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Nailbiter #1 upsetting, powerful, extraordinary

Nailbiter #1  upsetting, powerful, extraordinary

Nailbiter #1nailbiter-1-00

Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Mike Henderson
Published by Image Comics

Number One Question About Nailbiter #1: Is It Setting Up A Police Procedural Or A Horror Series?

Nailbiter #1 is a conundrum. The reader is presented with a small town in Oregon, Buckaroo, which is the birthplace of no less than sixteen of the world’s most notorious serial killers and which is under investigation by an Army Intelligence officer who seems to be suffering from a psychotic breakdown of his own. One of the killers, the book’s namesake – The Nailbiter – was recently acquitted and has returned to his hometown. The intelligence officer’s good friend and fellow investigator has gone missing while digging around in Buckaroo, looking for some kind of connection which could shed light on why this small town could spawn so many murderers. Obviously, there is a mystery at the center of the plot. The book offers no small amount of gore, specifically at the beginning and the end of the issue. There seem to be a few of those stock horror-movie-type characters that will either be fodder for the killers or may be killers themselves. By the end of issue number one, the big question is will this be more of a police investigation story in the same vein as a television series like Bones or will it be more akin to a bloodbath like Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects. With issue one’s title being “There Will Be Blood,” the best bet is likely on the latter.

nailbiter-1-02The book’s namesake, The Nailbiter – a man whose “modus operandi was to kidnap innocent men and women who had the habit of chewing their fingernails … would keep them captive until his victim’s nails grew back, and then chew their fingers down to the bone before ultimately killing them” – is the most recent killer to come from the town, and he is captured at the very beginning of the issue by a SWAT team led by Eliot Carroll. Skip forward three years and now Carroll is in Buckaroo investigating the town to see if he can find the source of its serial killer production. He winds up missing, but not before calling in his friend, Nicholas Finch, an intelligence officer from the U.S. Army, to help him with the investigation. Finch travels to Buckaroo, meets several locals – some of which seem to be either horror-movie-style fodder or, possibly, serial killers – before finding out that his friend is missing. With the aid of local police, Finch finds out that The Nailbiter is back in town. With that information, Finch figures that the killer, a criminal Carroll helped capture, is the most likely starting point for his own investigation.

Considering this is the first issue of the series, “There Will Be Blood” does what it was meant to do – set up the rest of the series. There are plenty of creepy things going on in the background of this issue, along with hints at the blood and gore that is likely to come, that force the reader to go back for a second read-through just to see if anything was missed the first time. Writer Williamson’s serial killers are clearly the highlight of this issue, with the seemingly haunted Finch being a close second. Along with The Nailbiter, Williamson introduces The Book Burner, a man who can neither read nor write so he burns down libraries and murders writers; he is just as fresh and original as the series titular criminal. However, as pointed out earlier in this review, the other characters come across as nothing more than stiff, stock characters, which is fine as long as Williamson devises clever and entertaining ways to kill them off. If not, then artist Henderson’s lovely talent for drawing blood-soaked scenes will go to waste.

Henderson’s artwork is both gritty and colorful, artistic traits that pair well with a book about serial murder. He does an nailbiter-1-01excellent job of making the reader feel like they are in each panel, experiencing exactly what the comic’s characters are experiencing. The panels that focus on bloodshed are the most visceral and well-drawn. Hands down, the best panel of the whole comic is in the opening when the SWAT team raids The Nailbiter’s home. This scene is sure to make even the most hardcore horror fan squirm a bit.

Overall, Nailbiter #1 works well as a set-up for future issues. Williamson’s fresh take on serial killers is nicely executed and Henderson’s expertise at portraying blood, grit, and gore is extraordinary. No matter what genre this series falls into, it is sure to be a bloody, fun read.

Merriell Moyer