Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson
Colors: Adam Guzowski
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 5/7/2014 (collected 10/2014)
Joshua Williamson has been getting some high-profile projects lately, and his star is definitely rising. While writing his creator-owned titles, Birthright and Nailbiter (Image Comics), he has also written Haunted Mansion (Marvel/Disney), Predator: Fire and Stone and Captain Midnight (Dark Horse Comics), and Robocop (BOOM! Studios). And, now, Williamson is writing the new Flash series at DC Comics, following their Rebirth event.
Mike Henderson is known for his work on Robocop and Escape from New York (BOOM! Studios), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters (IDW Publishing), plus a handful of single issues for the “Big Two”, including Masters of the Universe (DC Comics), Carnage, Venom, Thor, Spider-Man, and Once Upon a Time (Marvel Comics). The late Gene Colan, one of Marvel Comics’ superstars from the 1960s and 1970s, had this to say about Henderson:
Michael Henderson has caught my imagination. There’s a drama there that is compelling. His linework is economical and sharp yet one sees all the curves. There’s magic in that!
The cover to Nailbiter #1 shows one of our main characters, Edward Warren, in the act of chewing a handful(!) of finger tips. The story opens with Elliot Carroll leading a SWAT team into a house in California. They find Edward Warren sitting on the floor, several bodies (and parts of bodies) around him, while he chews on one of his victims finger tips. “Wasn’t expecting visitors. But don’t worry. There’s enough for everyone.” A file card introduces us to Warren’s M.O.: kidnap people who chew their nails; wait for nails to grow back; chew their fingers down to the bone; kill the victim. Apparently, Warren was responsible for 46 murders in California. The press was responsible for his nickname: Nailbiter. The file card also identifies Warren as “Buckaroo Butcher #16.”
Three years later, we are introduced to Nicholas Finch, sitting on a bed holding a gun to his head. Nothing is happening, so when Carroll calls, Finch reluctantly answers the phone. Finch assumes Carroll is in trouble, and we learn that Finch can always identify a liar. Carroll tells Finch that he has figured out the mystery, and he needs Finch’s help in Buckaroo, Oregon. Carroll thinks he has cracked the secret of the Buckaroo Butchers, and needs Finch’s specific skills to help get the proof he needs.
Finch arrives in Buckaroo one day later, only to find Carroll missing. We also see a flashback to Finch’s past, including what appears to be an interrogation-gone-wrong, with a now-dead prisoner in custody. Finch is awaiting trial, but we aren’t given any real detail about the incident. However, it weighs on Finch. We are also introduced to Buckaroo’s strange townsfolk. Some are fairly normal, and found in every town, and some are products of Buckaroo. Among them, Raleigh Woods, who runs “The Murder Store”, the “…world’s first serial killer souvenir shop,” who informs Finch that 16 serial killers have come from Buckaroo, and he is looking to make some money off that fact.
We meet a few other strange characters, and we learn that Finch has a temper problem. That’s how he meets Sheriff Crane. Finch flashes his badge and identifies himself as Army Intelligence, and she lets him know that there might be a problem with his friend, Carroll. It seems Crane and Carroll met regularly to chat, and he hadn’t shown up, that morning. They check out Carroll’s room, which had been ransacked, and find all of his research. Carroll thought there had to be a link between the 16 serial killers from Buckaroo, and was trying find that connection. Crane could only think of one person in town who might have had a problem with Carroll: Edward Warren. Turns out Warren was acquitted of his alleged crimes, and he returned home to Buckaroo. When they arrive to question him, Warren has meat cooking on the stove, and blood all over his hands. When he answers the door, he says, “Wasn’t expecting visitors. But don’t worry… There’s enough for everyone.”
This book can be gross. Sure, serial killers are nasty. They kill people, and that’s generally fairly ugly. But, I have to say that chewing your victims’ fingers down to the bone, then killing them, is pretty gross. But, it is also interesting. And, slowly, we find out that more of the killers from Buckaroo also have interesting M.O.s. And, every character we meet is interesting. Not everyone is unique, but they are all interesting, and seem to fill a role that makes you wonder how they fit in to the larger story. This is my first Joshua Williamson book, and I feel his character work is great, so far. While I am not so interested in seeing more murders (I’m so sensitive!), I am interested in seeing more characters, including more of the Buckaroo Butchers.
This is also my first look at Mike Henderson. I have to say that it is a mix, for me. I’m currently having trouble identifying what his style looks like. It can be creepy; it can be deceptively “nice” (think not-creepy); it can be powerful; it can be delicate. I am thrilled with some pages, and turned off by others. I was trying to determine what other artists’ influence I could see in his work, but struggled with that. I feel that I can see something like Frank Miller (artist and/or writer on comics such as Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Wolverine, and Sin City, and one of the industry’s most well-known and (in)famous creators) in Henderson’s art, sometimes. I can also see hints of Mike Oeming (artist on Hammer of the Gods, Bulletproof Monk, Powers, Mice Templar) in some of Henderson’s faces. It is hard to pin down, which makes it a fun experience. And, oh, yeah, he can make this shit look gross.
Nailbiter #26 was released on 7/6/2016. It also has 4 collections, so far, covering the first 20 issues of the comic series. Individual issues are priced at $2.99. Volume 1 of the collected editions costs $9.99, volume 2 costs $13.99, and volumes 3 & 4 cost $14.99.
Nailbiter, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/