It's been a little over a year now since Robert Kirkman's new series "Thief of Thieves" debuted, and I think a little bit of the buzz has died off. That's a shame, because as "Thief of Thieves" #14 kicks off the third story arc, Andy Diggle and Shawn Martinbrough have made the book as fun as ever.
Kirkman, Diggle, and James Asmus (who scripted the last story arc) are credited with the story for "Thief of Thieves" #14, and it picks up right where the last one left off. Diggle's script keeps it easy to follow if you're a new reader, though; in a matter of panels it's obvious what's going on with Conrad and son Augustus captured by the crime bosses that Augustus owes money to, and their lives dangling on the line as a result. It's motivation to get Conrad moving into his next heist, certainly, but this time there's a personal stake in the matter that serves to give Conrad some extra motivation.
The plotting for "Thief of Thieves" #14 is good, but it's Diggle's scripting that grabs my attention the most in terms of the writing. Diggle's characters sound like real people, but in a way that feels especially natural rather than over-worked or unusually verbose. I've liked the "writer's room" aspect of "Thief of Thieves" with a series of scripters come in for each story arc, and while Nick Spencer and Asmus both did a good job, I feel like Diggle has the potential to be the strongest one to date. Augustus in both present day and flashback comes across perfectly as the slightly-pathetic, full-of-bravado (with nothing to back it up) character that the previous story arc kept trying to make him out to be. While under Asmus' care we saw Augustus's issues by what he does, here it's clear merely by the words he uses. His "I'm a wolf" speech is a perfect example; you can see that Augustus is trying to sound tough even as it comes across as utterly pathetic. It's a wonderful laughable moment. Audrey also gets a strong outing in "Thief of Thieves" #14; her words are very strong and deliberate, and the way that her dialogue comes across, Diggle makes her an extremely formidable person that you would never want to cross.
Martinbrough's 14th issue of "Thief of Thieves" looks just as good as his first; he's still turning out strong portraits of characters (the young Augustus in college is so wonderfully young and punchable that it sells Diggle's deliberately-pathetic dialogue for the character), and the conversation between Audrey and Conrad still feels visually interesting because of their expressions, even though it's really just a series of talking heads. The warehouse scene also stands out, perhaps because with the carnage and violence it's not quite like anything else that we normally get in "Thief of Thieves." To Martinbrough's credit, though, it's not overly gruesome even while the idea still gets across clearly to the reader on just what happened. Add in Felix Serrano's vibrant colors, and this is one good-looking book.
If you haven't picked up "Thief of Thieves" yet, I'd say it's well worth your time. I think it's the strongest of Kirkman's comics right now, and I appreciate that from one issue to the next, there's always a strong element of fun involved. (Even when there are scenes involving depressive drinking; it's not all smiles and giggles, to be fair.) "Thief of Thieves" #14 is a reminder that this book is very much on track, and it's a consistently enjoyable comic. That's a big thumbs up for me.