‘Dream Thief: Escape #1’ - Advance Comic Book Review

Dark Horse’s sleeper hit, Dream Thief, is back, and so are the eighties.  For those of you just joining us, last year writer Jai Nitz and artist Greg Smallwood created a little, five-issue miniseries called Dream Thief, and it was phenomenal.  I read all of it and had the pleasure of reviewing issues three through five, and when I read it all over again to review the trade collection, I found myself engrossed in the mystery, intrigue, mayhem, and mysticism, as if I was reading it for the very first time.  But, enough from my ghost of reviews past, because Nitz is pushing forward, and backward, with his story, building off the previous events and showing us a past we only got the vaguest glimpses of near the end of that first run, and the ball gets rolling fast.  If you have to play catch up during the first issue of this next chapter in the Dream Thief saga, a four-issue arc titled Escape, that’s okay.  I know I did, and I loved every minute of my refresher course.  Part of the beauty of Nitz’s writing is that it doesn’t pander to the reader.  It’s quick, intelligent, and layered with subtext and surprises, and getting the story and all its nuances straight and under your belt the first time around can be as complex and challenging as it is for John Lincoln.  In that way, we’re right on pace with John, who believes his father is somehow connected to his new-found life as a Dream Thief, and his best friend Reggie, who now is in on John’s secret double life.

If you haven’t read any Dream Thief, then I’ll give you the most basic of basics, because you’ll really need to get your hands on the first trade in order to appropriately appreciate and understand Escape.  While John sleeps, he is possessed by the ghosts of wrongfully murdered victims, and through the power of an ancient Aboriginal mask, these ghosts use his body to mete out their righteous revenge.  Once the ghosts give him his body back, John is often left in unexpected and compromising predicaments, and since Nitz is a master of suspense and killer cliffhangers, the beginning of each issue always crackles, throwing you right into the middle of whatever action just went down.  The whole time John has to try and keep his police officer sister Jenny in the dark about his possessed vigilantism, which becomes more complicated as the violence moves closer and closer to home.  There are a thousand more things to the story than that, but that’s the poor man’s summary.  And, just to let you know, every issue has a plethora of pin-ups, which helps to build an exciting mythos around the story and characters of Dream Thief.

Back to Escape, and the eighties.  Smallwood creates a time capsule of the mid-eighties with the clothes, the décor, the colors, and Nitz brings it home with stellar dialogue that is natural and feels like it could only have been spoken in that time.  For me, it is a picture perfect recreation of an entire era, with a dash of Miami Vice for good measure, and they do all of that in seven pages.  But, this past story is just getting started, and I can’t wait to see where Nitz takes it, and if the teaser for issue two is any indication, Smallwood is going to transport us all to the eighties, mind, body, and soul.  Smallwood retains his excellent white panel borders, bold outlines, heavy shadows, and solid lettering, and he is incredibly adept at balancing the various color schemes that flow through the issue.  Things are going to get a lot more difficult for John before they get any easier, Nitz and Smallwood heaping on plot twists and obstacles with relish.  So, get up to speed, so you can get in on the plan, because the best part is, the escape hasn’t even started yet.   

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