After all of the lead up, "Thief of Thieves" has finally gotten to the Venice job, and this second half of the heist has not disappointed. Andy Diggle, Robert Kirkman, James Asmus and Shawn Martinbrough get to show how everything starts to fall apart in one of the largest stolen art caches in the world, and if there's one thing that master thief Paulson is good at, it's scrambling when things go bad.
What's great about Diggle's run is that readers constantly get the feeling that anything could happen. The end result is that Paulson's desperation feels that much more gripping and realistic. From crashing through stained class windows to running across old tiled roofs where pieces are cracking and crumbling away, there's always an extra little "uh oh" moment just lurking on every page. Diggle also keeps up with Kirkman and Asmus' story in how there's always an extra turn of the screw, an extra rabbit lurking inside a hat just waiting to jump out. In many ways, "Thief of Thieves" isn't about the heists, it's about the aftermath, and it's played out quite beautifully here. Honestly, when the dust settles, it's hard to keep from cheering at how nicely it came together.
It doesn't hurt that 18 issues in, Martinbrough's art still looks great. He and colorist Felix Serrano have turned out a lot of bright, beautiful pages. I love Paulson's run through the mansion full of art, with the gentle glow of the sunlight through the stained class windows. Paulson's winces as he ducks from gunfire or sprints across a rooftop is pretty fantastic, and the treacherous Valentini's reactions to everything that happens in this issue is pretty great, too. The worst is seeing the big grin on Cohen's face as it all goes down, because you can just feel that horrible double-cross lurking around the corner, waiting to drag her back down once again.
I'm not saying it's a perfect comic -- the secondary cast still feels light on characterization -- but it's a lot of fun. "Thief of Thieves" #18, and the series in general, is a thriller through-and-through, with nice little reveals and surprises waiting to pop up at just the right moments. With a fairly perfect sense of pacing in the writing and some great art, this is once again, a winner.