Review: Dream Thief: Escape #4

With its fourth issue, we’ve finally come to the end of Dream Thief’s second volume, “Escape,” and  in terms of what this second series was trying to accomplish, it has all the closure you would want. At least, it does so in its major storyline, following human ghost receptacle John Lincoln in his bid to free his father and fellow Dream Thief’s soul, which, after his murder (that we get to see at the issue’s beginning) has become stuck in the body of recently-freed prisoner and friend, Ray Ray, but only if he kills his killer. I’ve really enjoyed this series up to this point for its methodical build and well-paced storytelling. But now I have to wonder whether its quick and easy climax in Dream Thief Escape #4 was worth the wait, and I’m leaning towards “no.”

Dustin pointed something out in his review of issue three that I completely agree has been a great aspect of this book: “Nothing seems to go according to plan...” One of the best things about this series has indeed been that you can’t really track where it’s going to go. With random ghosts jumping in and out of John Lincoln faster and with more regularity than a streetwalker on Half-Off Friday, and the main character forced to get out of whatever situation in which he finds himself, it’s written with the intent to keep you guessing. The problem I have with this last issue, however, is that it all wraps up with way too pretty a bow, and in all of the ways I expected. It has a sense of closure, sure, but at what cost?

Dream Thief - Escape #4 10.1.14There was no twist, no slight-of-hand, and because of that, there was no recoil to the bang with which this series ended; rather, it ended on a whimper of, “That’s it?” Yes, it did everything it needed to, for the most part; or at very least it teases that it did, but its simple, formulaic (at least for this book), and dare I say cliché ending (I liked the Miami Vice feel, but a ride into/away from the sunset?) left me cold. Saying that, I still have hopes that since the last page tells us this is “[NOT] The End,” Nitz will swoop in and swerve the events this time in subsequent volumes; but if that’s the case, then the build to get here seems fruitless.

On top of that, the tender moments this issue, and all of the smiles, felt disingenuous and very sitcom in nature. This series has seen Nitz inject some of the most emotive moments of the year, especially in its second issue, but like its clean-cut ending, the feels this time rang all hollow, like he just needed to wrap everything up for the trade, or even that he ran out of tangential, but gripping side stories.

I have a similar feeling about the art. I accept the fact that Galusha is not Greg Smallwood, someone whose work helped define the tenor of the series with Nitz. And look, Galusha’s work is far from “bad.” In fact, the fight scene that begins this issue is great, and he clearly has a command over his figures throughout the issue in his thick, smooth line work, polish (thanks especially to the amazingly-named Tamra Bonvillain’s cool, but sometimes prosaic colors), and in the facial expressions he is able to convey - an all-too-important visual tell that a story like this especially needs.

The problem I have is that, speaking nothing of its overall quality, like the narrative, the art feels too clean, bright and smiley; too cartoonish. I’m not saying Galusha’s art doesn’t work, just not for this story; then again, this particular story doesn’t really work for this story.

I remain a firm fan of this book as an ongoing, and am already looking forward to its next volume, if for no other reason than to see how “Escape” fits into the master plan, but I was disappointed in this hiccup final issue of its second series. I guess just hope Dream Thief will wake up a bit next time.

Score: 2/5

Writer: Jai Nitz Artist: Todd Galusha Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/1/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital