ADVANCE REVIEW! Thief of Thieves #1 will go on sale Wednesday, February 8, 2012.
2011 may have had Jay-Z-plus-Kanye, but 2012 has got Kirkman and Spencer, a collaboration of comics titans that ought to have fanboys revving up the hype machine the way Watch the Throne did for those who like to bump to Jigga and Yeezy. Thief of Thieves is the project in question, pairing the godfather of modern indie with the upstart mastermind behind Morning Glories on a new ongoing series that aims to peek behind the curtain of high stakes heistery. Of course, the craft of writing isn't exactly fantasy football, and adding two superstars together isn't necessarily the formula for reaching the sum total of their greatness.
Especially when the creative process is structured like this one, wherein Kirkman describes his role as akin to that of a TV showrunner with Spencer essentially playing the part of a series staffer. Presumably, other writers will join the gang for subsequent arcs down the road. It's an approach to serial comics that actually makes a lot of sense — especially for Kirkman, given his recent success on AMC's adaptation of The Walking Dead — but it certainly comes packaged with its fair share of drawbacks. Chief among those is the way in which the method naturally dampens any one individual's authorial voice, which, in Spencer's case, is the primary weapon in his arsenal.
Still, these are two blazingly talented creators, and it's not like Kirkman's system has completely robbed either man of his writing prowess. Spencer still maintains his usual command of quality dialogue while throwing in a few smirky smart scene transitions, and the early plot appears to be gearing up for a story with long term promise. Redmond is a certified expert at stealing anything that isn't bolted down (and probably a few things that are), from Gone in 60 Seconds parking lot jobs to elaborate operations aboard high security luxury cruise liners. He maintains a conspicuously platonic relationship with his right-hand woman, Celia, the heart of which is established in a flashback to their first meeting several years prior.
It's that sequence where Thief really shines, capturing the imagination in greater degree than the grander scale — yet less personal feeling — present day moments. As Celia flounders in her attempts to break into a car at a shopping mall, Redmond leans on his expertise to show both her and us how it's really done. At least, I think that's how it's really done. I've got nothing close to a good idea of what actually goes into the art of grand theft auto, but the important thing is that Kirkman and Spencer make it seem like they actually do.
Joining the pair on art is Shawn Martinbrough, who you may remember from the days when Detective Comics had that totally sweet two-tone color scheme. His work doesn't quite pop under today's more conventional palette like it did back then, but he's a solid choice for a book that's high on shady characters and low on sci-fi/fantasy material. His Redmond wears a half-shadow and Band-Aid over his bruised and battered face along with the gruffest of them, but he still raises a glass of Scotch in the air like a man who has genuine class. Celia is similarly juxtaposed to her own self, the inexperienced and desperate woman of the flashback melting into the seasoned and confident criminal of the latter day.
For all its strengths and weaknesses, Thief of Thieves' debut makes it hard to peg the nature of the rest of the series, mainly since it seems to barely touch what the bulk of this book will be. That's because, first off, the final page of the issue appears as one of those everything-is-about-to-change moments and, second, the solicitations for this comic describe a plotline that's only spoken of in whispers and hints here. Ideally, you'll avoid those spoilers before picking this one up, but if you don't, you'll have an informed perspective on the seeds Kirkman and Spencer are planting. It may not be the apocalypse of awesome you were dreaming of, but if anyone deserves a few issues to get things going, it's these guys.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!