Dream Thief # 5 (of 5) concludes the first volume of a new series written by Jai Nitz, with Greg Smallwood providing art and lettering. Jai Nitz has been writing comics for many years, most notably winning the Bram Stoker Award in 2004 for Heaven’s Devils, published with Image. Greg Smallwood on the other hand, seems to be a relative new comer. I have only started reading comics recently, so it’s possible that the cool kids are already familiar with this creative team.
The first arc follows the apparently unwitting and unremarkable narrator, John Lincoln, as his life quickly transitions into something more interesting. Early in issue #1, the reader is inundated with storytelling shorthand for loser. John seems to be unemployed and surrounded by successful friends and family. During a fancy museum party, John Is compelled to steal an aboriginal mask. He wakes up the next morning with no recollection of the previous night and blood all over his hands.
Over the next few issues, readers are learning the rules. When John falls asleep wearing the stolen aboriginal mask he becomes susceptible to possession by vengeful ghosts. These episodes of possession allow the reader to follow John through (righteous) intense violence and interaction with mobsters, porn stars, and drug dealers. Juxtaposed against the violence, are suggestions of each ghost’s back-story, as John gains consciousness of the ghost’s memories and awareness of the ghost’s skills.
By issue #5, we are deep into the realm of crime drama. John is resolving loose threads like the meaning of a strange letter from his father, and the identity of the man who originally attacked his girlfriend, Claire. The epilogue promises to explore these ideas in greater detail in the next story arc.
If I sound unimpressed by the premise, it may be because the plotline feels familiar; like an episode of the X-Files, Dollhouse, or maybe that cop drama show with Jennifer Love Hewitt ( Ghost Whisperer – I had to look it up). Dream Thief is creative, but not ground breaking, what really sets the title apart is the quality of implementation.
Nitz writes dialogue that feels natural. Conversations are revealed in intense snippets to avoid the trappings of story decompression and scenes are accompanied and linked together by a pervasive internal monolog. The result is a lot of information on each page; this is a book that can be read slowly or reread multiple times, to really drink in the details. Purely in terms of plot per dollar, Dream Thief will give you your money’s worth
The dialogue is supplemented by incredibly expressive faces drawn by Smallwood. Together, this creative team does a great job with providing appealing characters that feel real and draw the reader into the story. It’s not just the faces though; overall the art and layouts on these books are great.
I must add that Smallwood really shines in the action sequences which are fun to read and easy to interpret. In each fight scene, it’s obvious where the characters are relative to each other, you can tell who is punching, who is getting punched, and you can practically hear the bones crunching and the guns firing.
Nitz and Smallwood are delivering a quality book with huge potential for growth. I look forward to future volumes, which may reveal more background about how magic works in this world, and propose more general questions about morality and free will. If this is your preferred genre, then I must recommend Dream Thief quite highly.