The entertaining part about Nick Spencer’s writing in “Thief of Thieves” #5 is how he cleverly jumps around in the narrative. Readers familiar with “Morning Glories” already know Spencer has a superb knack for nonlinear storytelling. The opening pages start out with an action-packed flashback, then leaps forward to the present. The time jumps will remind readers of another classic heist movie, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing.” Just like in the movie, Spencer skips in mid-conversation and begins a scene ten minutes later. The reader isn’t meant to know the details, but the information will come back later on at an important point during the narrative.
Spencer and Robert Kirkman have crafted a well-constructed story that understands the conventions and rules of heist movies. In order to pull off the crime caper, the supposed “one last big job,” a ragtag team of expert criminals must be brought in. Each player has his or her own specific role, which will either bring the success or downfall of the heist. In a fast-moving sequence, Spencer is clearly having tremendous fun with the nicknames of his players while presenting them in action.
The addition of these players may actually be the weakest part of the story. Because this is a bigger list of supporting characters, Hustle is the only member of the team who has his own clear voice and distinct personality. This installment is still just an introduction and hopefully Spencer will define each member in later issues, giving readers a chance to root for someone.
The artwork by Shawn Martinbrough is very eye-appealingly cinematic. In every page, Martinbrough illustrates his supporting cast through tight close-ups and medium shots while playing around with the rack focus of the camera, blurring the background. The opening shoot-out is storyboarded in slow-motion, highlighting the emotion of the tragic event. In his close-ups, Conrad is physically tired and has this pained, guilt-ridden expression on his face, like he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Thief of Thieves”#5 is an entertaining heist comic with a morally ambiguous protagonist and a growing cast of criminal characters. At its best, “Thief of Thieves” keeps its readers guessing because of its unconventional storytelling and stylized artwork. Readers will definitely be glued to the pages as the grand crime caper slowly reveals itself.