[SERIES REVIEW] Nailbiter

Nailbiter – Series Run (2014-2017)

Series Run: May 2014 to March 2017
Writer: Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson
Artist: Mike Henderson
Colorist: Adam Guzowski
Publisher: Image Comics

Series Rating: 4 out of 6 Soda Cans

Soda and Telepaths rates Comics out of a potential 6 pack of Soda Cans – the score indicates the value of each release in Sodas.

Nailbiter explores a single question, yet does so in a manner that is interesting to follow but disappointing in its conclusion.

In reading Nailbiter, a comic about serial killers, it is quite easy to compare it to a popular movie of the horror genre: Silence of the Lambs. The series itself is self-aware of this comparison making both references and not so subtle homages to the movie in the first few issues. The series also follows a colorful cast of characters as follows:

-Edward Charles Warren, aka “The Nailbiter”. Our resident sociopath and charismatic bad-guy-but-not-a-bad-guy.
-Nicholas Finch. Main character, Army interrogation expert, searching for a reason to live when he wants to die.
-Sheriff Shannon Crane. Local tour guide to the setting, tough, always wanting to do what is best for the town.
-Alice Leigh, High School student. A character whose importance grows with the series.

Nailbiter series

While there are others, these four comprise the “keys” to the narrative as a whole. Some drive the plot forward, others bring in an element of intrigue. By the end all of them contribute to the ending though in very unexpected ways.

As a whole, the narrative of Nailbiter can be boiled down to a single question, one often repeated through the later half of the series.

To wit, “What makes a person kill?”

While it is an intriguing question, one that has had a number of different theories pertaining to it, it doesn’t quite fit the story as a whole. The fictional town of Buckaroo, Oregon is set up as “Boogyman Central” due to its story internal origin as being the birthplace to the “Buckaroo Butchers”. 12 infamous serial killers, all born in the same town albeit at different times. This led people to believe the town is cursed.

With a set up such as this, the writers could have gone in any number of directions. Supernatural immediately comes to mind. As I read the series though, I couldn’t help feel that the writers knew where they were going but they didn’t know how to get there. The first 5 issues are well paced, have good atmosphere, and definitely pique my curiosity to see where it was going. Which is then lost in issues 8-10 where they spend time away from the main plot to explore both the town and the resident crazies. After that from issues 11-24 it is a roller coaster for story telling which leads to introducing set pieces and narrative bits that are then forgotten till the very end.

Nailbiter series, Image Comics

Though now that I mentioned it, I will say this: I for one did not like the ending. The very end of the series was good, but the payoff for all the investigations? The set pieces? The dialogues? All of it didn’t have the ring of finality you would expect from what came before. Because of that, as well as its inconsistent pacing, it came as a real detriment to the series.

Still. If you are a fan of horror? Do you quite enjoy the interplay of power between law enforcement and charismatic killers? Is an excessive amount of goreporn a non-issue for you? Then give the series a look, it might make for an enjoyable late afternoon binge read. 4 Sodas!

Writer. Amateur critic. Lover of storytelling.