Nailbiter is a hard book to classify; it is made up of equal parts horror and thriller but also has some irreverent humour thrown in for good measure. The book itself centers around the town of Buckaroo in Oregon which has the rather unfortunate record of birthing more serial killers than any other location in America. The most famous of these, Edward Warren – nicknamed the Nailbiter, draws in the FBI. When their lead agent goes missing after potentially discovering the reason for the town’s unusually high ratio of killers, it’s up to his best friend Nicholas Finch to find him and uncover the truth behind it all.
Joshua Williamson has done an excellent job at building the characters of this dark tale, and continues doing so in this issue. As we found out in the first volume, everyone living in the town are descendants or relations of the serial killers themselves, the infamous Buckaroo Butchers. Due to this, it is difficult to know who to trust, and it is ironic that the most honest and open person we meet is Edward Warren. Williamson has become an expert at answering the reader’s every question with another question, and just when we think we know everything about the town and its sordid history we find out that Finch has barely scratched the surface.
The art in Nailbiter fits the tone perfectly, Mike Henderson’s characters are appropriately creepy and larger than life. Edward himself is very charismatic and yet has the look of a caged animal ready to strike, his smile does little to hide this and actually makes him appear even more menacing. Henderson also has a wonderful way of animating key scenes in the story, i won’t go into spoilers but the last two pages of the book are one of the best examples of a physical comic simulating movement. If you read the issue before this and enjoyed the scene in the morgue and how animated that was then you already know what to expect.
Great art is nothing without a suitable colourist to match, and Adam Guzowski does not disappoint, the whole town and its residents live in an muted colour scheme save for the occasional splash of blood. Regardless of whether or time of day the entire environment seems to be constantly bathed in shadow, like a waking nightmare that just wont end.
I am really struggling to find anything bad about this book, the only thing I can really say with any certainty is that you can not and should not pick this issue up prior to reading the first three. There is a section at the start that recaps the story, but you are doing yourself an extreme disservice if you are not following this from the very beginning.
I was lucky enough to have the chance to read this book from the beginning, and it has taken me to a place I had almost forgotten could exist in this medium. From the very first page of issue one to the final page of issue four I have actually felt uneasy, anxious and on occasion a little afraid. It is a difficult thing to inspire fear, revulsion and panic in a book that so heavily relies on static images and yet it not only exceeds nearly every other book in the genre, it does so better than most movies!
This is not a typical comic book filled with Super Heroes or Mutant warriors, this is a book about normal people living in what is probably the worst town in the world. This is a book for adults and it is not afraid to toy with the reader and defy genre conventions. If you are not already reading this you really should be; like The Walking Dead it shows that a comic book can be different, and handle complex situations and characters without relying on a last second deus ex machina to wrap everything up. I literally cannot wait until the next issue hits news stands next month so I can further immerse myself in that horrible little town.