Comic Spot: Thief of Thieves #1 by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough

Thief of Thieves cover (and variant cover) #1Produced: Image                         Story: Robert Kirkman

Written: Nick Spencer                 Art: Shawn Martinbrough

Conrad Paulson lives a secret double life as master thief Redmond.
There is nothing he can’t steal, nothing he can’t have… except for the
life he left behind. Now, with a grown son he hardly knows, and an
ex-wife he never stopped loving, Conrad must try to piece together
what’s left of his life, before the FBI finally catch up to him… but
it appears they are the least of his worries.

Robert Kirkman is clearly an established man – he’s the creator/writer of the
Eisner Award-winning The Walking Dead, the
creator/executive producer and writer of the hit television show of the
same name (the highest-rated basic cable drama of all time in the
U.S.), he topped the New York Times
bestseller list for graphic novels in 2011 and now he’s the man behind a new series about a master thief 
questioning his career choice.

Thief of Thieves, issue #1 page imageHowever, what first drew me to Thief of Thieves wasn’t Robert Kurkman; it was the slick thieves. I’m a sucker for anything Ocean’s
, Italian Job style. There’s a magic to the way the
characters calmly and confidently steal; they’re the rock stars of
bad guys. If you were a criminal, you’d definitely want to be a high end
thief. Cars, money, jewellery – they have it all… or do they? This is
what Thief of Thieves is
all about – at what price does the life of a master thief come?

The story is a mix between build-up towards a big job that has been
years in the
planning, only known as The Venice Job, and visiting the past to
explain how the master thief got where he is today. Issue #1 centres
around how
Redmond met one of his colleagues and apprentice, Celia, and
issue #2 is about his early life of crime with his best friend. The
constant theme of reflection upon his life is there to neatly tie all
the issues together..

Thief of Thieves, issue #1 page imageNow the concept itself is brilliant. I really do like it, but the pace the story progresses is like a tap dripping. Now don’t get
me wrong; it’s dripping top shelf, single malt whiskey, but it’s slow.
The page layout is a little different to normal – it mostly
delivers four long, horizontal panels per page so there’s some clear,
stunning art but fewer panels in which to tell a story. Artist Shawn
Martinbrough does a fantastic job; his art is what really drives the
story. There are many pages with very little, or sometimes no dialogue and
he does an excellent job of conveying emotion and progressing the story
by purely his art alone. Colourist Felix Serrano also does a superb job
of bringing Martinbrough’s art to life – his use of lighting and tone
creates some amazing images that give the comic a real movie feel to it. 

Still, I can’t help but feel the series would benefit from both
smaller panels and merging panels to get more across each issue. The
series boasts some of the nicest art I’ve ever seen in comics – more often
than not comics have great writing but are let down by poor art. Unfortunately,
this series leans too far the other way.

Thief of Thieves, issue #2 page imageThe writing is great and true to its genre – the protagonist is a
cool, rascal of a character who steals, sweet-talks and gets knocked
about a bit. You can’t help but like him. There’s a chapter called ‘How
Celia and Redmond met. Or, how to steal a car,’ which not only gives
you a look into his past, but a brief insight into grand theft auto.
He’s a
cool guy, tall, nice suits, handsome, charming… a James Bond from
the other side of the tracks. But then there’s also the present day
Redmond – dark, broody and remorseful. There’s a depth to the character
that will get readers wondering how he went from happy and at the top of his
game, to questioning his career entirely.

It’s a story I have no doubt will pay off and I have enjoyed
reading thus far, but I think if the series were to progress at the same
pace, it might work better as a graphic novel rather than an issue-by-issue read. I read both issues back to back, so I needed but
individually I’m not sure there’s enough there to keep everyone engaged.
It’ll be a series I save a few issues of before sitting down to read.

To summarise – a great idea and amazing art, but with a slow delivery that could eventually
pay off. I would recommend this to people who like thriller and
action,  or want a down to earth, no-magic-or-vampires, adult comic story.
Issue #1 and #2 have both gone to second printing already and AMC Television Network have just announced Thief of Thieves is going to be adapted into a upcoming TV show already. The sky’s the limit for how far this series could go.

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