Writer Jai Nitz and artist Greg Smallwood return to Dark Horse for "Dream Thief: Escape" #1, the second installment of their supernatural noir action comic. With an opening set in 1985, the first issue begins to pull back the curtain on the legacy of the Dream Thief and the mask associated with the station.
Nitz and Smallwood have found the sweet spot in their collaboration where it truly appears to be a shared labor. Nitz is economical and smart with his story, keeping the adventure moving while avoiding excessive narration, while Smallwood works all aspects of the visual page: art, colors and lettering. The artist does a masterful job of making all of those components click together efficiently and effectively, choosing a more artistic manner to reveal locations and adjusting that with respect to the era -- 1985 or present day -- to guide the reader through the issue. Smallwood's drawings are tremendous in their range of motion and emotion. His style emanates the emotional range of Chris Sprouse with the heavier shadows of Chris Samnee. In his own way, Smallwood avoids copying either style, presenting a strong set of images that are colored exactly as intended.
Nitz's story is compelling and action-packed, providing a high body count, but no overly grotesque deaths. That's not to say the deaths in "Dream Thief: Escape" #1 are happy-go-lucky events -- Nitz and Smallwood simply show some blood and more than a few bodies. This comic book isn't driven by the murders, however, despite the fact that that is the titular character's reason for existence. Nitz builds a suspenseful story fraught with legal pitfalls and mortal peril around Lincoln, but provides readers with enough insight into Lincoln's thoughts to make him a sympathetic character. By the end of "Dream Thief: Escape" #1, readers will want more and Nitz ensures they'll have to wait on the edge of their seat with an interesting change-up on the final page.
"Dream Thief: Escape" #1 is yet another wonderful contribution to the comic book landscape courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. Nitz and Smallwood give the comic a big publisher feel, but Dark Horse keeps "Dream Thief: Escape" #1 bright, shiny and almost elusive. This is one comic book more readers should be picking up regardless of what they have to put down to do so. "Dream Thief: Escape" #1 is a fun, snappy, suspenseful opening chapter. Thankfully for new readers, the creative team makes this comic approachable and memorable, shining as an example for how to successfully present a newer property.