I love stories about thieves. There’s something I admire about a person who decides to just take something and has the skills and presence of mind to do it. Maybe it's not admirable on a moral level, but you have to admit that in today's economic climate where people who play by the rules are nonetheless taken advantage of the idea of a man taking what he wants from the rich does lend itself to a kind of catharsis. So when Thief of Thieves was originally announced I was excited that I would be getting thieves doing thief like things on a monthly basis, which is all I really want from a crime book. However another interesting point to consider when picking up this title is that when it was announced creator Robert Kirkman said he would be taking a “writers room” approach to the storytelling which is normally used on television, which he became acquainted with while working on The Walking Dead (yeah I haven’t heard of it either). The idea of this book's construction is that the central ideas would come from Kirkman working as de facto show runner, and every arc being treated as an episode with different writers coming in to flesh the story out. This isn’t a wholly original idea to comics as there are tons of books that have had constantly switching creative teams over the years, but I this is one of the only real instances I can think of where the process has been accelerated and appropriately planned for. However that doesn’t really matter, because despite its roundabout way of doing it the team on Thief of Thieves have created one hell of a first issue.
Thief of Thieves follows a man named Redmond and we’re shown pretty early on that he is very good at his job. And his job is stealing things, but with a title like Thief of Thieves it’s not likely that his job would be as a fisherman. Over the course of the issue we follow Redmond on a job, part of his past, and his relationship with his associates. Overall this is meant to be a presentation of Redmond as a character and through the use of some flashbacks we see that this story is going to hinge on the juxtaposition of the kind of thief Redmond was years ago and the thief he is now.
Nick Spencer writes this issue and the upcoming five, and although I’ve never been blown away by Spencer’s work in the past, something I’ve always appreciated about his work is his knack for natural sounding dialogue combined with well-researched facts that gives it a level of authenticity. Because of this planning, all of the major characters we see in this issue come off as incredibly interesting people that you want to spend time with. And it's worth mentioning that although the book is very much a crime story, its not noir. The only reason I bring this up because over the last few years almost every crime story I’ve read in the comic medium seem to have had some noir tropes attached to them. This is hardly a problem. All of the crime noir comics I could name have been amazing, but the two genres have become a little too intertwined for my tastes. So to read Thief of Thieves and realizing that it’s a crime story less concerned with a manufactured atmosphere as it is about how you would actually go about committing a crime. It's more heist than mobster.
And that's just what you get with this book: crime. This is a book that gives you all you would want from an issue of a good crime comic. You get a heist, a twist on the heist, and bad people doing bad things (or at least talking about doing bad things). It will be interesting to see if the issue construction of a one and done crime (much like the "crime-a-week" structure of procedurals) attached to an overarching plot will continue into future issues, but as of right now this issue is a perfect package of what you could want from a crime comic. And if nothing else I'm pretty sure this book teaches you how to steal a car.
The book's art duties fall to Shawn Martinbrough and if this issue is an accurate representation of what he’s going to be bringing to the book on a monthly basis we are in for a treat. I know it borders on cliché to call an artists style “cinematic” but that’s what Martinbrough does. He takes a page and makes it look like it could be appearing on a movie screen. He uses some very stylish line work that works well for the action and all of the characters are well-designed. He thankfully has a good handle on facial expressions too, a common place for otherwise good art to fall apart. He also has enough inherent "grittiness" in his style that it should fit well with other books in the crime genre but its also unique enough that it will stand out. There are some problems but ultimately they were so minor there is almost no chance it will hamper your enjoyment of the book.
Thief of Thieves is a unique book that has a very solid debut issue and ultimately is the kind of book that crime fiction fans will love. And although many of the elements are still not yet in place this is a book that looks like its only going to get better from here.
TL;DR: A solid debut issue with a killer creative team makes this a crime title we should all read.