If you’re looking for answers in Dream Thief #5 ... well, I hate to tell you this, but you’ve come to the wrong place. In this, the last issue of its first miniseries, writer Jai Nitz seems to be jettisoning the baggage in his story in a massive info dump. But does it work as a light finish, or is he chucking the baby out with the bathwater? That’s how you metaphor (which is to say, badly and with reckless abandon)! For most of this series, we’ve been following main character John Lincoln as he galavants across country slaying the desperately-needing-slaying with a sort of controlled retribution, armed as he is with a bevy of useful abilities (like fighting, grift and “law”), gleaned from dead victims (allegedly) via a strange aboriginal mask, which he stole in an inebriated fit of pique. However, his misadventure, (i.e., solving the crimes that led to the murders of the souls that haunt him), has finally led him home in issue five: putting him at odds with his apparently dead father, the family member of one of his ghosts and his ornery cop sister. That’s when things get a bit ... confusing.
Nitz seems to be dropping a lot of reveals all at once here, which initially comes across as jarring, but once you think about it as a season finale to an episodic TV crime mystery, it makes a weird sort of sense. I’m not saying that gives it a pass, because I honestly think the story heretofore could have been much more smoothly developed up to this point (like if this issue was stretched into a two-parter), but goddammit, it was still one helluva read!
In one fell swoop, Lincoln meets his equal (and in fact “better”) number in what appears to be another Dream Thief, the definition of which is finally alluded to here, but only faintly and in passing. We also get a pretty complex bit of jacob’s ladder storytelling, which feels like it’s tying its thus-far loose ends up suddenly, exposition-heavily and pretty damn violently. It also ends a bit too happily, even if it is set at a funeral. In fact, the grinning, arms clasped, walk-off into the sunset here is that much more fucked up, given the relationship of the attendees to the deceased.
So it may have all come together a bit quicker and more neatly ended than I would have expected from its more measured pace prior to this, but despite a clustered plot, I have enjoyed the absolute hell out of this book, this issue included.
As a series, Dream Thief has excelled in its fantastic character moments, whether it’s between our hero and his best buddy, his erstwhile sister or his new arch-nemesis. Apart from when Lincoln calls his sister “sis,” a short-form sibling reference, which I’m pretty sure only still exists in comic book dialogue, the conversations here feel natural and (ironically in a book with so many weapons) disarming.
The art from Smallwood has been a real joy to follow, and not just because he marries together his duties with lettering in a beautifully dynamic yet rather precise experimentation. You could almost miss some elements of his style upon first reading - panels within panels, text as panels - it’s a credit to how subtly he slips in the needle and it’s great to see him filling his pages by trying new things with his layouts, without cramping them unnecessarily. On another artistic note, while the cover is pretty misleading, the variants at the back are stunning, and a great treat to look through.
I’ve really enjoyed Dream Thief, including this issue (blemishes and all), and am very much looking forward to it continuing, which it promises to do in a solicit at the back of the book. It seems like a long way off now, but with its trade dropping on March 12, 2014, you waiters out there will have no excuse but to check it out!
Writer: Jai Nitz Artist: Greg Smallwood Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/18/13