This is the second issue of Dream Thief: Escape, and writer Jai Nitz and artist Greg Smallwood continue to add exciting and terrifying new levels to their Dream Thief mythology, here through a reveal that casts an ominous shadow over future possessions and makes John Lincoln’s past possessions all the more harrowing. Nitz has always been able to tap into the emotions of his characters and the victims’ search for justice always resonates with John, and now John finds himself digging deep in the present to try and reconcile the past, from the murder of his girlfriend and sister’s best friend Clare, the first person he killed as a Dream Thief, because of her wrongful murder of Armando Cordero, to the death of Cordero. That may sound a lot like plot, but Nitz does such a wonderful job of weaving the story and characters together that one never exists without the other, and the repercussions of one character’s actions may continue to ripple out into the present, creating unexpected problems or poignant situations that may assist or jeopardize John’s plans. Dream Thief: Escape continues to build in emotional complexity, and if you aren’t reading this book, you are missing out on some stellar storytelling.
Then, there is Greg Smallwood’s phenomenal art. For every issue of the original Dream Thief miniseries, and now for Escape, Smallwood provides the art, colors, and lettering, and the results are always stunning. Having one man take on all of those elements presents a seamless look to the book and a cohesiveness that allows it to perfectly blend in with the story. Neither story nor art supersedes the other, but they work in communion, flowing from page to page with ease, and making the whole undertaking appear effortless. Nitz and Smallwood create a stylistic world that never gets lost in the looks, but that always looks incredible. Smallwood brings back his exquisite eighties color palette, full of neons, and there is a scene in a car that utilizes shadows in a remarkable way. It is so simple and subtle you may not even notice it, but the detail he pays to light and shadow is not to be understated, as those small nuances can set the tone of a whole scene. Smallwood has developed an exceptional style all his own, from his white panel borders and location lettering, to the fragmented grey and red flashbacks and his thick, hard outlines, and yet his art still never fails to surprise and to elicit wonder. Smallwood’s eighties-inspired cover is enough to grab your attention, especially since he revamped the logo to fit in with the tableau, going so far as to use an old-school Dark Horse chess piece insignia.
Smallwood and Nitz are having fun while still telling a rich, layered story with intricate, emotional characters, and it shows on each and every page. As always, pin-ups grace the back pages, displaying other artists’ interpretations of various Dream Thief themes and characters, and making us think about what sticks out from this story inside our own minds. The issue ends on a note that is both exhilarating and frightening, and there is a sense that John will be taken down a dangerous road, leaving all of his plans hanging in the balance. When John is possessed the world around him keeps on moving forward while he moves in whatever way the ghosts need him to move, helpless to deal with his own affairs or to weigh the consequences of his possessor’s revenge. Dream Thief: Escape is supernatural suspense at its best, and somehow Nitz and Smallwood keep on making it better. This is superb storytelling you can’t escape from, no matter how hard you try. So, just give in already and start reading.