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Taking the tropes of the "Master Thief" and adding some new blood!
on October 2, 2012
Most of the negativity surrounding Image's THIEF OF THIEVES is that it, in many ways, is a rip-off of Soderbergh films like OUT OF SIGHT and the OCEAN's films. There is something to that, to be certain, but if you cast a less cynical eye on it, you can see what co-plotter Robert Kirkman and co-plotter/writer Nick Spencer are really doing here. THIEF OF THIEVES is hardly a rip-off as it is a loving homage to the archetypes of the master thief, his master crew, and the sexy federal agent pursuing him. Instead of following the same old themes of the thief pulling the "one big score", Kirkman and Spencer are smart enough to show a grittier side of this kind of life which essentially deglamourizes the tropes they are using.
Conrad Paulson, our main character, is also known to the underworld as Redmond, who is generally considered THE thief (hence the title of the book). He knows that he's made for this game, but he wanted something more than this life, and he had it briefly, but for reasons as yet unknown, his wife took their son and they left him. In the very first issue, we meet his sexy goth/punk apprentice Celia, who is kind of sweet on the older, wiser Redmond, but we also meet the sexy federal agent who has been chasing down Redmond and his civilian identity as Paulson. And at the end of the very first issue, Redmond, while being courted to do a huge, high-profile job, makes a startling announcement that he's quitting.
Now, we might normally expect for someone to be angry with Redmond for doing that and maybe we'd get treated to a standard "If you don't work for me, I'm going to kill you" scenario, but that's not the case here. We see Redmond trying to reconnect with his ex-wife, dealing with some fallout over what he's just turned down, and we also get flashbacks of Redmond's earlier career working with his wife-to-be and her brother as well as the federal agent's mistakes in her pursuit of Redmond. The presentation of the character of Redmond here is not that of a brilliant master thief of the Danny Ocean variety who enjoys the game and being one step ahead; he is more of a lonely and damaged man who stays one step ahead because that's where is mind is always at. He's a man with a lot of problems and doesn't feel that remaining a thief will necessarily solve all of his problems, until inevitably, he sees a way where being a thief just might be the solution.
I wasn't amazed by the first issue of this title. Although Shawn Martinbrough's terrific and moody art is a thrill to look at, the first issue seemed abbreviated and a little staccato in its flow. By the second issue though, Spencer develops more of a flow for the dialogue and the action and the character while keeping the reader slightly off-balance with the disjointed time narrative. It's a slow-burn title that is really in Spencer's wheelhouse, coming with his brilliant work on Image's MORNING GLORIES, which is probably their best ongoing title. This book never quite reaches that level, but it's certainly a force to be reckoned with.
THIEF OF THIEVES is not what you'd likely expect from Robert "THE WALKING DEAD" Kirkman, but with the talents of Nick Spencer and artist Shawn Martinbrough, it's a very pleasurable read, filled with strong character beats and enough twists and turns to keep many of the more jaded comic readers very happy.