Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Book This Steal

Posted by Don MacPherson on February 8th, 2012

Thief of Thieves #1
“Chapter One, The Thief and His Apprentice”
Writers: Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer
Artist/Cover artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colors: Felix Serrano
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

People who enjoy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ various Criminal comics will enjoy Thief of Thieves. People who enjoy such titles as Who Is Jake Ellis? and The Rinse will enjoy Thief of Thieves. Here’s the thing, though: Thief of Thieves isn’t quite as good as those other book. Thief has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Shawn Martinbrough’s crisp, dark artwork and Nick Spencer’s sharp, pitter-patter scripting in the second act. Unfortunately, the big build-up to the cliffhanger moment is for naught, because it’s obvious where things are headed. Thief of Thieves is clearly taking some inspiration from some great crime and intrigue comics (and likely stories from other media), but the first issue can only purport to be good, not great.

Redmond may just be the greatest thief the world has ever seen, but not every job goes exactly according to plan. That’s why he needs a support crew, and among those in his corner is Celia, his apprentice. He met her years ago when he caught her trying to steal his ride, and his words of advice about not only how to steal cars but which ones to steal immediately drew her to him. Today, they’re gearing up for a new job, a big job, but there’s one vital element missing before he can execute the plan: he’s not sure his heart is in it anymore.

The best thing this comic book has going for it is Shawn Martinbrough’s artwork. He’s quietly carved out a solid career for himself over the years, but he’s never really been someone with a lot of buzz among fans, and it’s a shame. His artwork is like a cross between the styles of Eduardo (Spaceman) Risso and Phil (Irredeemable Ant-Man) Hester. Other influences that creep into his work on this new project include Cully (The Shade) Hamner and Brian (Matador) Stelfreeze. Martinbrough’s dark style suits the crime genre in which this story is immersed and the intense, hardened qualities of the two main characters we meet in the first issue. Felix Serrano’s muted colors add tension to the drama, and his use of a smoldering orange tone in the final scene helps to set it apart as pivotal and symbolically incendiary.

My biggest beef with this introductory issue is there isn’t a lot of meat on the bone. This read quite quickly. A quick perusal of the issue shows that like Marvel and DC, it seems we’re getting some 20-page issues from Image Comics as well. Not much really happens in this introductory issue, and it’s not as though we get to meet the wider cast of characters. We get cursory introductions to Redmond and Celia, and by the end of the issue, other than the fact they’re master thieves, we really don’t know all that much about them. Redmond comes off as intelligent and brooding, but there’s little emotion, nothing about what’s driven up to this point and nothing about what’s changed for him. Of course, I’m not looking for all of the answers up front, but this debut episode really could have used more of a hook.

Nick Spencer — who’s credited as the writer for this issue, even though Robert Kirkman is credited with crafting the story — offers some strong dialogue in the middle of this inaugural issue. Redmond’s explanation of the ins and outs of car theft was convincing and conveyed intellect. His speech isn’t so much about crime, but about psychology and sociology. I’m not quite as taken with Celia’s character. Her story about why she’s stealing seems to humanize her, but I’m still not sure it’s really her story. Present-day Celia is definitely unlikeable; she and Redmond have been colleagues for years, but she seems to see him as nothing more than a means to her ends. Perhaps the writers are trying to isolate the protagonist right from the start, but it would be nice to see more of the relationship between the two main characters here before we see it torn down.

My hope is this review doesn’t come off as too harsh. I like what’s unfolding here, and there are glimmers of strong characterization. Furthermore, who doesn’t love a good heist story? They’re incredibly fun, and I hope we see more of the same in this series. I plan on reading this series for several more issues; the creators here have definitely earned my respect and my patience. While I was expecting more from this first issue, I can’t say the promise won’t be fulfilled in the near future. 6/10

Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.

3 Responses to “Book This Steal”

  1. Simon DelMonte Says:

    I worry that Spencer is overextending himself. He seems to be working on too many monthly books, and I think the quality is suffering.

  2. Chain Reactions | Thief of Thieves #1 | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics: “My biggest beef with this introductory issue is there isn’t a lot of meat on the bone. This read quite quickly. A quick perusal of the issue shows that like Marvel and DC, it seems we’re getting some 20-page issues from Image Comics as well. Not much really happens in this introductory issue, and it’s not as though we get to meet the wider cast of characters. We get cursory introductions to Redmond and Celia, and by the end of the issue, other than the fact they’re master thieves, we really don’t know all that much about them. Redmond comes off as intelligent and brooding, but there’s little emotion, nothing about what’s driven up to this point and nothing about what’s changed for him. Of course, I’m not looking for all of the answers up front, but this debut episode really could have used more of a hook.” [...]

  3. D. Peace Says:

    I haven’t picked this up yet so I cant comment on the story but I so thoroughly enjoyed Martinbrough’s work on Detective Comics, I’m willing to give it a shot based on that alone. That this is my favorite genre doesn’t hurt, either.