What happens to the loved ones of the greatest thief in the world when he is finally captured and thrown into a Russian prison? To what lengths will they go to rescue him, and what changes will the brutality of that prison create in Redmond, Thief of Thieves?
Writer: Brett Lewis
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: John Moisan
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: July 4, 2018
Previously in Thief of Thieves: In the aftermath of a botched heist, the survivors escape home, mourning the capture of Conrad, aka Redmond, a semi-reformed master thief. While his wastrel son Augustine flirts with plans to rescue his father, it is Redmond’s apprentice, Celia, who begins the process of putting together a team of hard cases to liberate her mentor from the hellish confines of a Russian prison.
THIS ISSUE IS DENSE
Thief of Thieves #38 is a dense examination of Conrad, a master thief captured and slung into a Russian prison. Conrad’s story, how he comes to terms with his imprisonment and the efforts of his loved ones to free him, form the basis of this issue.
Writer Brett Lewis’s story burns slow but bright. There is a great sense of futility in both storylines – Augustine’s refusal to be a part of Celia’s plans, and the brutalization Conrad faces in his early weeks in prison. For people of action, the very inaction of the story puts immense pressure on the characters, the sort of pressure that proves the most revelatory of character.
Yet Conrad doesn’t break, and forms an odd couple relationship with a fellow prisoner dubbed the Rabbi, who teaches him how to survive in this inhospitable environment. There’s an amusing, if anticipatory, moment where Conrad, shoveling snow with the Rabbi on the prison roof, is reminded that this early premonition of winter is not the true, harsh winter that will sweep across them all.
The heart of the story comes in the slightly contrived set up of the yearly letter prisoners are allowed to send to their families. Conrad, who gave up thieving in an effort to patch up his broken marriage and reconcile with his daughter, pens his ex-wife a letter. In it, he lashes himself for his failings, and it feels a great deal like he is acknowledging that his imprisonment is a just reward for him abandoning his family for his life of crime.
His wife, of course, is allowed to respond. She doesn’t miss the chance to furiously agree with Conrad, excoriating him for his selfishness. He sees the truth in this, and in a memorable scene that takes up the last few pages of Thief of Thieves #38 takes his rage and pain out on the prison guards around him.
Thief of Thieves #38 is a book with very little action, or I should say, what little action there is reveals character in the most brutal way. Conrad initially buckles down to his imprisonment, certain that he will find a way to escape. Instead, the reality of his past deeds and present punishment is brought home to him in his wife’s letter.
A DARK BOOK
This is a dark book, as the characters come up against the limits of their skill and endurance. The art is similarly dark, with artist Shawn Martinbrough’s thick line work and dim lighting strongly suiting the nature of the story. You can’t depict prison brutality lightly, and Martinbrough’s work brings home that brutality in every single panel.
BOTTOM LINE: WORTH IT
Thief of Thieves #38 marks the beginning of the end of the series. After leading a somewhat charmed, if exceptionally complicated life, Conrad’s chickens are beginning to come home to roost. No matter your best intentions, no matter how hard you try to make amends for the mistakes in your life, it is that accumulation of sin, if you will, that clings to you, drags you down, and offers you up for the punishments that life inevitably bring. Lost, seemingly abandoned in a Russian hellhole, Conrad is about to find out that the price of freedom is to be crushed underfoot.