SHELTERED opened with a killer first issue, taking a concept that already sounded like a genre twist and twisting it even further. Three issues in, the story is rounding out -- and getting creepier.
The Lord of the Flies elements are starting to come out; increasing mistrust amongst the kids, a leader with a hidden agenda rallying the group against outsiders, and, of course, an isolating setting with a threat that may not actually be what it appears to be. It's a familiar core in an otherwise surprising and unusual setting; it's almost reassuring to see human nature prevail -- even the more savage elements -- since the doomsday-prepping scenario is hard for most people to relate to.
SHELTERED has a visual aesthetic that wouldn't work on a popcorn action title, but is spot-on in its own context. Christmas' illustrations and Chankhamma's colors work in brilliant tandem, alternating between moody-and-brooding and strikingly active. The uneasy isolation of Safe Haven comes through in bleak, snowy environments, pale, sunken faces, and a seemingly-perpetual grimace on the face of nearly every character. The Apocalypse hasn't even arrived yet, and everyone already looks a little bit dead. The quiet is punctuated by spitfire episodes of violence, which, in turn, pop from quiet neutrals to bold reds and yellows. And, in case we needed a reminder that the children of Safe Haven are no strangers to violence, each connected punch appears caught in a freeze-frame of a brutally scripted fight.
I'm rooting for the villain right now, because Lucas is just more interesting than Vic. He's multi-dimensional, he's manipulative, and he has a set of carefully chosen personas under which he appears to be simmering a gigantic batch of crazy. Vic, on the other hand, has little to speak about, besides a few tension-escalating chase sequences and a merciless pistol-whipping.
Don't worry about nuclear winter (or volcanic winter, as the case may be). Worry about the dark places people are willing to go, and the destructive elements of human nature that are bound to surface in a pressure-cooker situation. SHELTERED is a chilling exploration of the means by which isolation and fear can push a group to the brink of insanity, and for now, that scenario is more frightening than an uncertain end-times.