Slacker John Lincoln is on the downward slide. Unable to stay faithful to his girlfriend, traumatized by a recent break-in, and stuck between careers as a stage magician and a budding film director, John finds connecting with others harder and harder, relying on his steady supply of weed to keep things smooth and mellow. But, that only lasts until the night he blacks out and steals a priceless Aborigine mask and wakes up with blood on his hands . . . and no memory of what happened.
An inventive cross between a crime noir story and a dark fantasy, Dream Thief plays out on both levels with grace and able dexterity, straddling that fine line between believability and outright horror. When faced with his unconscious mask-driven deeds, John springs to action with an aptitude he didn’t know he had. In the best noir traditions, guilt and regret have little place in stories like this, and Jai Nitz’s writing carries through it a discomfiting sense of forboding. Something is off here, even before John’s theft of the strange mask, and Nitz parcels out his story in uneasy bits and pieces, letting his tale of possession and dark vengeance steep with a slow simmering build.
Greg Smallwood’s artwork shows a deft use of color, painting his days with washed out oranges and beiges, while his nights bristle with electric blacks and blues. A flashback in shadowed blacks and vibrant blood reds comes off as electrifying after the subdued work leading up to it.
Overall, Dream Thief is drawn from the same cloth as Vertigo’s 100 Bullets, in terms of artwork and storytelling, coming across as gritty and unnerving, while unswervingly professional and capable. The creators' obvious affection for the cross-genre here shows in every page.