"Dream Thief: Escape #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Jai Nitz
Illustrated by Greg Smallwood
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 25th, 2014
John Lincoln's life is complicated. He's a Dream Thief. This means he gets possessed by vengeful ghosts when he goes to sleep. They use his body to seek vengeance on those responsible for their deaths, leaving behind their memories and knowledge for John to learn from. The first time this happened, he killed his girlfriend. You think you know someone and then you find out they killed some dude, and you killed her in revenge when you were possessed by that spirit while you were sleeping. Awkward. As if this wasn't enough, his dad (who was also a Dream Thief) was killed and now possesses the body of a convict wasting away in jail. Now John has to figure out a way to get his father out of jail, dance around the feds looking into his girlfriend's murder, and deal with the new ghosts that are coming his way. That's a lot to do in just four issues as this new mini-series, Dream Thief: Escape, gets started.
Dream Thief takes the concept of the reluctant hero to the extreme. John didn't necessarily want to be involved with all these murders, but he's doing it because it's what is right. He also doesn't have much of a choice because he can't control who pops into his body when he falls asleep. After seeing the tragedies that these people have gone through, he's started to roll with the punches. It's helped him a great deal as well. He's picked up a bunch of cash from a drug bust and has a “ghostly law degree” thanks to one of the spirits that came through his body. That can't hurt.
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Escape seems to be getting a bit more into the background of the Dream Thief mythos. John's father was part of the lineage that seems to skip women in the family. John stole the aboriginal mask that gives him his powers from a museum. There's no record of the mask or the theft. It's like it just kind of appeared or rather chose him. His powers are also somehow tied to those of Patricio Brown-Eagle, the guy that tried to kill John in the first series.
Greg Smallwood returns to provide the artwork on Escape. He has a great design for John that makes him instantly likeable. He comes across as an everyman, even if he's wearing an aboriginal mask and wielding a gun. Since John doesn't know when he'll become possessed, he doesn't have a costume or anything. Instead he has the aforementioned mask (which he never puts on, but is always wearing when he wakes up) and street clothes. He's the epitome of the casual super hero.
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The panel layout in Escape is a bit more by-the-book than what was seen in Volume 1. Smallwood had some great art direction throughout the first series with panels laid out like a question mark or an exclamation point. This time around there's more of a basic rectangle structure, although the page never feels crowded. The gutters are large, letting the artwork breathe a bit instead of shoving a bunch of panels all over the place.
Dream Thief: Escape delves further into the background of this character that has become an instant favorite. John Lincoln's story is just getting started and we're learning about his abilities and where they come from just as he is. This first issue gives a good primer to the story so far, so anyone can jump right in. (This is not to say that you can skip the first trade paperback. Go out and read that too because it's an awesome comic.) Author Jai Nitz drops just enough hints at what is to come to get me hooked right away.