Ghosts. Possession. Vengeance. A Mystery. A Dead Beat and Dead Bodies. This is the book I never hear anyone talk about but should. Dark Horse has let Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood create a world that begs to be read.
It starts with John Lincoln: a guy between jobs and his next pot fix. He isn’t the best boyfriend; he isn’t the best brother and maybe not the best friend you might want either, and he appears to come from a broken home with an imprisoned father. This is all in the first few pages. He might appear unhappy but he isn’t distraught until Nitz throws the toaster into the bathwater.
Joking with his only friend about reliving “old times”, John teases about stealing a mask from an Aboriginal exhibit. Guess he did because next time we see him, he awakens from a blackout wearing the mask and discovers his girlfriend, dead, by his hands. Jai Nitz doesn’t leave us hanging there flabbergasted; instead, he carefully pulls back the curtain revealing scenes and information to both curb and heighten our surprise. Before we know it, our protagonist is burying one body and waking up in a room with several.
All this transition is all made easier by Greg Smallwood’s art. Smallwood handles all the art duties and we are rewarded with that consistency and creativity. He mixes up his panels and colors from simple to complex (his texts as panels are nice) but they flow so organically that it reads like traditional comic composition.
As the story continues we travel with John Lincoln as he wakes to crimes committed after each blackout, supposedly while possessed by a vengeful spirit. During these possessions John is able to retain the memories and abilities: lifeguard, boxer, gambler and soldier, of each spirit. Each discovery is as fun for us as it is fun and useful for John – his glee at blowing up the cars of Ku Klux Klan members is great.
His sleeping dream life takes him south, and each act of vengeance starts to become connected — possibly to his father, a man he has dismissed for a large part of his life. John also meets another that understands and has possibly worn the mask himself, as evidenced by his numerous combat skills.
With Dream Thief, Nitz and Smallwood have crafted a supernatural mystery with John Lincoln as narrator and unwilling yet willing participant. I think the series would have been better served with six issues because the fifth and final issue wrapped up things a little too neat and quickly, but it certainly leaves the door open for another series.