- Writer: Joshua Williamson
- Artist: Mike Henderson
- Color: Adam Guzowski
- Letters: John Hill
Neck stabs, kidnappings, and mystery! Yep, Nailbiter is back this week and it’s just as sick and depraved as I remembered. If you haven’t given this book a shot (which is a colossal, mistake by the way,) please do yourself a favor and pick up the first trade. Speaking as someone who actively and aggressively avoids the horror genre in general, that first arc was easily one of the best things to come out of comics in 2014. So, so, freaking good.
But for the uninitiated and those in need of a catch-up, here are the bare bones to the story: a small town in Oregon has become the birthplace to sixteen of the world’s worst serial killers. When an obsessive FBI agent goes missing while investigating the town’s secrets, his best friend, an Army interrogator named Nicholas Finch, goes looking for him. To find his friend and unravel the town’s mysteries, Finch will have to side up and work with everyone from the town sheriff to the aptly named “Nailbiter” killer.
Nailbiter #10 picks up right where the last issue left off. Driven insane by the memory of children he’s seen grow up to be murderers, a school bus driver has kidnapped his young students and aims to kill them before they can become tainted by Buckaroo’s “curse.” Hurtling towards the depths of a lake, Finch and Sheriff Crane have to stop the crazed driver before one more Buckaroo Butcher is added to the list.
Essentially a one-off issue, the newest Nailbiter was very hit or miss. On the one hand, Joshua Williamson continues to show a true talent for inspiring terror. The man also knows how to keep things fresh. After a few too many panels of crucified teenagers or gnawed fingertips, some fans may become desensitized to the overtly graphic violence. Williamson stops that from happening by utilizing a new brand of fear in this issue. The newest pages may lack the blood and the guts, but they do offer something else; the very real possibility for dozens of children to drown to death in a lake. That may not make you want to pull a blanket over your eyes, but it’s the kind of reality-based tragedy that could actually happen. In a way, that makes it all the more frightening.
The issue also ends in awesome fashion. While the plot has been a bit up and down since the story peaked in issue #5, Williamson seems to have settled in for a great new direction.
On the downside, this may well have been the worst issue yet. That’s not entirely uncomplimentary either; a bad day for Nailbiter is a pretty great day for other comics. Unfortunately, this issue was kind of all over the place. The events at the lake wrapped up too nicely, there were plot holes galore, and the whole issue seemed a bit out of place from the world Williamson has created.
Also, and this may just be me, but I feel like I’m getting nothing but stick from the mystery. You’ve got to give me some of the carrot, Williamson. I’m dying here. There’s facet after facet of new mystery without an answer in sight.
As a strong positive, the art continues to impress. Henderson and Guzowski create pages that are gritty and realistic enough to convey struggle and fear, but at the same time, they’re still aesthetically pleasing. By abandoning the muted black and white slog many horror comics chose to go with, the colored panels make for an interesting mix of terror and fun. If a more sparse publishing schedule means that this combination of story and art continues, I’m all for it.
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