Nailbiter, vol. 1

Nailbiter 1Summary: “Where do serial killers come from?” and why has Buckaroo, Oregon given birth to sixteen of the most vile serial killers in the world? NSA Agent Nicholas Finch needs to solve that mystery in order to save his friend, and he’ll have to team up with the infamous Edward “Nailbiter” Warren to do it. Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson deliver a mystery that mixes Twin Peaks with the horror of Se7en!

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Nailbiter, vol. 1, by  Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson and Adam Guzowski 7.5

‘Nailbiter’ is a comic book thriller series by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson. It follows Nicholas Finch, a suspended government information extraction specialist who is called in to Buckaroo, Oregon, by his friend Elliott Carroll, an FBI agent investigating the roots of, and connections between, the small town’s sixteen known serial killers.

Convinced that he’d found the town’s secret, he urges Finch to join him.

And then promptly disappears.

Finch’s only interest is in finding Carroll but, during his search, he gets caught up with local bullies, the Sheriff, a recently-acquitted serial killer, and a growing series of life-threatening incidents. Making matters worse, everyone in that infamous town is somehow connected to one of its many serial killers, conflating a lot of the clues.

But… why is it called ‘Nailbiter’?

It’s named after the town’s latest and most notorious serial killer, Edward Warren, who used to kidnap people and chew on their nails down to the bone – before eventually killing them. He’s one of the many demented killers in ‘Nailbiter’, such as the Bookburner, Cross Bones Killer, Terrible Two, Blonde, and so forth, all with their own unique twist.

It’s all pretty gruesome. The killers were obviously designed to shock, perhaps even titillate, to thrill ‘Nailbiter’s readers with its morbid inventiveness. This left me a bit uneasy. It’s not that I’m averse to horror (this blog is proof to the contrary!), but I feel that there may be a line crossed here: from the rush of fear to that of bloodlust.

Don’t get me wrong: the book is entertaining, and certainly compelling. But is it responsible? I’m on the fence about that. I can’t help but wonder if it glamourizes obscene violence in the same way that torture porn does. Or is it intended to evoke a sort Grand Gignol quality, meaning that its outlandish material is not intended to be taken seriously?

I’m not sure. But I will read the next volume to see what direction it goes in; Williamson tells his story relatively well, building a nice intrigue and engaging characters, and Guzowski delights the page with his art, at times vaguely reminding me of Katsuhiro Otomo’s work. So I will give it another chance, hoping that ‘Nailbiter’ chooses tone over viscera.

But don’t be surprised if I choose not to complete the series.

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