by Jai Nitz, Greg Smallwood
Sometimes the best stories are the ones readers have to work for. There is a fine line, though, where asking too much of your reader can be more damaging than asking nothing of them. Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood present Dream Thief, a miniseries from Dark Horse. Here, readers are introduced to a fascinatingly unique story that balances several genres and influences for a final product that will surely draw them in for more.
As it opens, readers are quick to infer that the lead character is a bit of a deadbeat. Johnny wakes up, seemingly hungover with little knowledge of how he came to be in this room with last night's pretty face. Already, Nitz employs an interesting tactic with dual narration from the same character. Johnny is writing a letter to his son, and he is also narrating a bit, each employing different colored text boxes, and each serving separate purposes, though appearing within the same panels. Readers learn was once married, has kids and now a girlfriend but seems to have spent the night with none of those people.
Johnny mentions in his letter being gone a lot but it being for everyone's benefit and says he had a calling. He keeps it vague saying that if his son begins to have trouble in a similar way, to reach out to him. For the second time, Johnny comes to after a night of indulging but this time something has happened. This act has allowed Johnny to absorb another persons memories and he uses them. Johnny then starts putting pieces in place to make it all work to his advantage, calling the right people, saying the right things. This scenario of awaking without remembering how he got to where he is happens a third time, each time the scene upon which he awakens to all the more severe.
Nitz is crafting a very peculiar tale. Johnny cannot explain how he has come to absorb these memories that appear to be from dead people. He has no idea how he keeps waking up in this situations or why. The book closes with the signature of his letter to his son featuring a significant twist to the already sideways tale.
The author does well to confuse his readers in a way that makes them want to go further rather than give up. The pacing of the story is well done and most readers will be racing to the conclusion of this issue, hungry to understand what is going on. It is possible that the audience that needs answers immediately may get frustrated with the repetition of the sequence of the lead character awaking to something strange with no explanation, but ultimately, Nitz produces a script that will more likely entice than frustrate. Likewise, Greg Smallwood is a great addition to the story. The books art is handled by a relatively unknown penciler, and he shows no real signs of inexperience, his handling of the abrupt transitions and plotting well. The coloring in a few panels is a bit harsh, but this is a very minor critique.
There are a few annoyances with this first issue. Most significantly, the inclusion of a Facebook "Like" thumbs up in a thought bubble is hardly necessary and a frustrating example of that type of situation where making it "current" has no benefit. Additionally, there seems to be a lot of repetition in the names used in the books, doubling several names despite a very small cast. This could honestly be purposeful, but as of now, this choice is simply distracting.
Dream Thief #1 is a very quick and very curious opening chapter. It has both small scale and larger scale mysteries with enough movement and action to entice a new audience.