It’s a five-issue limited series with no ties to any current franchise. It’s a gritty tale you might find from someone like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, yet it’s not just another crime noir caper. It’s a story about a superhero story for sure, but a reluctant one, who comes with plenty of baggage and character flaws and draws his power from what could be a cousin to Loki’s mask from Mike Richardson’s The Mask series. It has its own unique, cool look, too. It’s Dark Horse Comics’ Dream Thief, and if you missed it this year you’ll soon have a chance to pick it up in a trade edition.
On a particularly wrong time, wrong place outing with a friend, John Lincoln steals an aboriginal mask from an art museum display. He then finds himself tumbling again and again through other people’s lives, waking each new day with the memories of a person who used John’s body to kill someone. And each of the victims? They deserved it. In his quest to discover what has happened to him, he sleuths out the truth behind the acts of his own girlfriend, the mob, and baddies of every variety.
Writer Jai Nitz (Tron: Betrayal, Kato Origins, El Diablo, and the new Grimm: The Warlock) carves out a dark and violent story of a man out of control, of his own actions and of the criminals who have invaded his mind. The result is a potential ongoing world of the Dial “H” for HERO variety, where John could continue in the mask, or he could pass it along to someone else. And it’s the kind of book you could see Dark Horse taking on as a regular monthly.
The artwork is a stunning body of work for any artist. When you consider it’s from a budding artist on his first gig for a major publisher, it’s that much more impressive. Greg Smallwood provides the pencils. inks and even lettering for the series, and instead of taking a safe route through the series he creates his own types of panels and layouts that gives Dream Thief a style of its own. His anti-hero is tough and cool, making us care about someone we normally wouldn’t. His choreographed fight scenes are particularly well done. In a concept-dense story that takes us in and out of a guy’s troubled mind and from location to location several times in each issue, Smallwood and Nitz have partnered well at keeping the reader on track.
You can pre-order the trade edition or Kindle version of Dream Thief now. It will be available from Dark Horse Comics in March 2014. Look for the work of several noted cover artists interpreting Lincoln and his mask, too, from Alex Ross to Michael Golden to Ryan Sook.