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September 12, 2013

Dark Horse Reviews: Dream Thief #5 (of 5)

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Written by: Martin Thomas
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Dream Thief #5 CoverDream Thief #5 (of 5)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: Jai Nitz
Pencils: Greg Smallwood
Inks: Greg Smallwood
Colors: Greg Smallwood
Letters: Greg Smallwood

It’s finally here – the end of the first arc of Jai Nitz’s complex, mysterious, dark, and violent story about a man and his mask.

I have to be honest – when I first heard Dream Thief announced a few months ago, it didn’t do anything for me. But it got a lot of good early buzz and the guy at my local comic book shop recommended the first issue to me as part of their “pick of the week” comics – ones that could be returned for money back if you don’t like them. I read through the first issue and marveled about how such a unique piece of storytelling almost escaped me.

This last issue does everything you want in a final issue, meaning that it actually wraps up the five-issue story arc, unlike some other companies’ so-called “finales.” Ahem. Dream Thief #5 ends on a very satisfying note that will leave readers feeling a sense of completeness, while also leaving just a hint of potential future stories involving Lincoln and his aboriginal mask. These days, that really is quite an accomplishment, and Nitz is to be commended for not being afraid to “end” this story. Too many times, story arcs like this are left as unsatisfying cliff-hangers just to build suspense and interest in the next upcoming arc. Dream Thief #5 doesn’t suffer from that flaw, and as someone who’s been reading from the first issue, I appreciated that.

As usual for this series, Nitz’s character work here is very well done. There are some really nice scenes with Lincoln’s friend Reggie, and his sister, Jen, who get a lot more development into more fully-realized characters in this issue. Reggie in particular has quite a few scenes more than he’s had since the first issue. Without spoiling anything, I’ll note that the primary antagonist in this issue also is more than just the “bad guy of the month” type of character, and has a neat twist to him that I didn’t see coming.

Smallwood continues to nail the art. His style just seems to fit Nitz’s storytelling. Throughout the series, I’ve loved Smallwood’s use of funky panel shapes, such as fitting a fight scene into a “panel” composed of the word “WHAM.” It’s a fun choice and one that can really only be done in comics. Yes, Dream Thief is a dark crime story, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with the art and utilize what makes the medium itself unique. Smallwood does that and it works perfectly. His coloring matches this as well, with backgrounds changing color depending on the type of mood or scene. I also appreciate that he continually changes the angle of his scenes so that we’re not always looking at characters head-on, but rather from a variety of angles including both from above and below. It’s a small, subtle detail, but it’s one that’s often forgotten in comic art.

To top off all of Smallwood’s great art, we are also treated to a variety of sketches of John Lincoln at the back of the book, from various artists including Ramon Villalobos, Matt Horak, Dan Duncan, and Jon Proctor.

Overall, issue #5 is a strong conclusion to an even stronger story and is highly recommended for those who have been following Lincoln’s adventures in the monthly mini-series. If you haven’t, we’re told that the trade version of the first five issues will be released in March 2014.

Review copy provided by Dark Horse Comics.

Martin Thomas



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