By Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood
Dream Thief was one of the great new series of 2013. The story of a man, who finds a mask, wakes up next to a dead body with the memories of someone else. The first arc was a great pulp murder mystery. Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood return to the world of Dream Thief in Escape.
The first series established the character of John and his ability. The plot moved along a murder mystery style ride. This issue eloquently skips most of the unnecessary back story and picks up important loose ends from the first arc. By the end the issue treads seems to shed the tone of the first series in favor of a new heist style adventure. For a series that could easily continue to have John wake up after killing someone and follow the highlights of the first series, Escape has refreshingly changed up the formula.
John is more confident in his situation and ability which allows the story to move forward without having to rehash conflict from the first series. John has progressed as a character in the time between series and Nitz makes it clear how the mask has changed him (in many ways for the better). With the issue focusing very heavily on John it benefits from Nitz’s development of John as a more competent Dream Thief. John’s interactions and relationships have matured as well providing some great dialog and character moments in this first issue.
Smallwood picks up where he left of on Dream Thief with sharp art and his creative use of paneling. Smallwood uses the negative white space of the page as the panel breaks and constantly changes the shape and angles of the panel. This approach provides a very unique look to the book that seems to just blend so well with the setting and tone of the book. Characters have great reactions and really genuine smiles. Smallwood sets up shots and angles in a way that enhance the pace of an issue that focuses heavily on characters in stationary conversations. Smallwood sets a great mood with his coloring particularly when outside in swamps or during sunsets.
Nitz and Smallwood prove to be a great creative team with a series that evokes the look and feel of early Brubaker and Philips. Escape is a wonderful trip back into the world and lore of Dream Thief. Issue one welcomes new readers and pays tribute to returning ones. Escape avoids being Dream Thief.1 and evolves the characters and stories into a true sequel worth reading.