Nailbiter #1 & #2
Published by: Image Comics
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Mike Henderson
Publication Dates: #1 - May 7, 2014 / #2 after that
One of the most anticipated comic debuts of 2014 is next month’s Nailbiter #1 by Joshua Williamson (Adventure Time & Ghosted) and Mike Henderson (He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe & Superior Carnage) from Image Comics. Nailbiter, follows NSA agent (Nicolas Finch) looking for his missing friend, an obsessed FBI profiler (Eliot Carroll) researching the town of Buckaroo, Oregon and why it has produced more serial killers (16) than any other city in history. Along the way Finch realizes (or will eventually according to Image’s own synopsis of the series) that he will have to work with Buckaroo’s most recent serial killers, Edward Charles Warren (Nailbiter) in order to solve both mysteries.
(Nailbiter #1 interior)
As I read through both Nailbiter #1 and #2 I was struck by how similar the feel of the issues were to the first trade of Bedlam, also from Image, except that Nailbiter seems reluctant to go as far past the “line” Bedlam jumped over, looked back, set on fire, and laughed all the way to the funny house. In all honestly, I am not yet sure if this restraint is a criticism of Nailbiter or not, what I do know is that, over all, I enjoyed the first two issues of the comic Nailbiter reminded me of than I did the book itself.
(Nailbiter #1 cover by Mike Henderson)
Rereading the two issues, I am not quite sure what I am supposed to take from the story. Who, if anyone, I am supposed to like, hate, root for, root against, or even want eviscerated and strung up outside of a movie theater. The characters themselves come across as cookie cutter crime drama stereotypes and the sub plots do very little to move the story forward, rather they feel like they are there to pad the pages to provide more decompression. This is highlighted, again, by the fact that even by the end of issue #2 the story isn't as far along as the one paragraph synopsis on Image's website:
Buckaroo, Oregon has given birth to sixteen of the vilest serial killers in the world. An obsessed FBI profiler investigating the town has suddenly gone missing, and now an NSA agent must work with the notorious serial killer Edward “Nailbiter” Warren to find his friend and solve the mystery of where serial killers come from.
There are other aspects of Nailbiter I could readily criticize, including how long it took for the reader to be given main characters' names, but that would be extremely unfair to both Williamson and Henderson who do produce an entertaining book. The tone of Nailbiter, and especially the town of Buckaroo, is set from page one and is never betrayed. Williamson’s dialogue feels like a modern take on classic noir mysteries that could not exist without the beautiful artwork provided by Henderson. If someone forced me to try and find a comparable partnership it would have to be Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s work on Daredevil. Even after two issues, I cannot imagine Nailbiter being even half as entertaining as it is without the two creators working in tandem.
Although far from as good as the hype suggests, I’ll probably purchase Nailbiter #1 - #6 (at least) in order to give Williamson and Henderson time to find the book's voice. The potential is there, the question is will the book continue to be a less extreme version of Bedlam, or will it come into its own as required reading for those of us willing to venture outside of the superhero safety zone.
(Nailbiter #1 interior)