"Nailbiter #15" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Mike Henderson
2015, 32 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on August 5th, 2015
Things have been better for Sheriff Crane and Nicholas Finch. They were underground with the Nailbiter himself, Edward James Warren, coming ever so close to unlocking the secrets of Buckaroo, Oregon, and finally finding out why this town is the birth place for so many serial killers. That is, until young Alice followed them and got into a bit of trouble with the latest Buckaroo Butcher. Now they're running for their lives through subterranean tunnels and somehow, Warren is their only hope. What a bizarre turn.
The mystery of this town has been the mystery at the core of Nailbiter from the very beginning. I wish I could say that all was revealed in this issue, but that's not the case. That's not to say that we didn't get answers though. We got a bunch of clues that will make you want to go back and re-read every issue, which is something I just might do, as the comic will be taking a brief and certainly well-deserved break before returning in October. I'm betting that eagle-eyed readers could figure out the identity of the new Buckaroo Butcher by digging into those back issues.
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Edward James Warren's character arc is absolutely fascinating. He was absolutely loathsome when the series began, to the point where you could practically feel the slime coming off of him every time he appeared on the page. There's been a change in the man since then that's been so subtle over time. Now he's almost a normal human. He feels remorse for what he's done, even saying that he's vowed never to kill again. This is also seen in his appearance. He's still fiercely confident, however there's a humbleness to him now, as if he's trying to atone for his past sins. He just happens to be doing this by fighting the new Buckaroo Butcher using a severed arm as a weapon.
Speaking of that severed arm, there is literally a room full of dead bodies within the first few pages of this issue. It's like that moment in a horror movie where you realize the characters have stumbled across the killer's lair and they are so screwed. Artist Mike Henderson did a tremendous job here. There is so much dread packed into this panel reveal. There are bodies and pieces of bodies all over the place with rats crawling in and out of them. Warren provides the best response to it as well with a quick, “Well, this is new.”
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That murder room is just the beginning of the terror in this issue. It's my belief that it's easier to scare people in horror movies than it is in comics. A filmmaker can literally have someone jump out and frighten a viewer. A composer can have the soundtrack ramp up, building the tension. A comic writer and artist don't have those easy-to-use tools at their disposal. Instead, they have the page turn and it can be just as effective as a “jump scare” in a film if used correctly. I'm not going to lie, I literally shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK,” during one of such turn in this issue. Henderson and writer Joshua Williamson are experts at this. You will be hard pressed to find more successful page turns when it comes to horror comics today. They fill this book with a strange feeling of dread and anticipation. I'm afraid of what will come on the next page, but I can't wait to see it.
The layout for the book is pretty cool too, utilizing some nice added touches to enhance the action. The early scenes feature straight lines and right angles separating each panel. When the Butcher closes in and a fight begins, the lines become jagged and the panels lose their form, appearing more like trapezoids instead of squares and rectangles. After the battle, the panels return to their regular setup.
There are still plenty of unanswered questions in Nailbiter, but goddamn did Williamson and Henderson deliver here. There is so much information to digest, not to mention that we get a deeper insight into some of the characters, primarily Crane, Alice, and I believe Warren if the connections are the way I think they are. These are reveals that put the entire story up until this point in a new light. They reframe everything that has happened to date.
Of course, it wouldn't be Nailbiter without a cliffhanger ending. It's going to be a rough couple months until this comic comes back considering where the creative team leaves things. The final pages are so subtle and serve as a perfect closure after all the excitement in the prior scenes. This is followed by a four-page spread with the words “To Be Continued” written in huge letters across them, reminding you that there is plenty more to come.
Honestly, if you're a horror fan and you're not reading Nailbiter, you're doing it wrong. Williamson and Henderson consistently deliver a dynamite comic month in and month out. The mystery is starting to be revealed, but more and more is teased to pull you in and keep you begging for more.
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