Writer: Jai Nitz
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Publisher: Dark Horse
Finally, Dream Thief: Escape is here for us all to devour. This issue starts off with a flashback to John Lincoln’s father in Florida. Of course, Jai Nitz had to make some ’80s pop culture references. It only adds to my belief that this could have easily been an episode of Miami Vice. I’m pretty sure if Miami Vice were an animated series, Greg Smallwood’s art in the first few pages would be the basis for the animation style. The line work is clean and the color palette perfect. They could even animate Dream Thief; it would be amazing and I would watch it.
Throughout the first series Nitz introduced us to key characters. So when I began reading this issue I didn’t question who these people were; I simply acknowledged their importance in the grand scheme of things. Even without some of that background information, Nitz wrote this in a way that’s easy for newcomers to understand. Sure, they may have some questions, but they can always go back to previous issues. Nitz has written a great balance of what is going on in John’s waking life and what happens when he’s asleep. I really enjoyed that although he’s possessed by ghosts throughout the series, in this story John uses the information he’s gained from them to help others. Which leads to one of my favorite parts of this issue, even if it’s not relevant to the rest of the story. John is still a decent person despite his actions when asleep. In all fairness he has no control over what he does in his sleep, so we really can’t hold it against him.
When it comes to Smallwood’s art, I have no complaints. He does the art, coloring, and lettering himself. That’s a lot for one person to take on. The more I look at his art and internally analyze it, it’s easy for me to see why he’s nominated for a Russ Manning Award this year. He creates unique panels and layouts that still allow for easy reading. There’s just enough detail in a panel to tell the story and nothing feels cluttered. (Clutter has become a pet peeve of mine when looking at the art in comics.) There is so much white space thanks to wide gutters and unconventional panels. For example there’s a panel that is shaped as if you’re looking through binoculars. In the very first issue of Dream Thief, Smallwood did something similar with an exclamation point and question mark. The splash page in this issue contrasts well with the other pages in the book. It’s a great transition for the time lapse in the story; nothing feels disconnected. Another thing Smallwood does that I like is using monochrome panels for memories. They’re reminiscent of film flashbacks, which is something we’re all familiar with even if we don’t realize it. I think subconsciously that’s how we differentiate between memories and present day in media. It simply makes the transition between the two realities easier to read on a page.
Well, Dream Thief: Escape exceeded my expectations. If you had watched me read any of the first series you would understand. While I liked the story, I stopped to laugh and throw myself on the ground asking Why to the art and the writing. I just couldn’t take certain things seriously. That didn’t happen this time around, so I was pleasantly surprised. I genuinely enjoyed this issue. The collaboration between Nitz and Smallwood is flawless. They have created a story that reads well textually and visually. I’m walking away from this issue with some questions that I’m sure will be answered by the end of this series. At least I hope they will be answered. I’m looking forward to reading the next issue.
Dream Thief is something I recommend often working in a comic book store because they are local. Who doesn’t want to see the people they know succeed? I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, simply because it’s not exactly kid friendly. However, I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading about anti-heroes. John Lincoln classifies as an anti-hero, doesn’t he?