SHELTERED #1

Sheltered-01

The end is coming, or so the Preppers believe. Whether by apocalypse or civil unrest or tyrannical government, the Preppers prepare for the worst. But in SHELTERED #1, we learn one group of Preppers failed to consider one major danger: their own children. Children that have been trained in weapons and survival, and are even more afraid of the End than their parents.

It’s a Pre-Apocalypse Tale and everyone is invited.

These days there are a lot of people on edge. Some people (like half those featured on WTFIWWY) choose to express their anxieties about the future through copious opiates and random acts of bonehead stupidity. Others – the good majority of the population – just try to ignore it, or drown themselves in distraction, regardless of how shallow and infantile. This is how endless child beauty pageant reality shows and series like The Green Team get made.

And still others willingly confront their fears, and ready themselves for when the other shoe finally drops. They are the survivalists; the Preppers. Or if you subscribe to another point of view, they are a bunch of nuts stocking weapons and canned food for nothing whatsoever. And this is me being more kind than most of those that subscribe to this opinion of the Preppers.

I’ll try not getting anymore political than this, and try to present SHELTERED #1 on its own terms. Although I like to think if the Preppers are wrong, they’ve merely wasted their time; whereas if they’re right, the vast majority of us have wasted our very lives. Take from that what you will.

SHELTERED #1 introduces us to a particular group of Preppers living in an unspecified but presumably more Northern state of the US, banding together to establish a safe haven in the mountains. They’ve gathered enough food to last a year and a half, and they aren’t even finished stocking. Their bunkers are under construction, and they’ve armed themselves heavily for whatever trouble may come, be it civil unrest due to economic collapse or the sudden crackdown of government control on the populace. Two characters even debate whether their haven should obtain the proper building permits, as not having them would mean heavy fines at least, and having them would mean the government would know all about what they’re doing.

In summation, the comic spends a lot of time getting the readers familiar with the mood present in the Prepping subculture. The end of the comic even sports a mock survivalist newsletter. It establishes the difference between Preppers and armed militia groups, explains the danger of civil unrest, and outlines several (no doubt well-researched) instructions for how people can prep themselves for the coming storm, whatever it might be. All of this brings readers into the mindset of the Prepping community.

And then the ball drops, but not in the way anyone expected.

The adults of the camp are made to believe they’re under attack from some forces unspecified and unseen (the comic takes the time to poke fun at one guy who assumes it’s the government and is excited to fight), and in the ensuing gun battle all the adults are killed. But not by government cronies or an army of crazed civilians looking for resources.

No, the adult Preppers were wiped out by their own children.

The reasons for betrayal are a bit murky this early in the story, but it’s hinted that the ring leader of the kids, Lucas, had been planning on doing it for a while and decided now was the best time because of a series of natural disasters. I’m going to go ahead and assume there are more complicated reasons, but the idea that the world is ending sparked these kids into action because of all the years they’d spent hearing about the End coming. Or at least that’s what I’ve been able to gather from clues and early talks from the comic creators about their plans for it.

I think the weakest part of the writing in this issue is that, having such a large number of characters, we only really get to know a scant few of them. And many were killed in the patricidal purge. I especially think I didn’t get to know a good number of the kids well enough, though doubtless readers will in the coming issues. SHELTERED #1 most certainly relies on its high concept to get readers hooked past the first issue. Not that it’s not a good hook. I’m really curious as to the motivations of these young people, motivations that would induce widespread murder of their own parents.

Artistically, this is a very solid work. Johanne Christmas made every character unique and recognizable, which is very important with such a large cast. One quirk of the art is that all the characters who are ethnically white are really pale and their faces light up with heavily colored blush spots about the cheeks and noses. But that might just be a product of it being winter and therefore no one has a tan. It’s a prominent part of the artwork and might distract readers used to more uniform skin palettes.

The comic also doesn’t shy away from blood. It’s very bright and stands out, especially against the snow and pale faces. In spite of the tone, as a matter of fact, SHELTERED is a very vibrant book. Shadows run deep, however, and the book exploits it for artistic effect. Quite visually appealing.

How much a reader enjoys SHELTERED #1 can be measured by how much they can stand the Prepper ethos. On the other hand, while the book isn’t unsympathetic to them, I get the feeling SHELTERED is a subtle condemnation of their lifestyles and how it affects the children born and raised it such an environment. But maybe that’s just me being paranoid. We’ll have to wait until the full tale unfolds before rendering judgments on its stance towards the subculture.

If you enjoy Doomsday Preppers, you can certainly go with far worse.

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