Joshua Williamson & Mike Henderson (Illustrator)
October 1, 2014
A Review by Michael David Anderson
I’m horrible when it comes to reading graphic novels. I’ll habitually read them for months, then I’ll get swept up in a few novels, and my issues of comics go in a drawer, collecting dust until I’m finally ready to dive back into them once more. A friend – J.C. Ratliff, a local comic based here in Knoxville, Tennessee, who would absolutely kill me if I didn’t plug his album, Hope is a Virus, available on iTunes, at this point (This is okay, right? He’s independent. It works because we’re at the Leighgendarium, right? Right?!) – recommended I pick up Nailbiter, so I added it to my file at the local comics shop.
I haven’t been reading Nailbiter in collected volumes. I own the individual issues. I decided to go back and start at the beginning recently. I hadn’t gotten very far when I started reading at the end of 2014, and I’m now two years behind. I figured I would share my reading of Nailbiter with you based on the collected volumes, because it’s easier to get the feel of the series in these little chunks. It’s also easier than reviewing issue by issue, and it’s easier for you to pick up a volume should you decide to read it, which I highly recommend if you’re a fan of serial killer and creepy town stories.
Here is where you’re probably going to ask me, “Is it scary?” Honestly, I rarely find most forms of fiction truly scary. I am, however, compelled to explore the world of Nailbiter through a combination of its writing, especially in characterization and plotting, and how the art style compliments it in a way that makes it easy to get lost in its pages. I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and before I knew it, I’d read through every issue of Volume 1 and told myself it was time to go to bed. Volume 2 could wait… although I didn’t want it to.
As for Nailbiter itself, the story is set in Buckaroo, Oregon, the birthplace of a staggering sixteen serial killers. No one knows why so many serial killers are born in Buckaroo, but Detective Carroll is determined to find out why. He calls a friend, NSA Agent Finch, to come help him, promising he’s gotten to the bottom of the mystery, but when Finch, currently on suspension from his agency, finally arrives, Carroll is missing, and a killer appears to be on the loose.
The eponymous Nailbiter, Edward Warren, is the obvious suspect, but things are not as they seem. Warren, you see, was acquitted, but everyone knows he’s a killer, and he’s not above letting people know he’s not trustworthy. Warren’s modus operandi? Biting the fingernails (and fingers) off his victims.
That’s the hook, of course. Expect some dark artwork and some outstanding writing from the team on Nailbiter. It’s paced expertly, and there is a genuine mystery to unravel here amidst the mythology behind Buckaroo itself. Many sources have likened Nailbiter as being a stylistic cross between David Fincher’s film Se7en and the cult classic show Twin Peaks, and I wholeheartedly agree. This first volume is really setting the stage for what’s to come. Don’t expect answers to be forthcoming. Some answers will come, but they lead to more questions, as you should expect from an ongoing series.
I’m including a scan of one of my favorite panels from this volume to give you, dear readers, an idea of the art style and how, even in this graphic novel format, tension and dread can be easily created when in the right hands.
Volume 1 wraps in an interesting cliffhanger, setting the stage for a much larger story with far more moving pieces than one might expect. It’s been over two years since Nailbiter began, and it’s still releasing a monthly issue. Expect more from me regarding the evolution of Nailbiter, and if you’re looking for a graphic novel with an intriguing premise and masterful execution, check this out.
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