Comic Picks By The Glick

Thief of Thieves vol. 1: I Quit

September 24, 2012

After the “not bad, but not great” “Astounding Wolf-Man” and the utter creative and commercial misfire of “The Infinite,” Robert Kirkman has finally replicated the creative and commercial success of “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible” with this series.  At least, that’s what the hype and buzz told me.  Working with a rotating cast of writers to replicate the “writer’s room” feel of “The Walking Dead” TV series, the first of which is Nick Spencer of “Morning Glories” fame, and artist Shawn Martinbrough, we’re introduced in this volume to master thief Conrad Paulson who, as the title indicates, has had enough of this life.  That being said, would it surprise anyone to learn that something happens to force him back into it?

I had originally heard that the premise for this series was going to involve Conrad stealing from other thieves.  Hence the title.  That sounded like a nifty setup that would allow for a lot of variety between arcs and battles of wits between the protagonist and his marks.  Either I misheard or that idea will be brought up after this arc because we don’t see any of that here.  As it is, there’s no indication of any long-term plans for this title short of “Conrad steals something from someone.”  It makes me ask, “Where do we go from here?” with a questioning tone instead of one filled with anticipation.

The good news is that if subsequent volumes are as entertaining as this one, then its lack of long-term planning won’t be that much of an issue.  Things do get off to a snappy start with Conrad, his right-hand-woman Celia and the rest of their crew pulling off a heist on a luxury liner before he breaks the news of the retirement to everyone back home.  Momentum slows a bit as we’re introduced to Elizabeth Cohen, the FBI agent dedicated to bringing him in, along with the conflict that’s going to bring him back into the fold.  Turns out that his son, Augustus, really wants to be like his old man but he doesn’t have half the skills necessary to do it.  Now dad is faced with the worst kind of choice if he wants to spare his boy a lengthy stay in prison.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I read a lot of the comics I write about here before clocking in at work, on breaks, and during lunchtime.  So there are plenty of times when I’ve had no choice but to stop reading and get back to writing (for a living).  I started reading this at lunch and when the momentum started to sag in the middle of the book I figured that I’d be able to put it down without a problem.  However, when I did I also found that I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen on the job that Conrad, Celia and the rest of the crew had set up along with the deal that he had struck with Elizabeth in order to free his son.  So I keep working for a while and then clock out for my second break.  That’s when I find out exactly what the plan is as well as the triple-cross that Conrad has planned all along.  I don’t finish the book then, so I’m STILL thinking about what surprises the last few pages have in store through the end of the day.

The short version:  This was very much worth it in the end.  It’s full of the clever planning, twists, and sleight-of-hand that characterize the best “heist” stories.  Martinbrough also gives the whole story a very realistic look without getting bogged down in any kind of photo-referencing.  His characters “act” believably on the page and I love the way he handles the various “jump-cuts” throughout the book.  The “Lawyer,” “Lawyer,” “Lawyer,” “Lawyer,” and “Change of clothes under the dummy seat” are notable standouts.

It’s easy to see why this has already been optioned as a TV series.  Of course, that lack-of-long-term-planning here makes it hard to see how they’ll be sustaining things over the long term (both the comic and potential TV series), but “I Quit” is still a very entertaining start for the title.  Though I thoroughly enjoyed Spencer’s dialogue in this volume, James Asmus (current writer of “Gambit” who also took over for Kieron Gillen on the last five issues of “Generation Hope”) will be coming onboard for the next arc.  There’s always the chance that such a change will upset the synergy that made this volume work so well, yet I’ll be looking forward to seeing how well it works regardless.

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