Review: Dream Thief: Escape #1

Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood’s Dream Thief was one of the nicest, most random surprises I had in reading and reviewing comics last year. Telling the story about a do-nothing slacker named John Lincoln who was suddenly thrust into a perplexing world of supernatural intrigue and ground-level retribution, it was a fantastic, televisually-gripping story written with organic dialogue, an exciting pace and a tight but exploratory artistic style. All of this quite rightfully put both creators directly on my radar, not to mention that of the wider industry as a whole; something I think they both deserve in spades. So of course it was a no-brainer that I would pick up this subsequent series. But, is this sophomore effort up to scratch, or should Dream Thief: Escape have remained undreamt?

From the outset, it’s clear that Nitz will be going much deeper into the Dream Thief lore with this second series. That approach begins here with a look back at Boca Raton in 1985, where dwelled the younger version of Fischer Lincoln, the once-thought deceased father of our series hero, and as it happens, a Dream Thief in his own right. Seemingly armed with a measure of control over his mask and ghost-given abilities, as well as a firm partnership with his fellow Dream Thief, Nathan Brown-Eagle, Fischer acts as the lynchpin of this new arc, both in beginning to reveal the parasitically ancestral nature of the mask, and driving the future of where that legacy leads with his son, and current Dream Thief, John.

Stuck as he is in the double prison of another man’s body and an actual prison, Fischer is going to need a lot of help from his son and his friends to get out and get revenge, and I can’t wait to see how both Nitz and Smallwood get them there. They have already set up a compelling path to go down, one that will force the now fully-motivated John Lincoln to make the most of the abilities he has garnered from the ghosts that every so often inhabit his body to right the wrong that led to their deaths.

Speaking of which, it’s great to see John much more acclimated to his strange life. He still doesn’t seem as in command as his father was in 1985, but he’s clearly getting there. The taster story provided here about a murdered Alzheimer's patient who was killed for his rare coin collection, was exactly what made the original series great, and a fantastic bridge from the first series to this. Emotionally-charged, savage and tightly-told, the reminder Nitz gives us only takes about four pages to tell, but its impact belies its brevity.

Dream Thief - Escape #1 Cover copy 2There is a clear transition in the type of story we’ll be getting from now on - one that gets away from the monthly possession tale and more focused on the past exploits of Fischer and his efforts to facilitate the vengeance of his own murder via his son. I think it’s not just a well-conceived ideal, but an inspired route to take, and it is clear that, narratively, Dream Thief remains in good hands.

Visually, I continue to love Smallwood’s art, even though he downplays those little exploratory layout ventures he likes to pull out, like the panels shaped from words or punctuation, or the panels-within-panels. Of course, that does make them all the more arresting when you see them, and I think that while he is allowing Nitz room to breathe and set up the coming arc, he also is given space to shine in a couple of great splash pages - that “smokey family tree” style one of would make a damn sick cover!

Like the dialogue and narrative, there is something easy about Smallwood’s work; simple to digest, but also expressive so as to excite. This dude has a great career ahead of him and I’ve been looking forward to his work on Dream Thief: Escape for a while, as well as his turn on Moon Knight, which will becoming soon!

Dream Thief: Escape #1 is a bit chatty at times, but it never suffers from being dull or slow. It is a great setup issue for this new run and a breath of fresh air to the franchise. I’m very happy with its first issue and am pumped as hell to follow this series all over again!

Score: 4/5

Writer: Jai Nitz Artist: Greg Smallwood Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/25/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital