I know, I know, I missed issue three. Sorry, but that’s what happens when books comes out around a national holiday. Sometimes you have to give up your darlings for a four-day weekend.
But I digress. Nailbiter #4…Jesus Christ! Ya know, I think Nailbiter should stop referring to the serial killer for which the book is named and just refer to the actions of the readers while turning the pages. We’re getting close to the end of the first arc and the evenly paced, mood setting build up of the first three issues allows for Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson to deliver one hell of a cliffhanger.
The rabbit hole that is Buckaroo and its infamous butchers, sixteen serial killers and counting (maybe), gets deeper and deeper as Sheriff Crane and Finch start digging up the Book Burner’s grave following his supposed attack at the city morgue. Taking a pause before they reach the coffin, the two are attacked again by the Book Burner. Managing to take him down, they discover it’s one of the local teens, Robby. Before they can interrogate him about the death of his best friend and the string of recent attacks, the kid takes matters into his own hands, leaving them a vague message about “breaking the curse”. Crane and Finch don’t have long to dwell on Robby’s untimely end as Finch falls through the supposed grave of the Book Burner into an underground prison where the duo comes across a horrendous sight. Meanwhile, back at the police station, Alice tries to make a deal with the Nailbiter, information in exchange for a few digits.
The appeal of Nailbiter, from the start, has been Williamson’s deft hand at building the world of Buckaroo, Oregon. The town’s reputation as the birthplace of serial killers is the lynchpin of the story, creating a mythology surrounding the Buckaroo Butchers as well as the new culture that has emerged amongst the citizens of Buckaroo. At a support group for people related to Buckaroo Butchers, we learn the origin of The WTF Killer and how his sister has tried to reconcile the sweet artist she new as a child with the monster he’s become. Raleigh, the owner of the Murder Store, however, has a different method of coping. He’s made a living by cashing in on being the grandson of the Book Burner. In his own way, he’s trying to lift the stain of his family, using the power of commerce and voyeurism to gain power. Or he’s trying to get a quick buck off of the reputation of his grandfather, a serial killer who Sheriff Crane reveals barely meets the requirements by definition of the law.
But even in Crane’s explanation of how killers are labeled, and her own disgust with how casual the dialogue seems, we’re shown the impact of the Butchers and Warren’s capture. When the media delved into his past, trying to figure out what made him a serial killer, Buckaroo’s penchant for producing killers became part of the story, forever changing how the town viewed itself. Williamson devotes a large portion of this issue to showing how the town has been affected since Warren’s arrest, peeling away the reasons why Carroll became obsessed with the case and why two high school students would follow the orders of an unknown party out of a desire to “lift the curse” upon Buckaroo. The irony is in trying to cure Buckaroo the teenagers have contributed to the insanity.
Mike Henderson’s artwork remains a wonderful array of action and quiet moments that make horror movies worth watching. He gives life to the eclectic population of Buckaroo and how he composes a scene, especially ones involving the varied serial killers, are as disturbing as they are slightly laughable in how over-the-top they go. One of my favorite moments in the book showcases the fantastic collaboration between Williamson and Henderson. Entering the jail, Alice is greeted by Warren with the line, “Hello, Clarice.” Upon asking who Clarice is the next panel shows a frustrated Warren complaining about her ignorance regarding Silence of the Lambs. It’s a humanizing moment, which forces you to remind yourself that Warren is a serial killer and you shouldn’t be showing any hint of a smile at anything he says despite your desire to chuckle at his outburst. There are times, though, where I feel like the art falters a little. Sheriff Crane as well as Finch remain somewhat limited in their facial expressions. This could be deliberate, a way of showing how hardened they are, but one would think that when a teenager is holding a gun to his head that Crane would have a more startled or urgent expression on her face. Even his death only elicits a subdued, almost annoyed response. It’s a small thing, but I’d hope that, after the reveal at the end of this issue, that the duo show a wider range of emotions.
Final Thoughts: The body count has been a bit low so far. I imagine that’s going to change very soon.