Before you even crack open the first volume of Nailbiter, clip your nails to the quick, file them all the way down. Maybe wear gloves. Writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Anderson have teamed with Image Comics to release Nailbiter Volume 1: There Will Be Blood, which collects the first five issues of the series, and is delightfully more disgusting and gore riddled than the bad habit would suggest.
Nailbiter takes place in the fictional Oregon town of Buckaroo, which is a name that sounds like something your hick uncle would call you after tipping his stetson back with his thumb and adjusting his bolo. Buckaroo is the hometown of 16 separate serial killers, which demands that we, as the audience, have to ask: Are killers born in Buckaroo or are they raised there? It’s nature versus nurture, but with more blood. Like, a lot of blood.
One of my criticisms of Nailbiter is its scapegoating of mental illness. All the killers seem to be inspired by childhood grievances and neuroses. The most famous of the killers is Edward Warren, who is just so obsessed with fingernails that he just has to kidnap people to chew their fingers off and then kill them.
It isn’t until issue four that there’s a possibility of a greater scheme or mystery responsible for this weird phenomenon. Sure, the volume starts with a cop telling his friend he cracked the secret of the Buckaroo Butchers, but it isn’t a real possibility until late in the first volume.
But hot damn, when that doubt gets sown it’s a pretty crazy read. The drama can get heavy handed, like when characters delay giving each other information because “you won’t believe it,” or when characters spend too much time explaining things to each other (obviously only for the benefit of the reader).
But those minor infractions don’t actually detract from what’s really the point of Nailbiter. This comic book is really best enjoyed by reading it all at once and without bothering to pause and think. It’s the suspense and excitement of finding out what’s actually going on behind the serial killer scenes at Buckaroo that makes Nailbiter worth reading.
Our reluctant hero, Nicholas Finch, tells the local sheriff Shannon Crane that he’s just not at all interested in finding out why Buckaroo is apparently a breeding ground for some twisted killers, all of whom have been christened with spectacularly terrible nicknames by the media.
Instead, he is just interested in finding his cop buddy who called Finch to tell him that he’d cracked the secret. But of course, the secret was too grandiose or dramatic, or whatever, to be told over the phone. Now he’s missing and Finch has to find him—but he’s definitely not interested in figuring out this secret haunting this rural town.
At least, until the mystery gets super weird. Then his interest is piqued, and it’s pretty understandable why he finally gets hooked. Generally I dislike reluctant heroes. We all know you’re the hero and we all know you’re going to be the one doing stuff in the story so just give in. But I was definitely with Finch the whole way through and became interested in his story at about the same time he did.
Nailbiter is definitely worth the bloodied ride from one weird murder to another, through the driving rain and jaded locals, all of which are related to one serial murderer or another.