This week I decided to take a stab (pun intended?) at reading Joshua Williamson’s new comic, Nailbiter. While being at least somewhat skeptical about the premise of the comic as coming of cliché, I wasn’t entirely put off by it, as I myself relate to Williamson’s macabre fascination on the subject matter of serial killers as well.
Working on a plethora of tropes from various established serial killer ideals that should be expanded upon, Nailbiter often times feels like an episode of Scooby-Doo in execution except much more deranged and drug out. You already know at least one if not more of these people in the town are the serial killer(s) in question. It just comes down to pulling off the rubber mask because of “them meddling kids, and their darn dog too!" Except in this case, its actually cops. The set up is all there and I feel like I can already see it coming from a mile away, even in an early issue like this. The main character is this weird amalgamation of hero and very dislikeable due to his extreme anger issues. This issue focused more on him being the hero type, as opposed to the last issue focusing on the anger issues that got him booted from whatever police force he was employed at. I’m still on the fence about this guy being the focus of the story, but my guess is that, through some miracle, he’ll repent for all the bad stuff he’s done by sacrificing himself for someone or just plain getting killed off.
The cast of characters inhabiting the town of “Buckaroo” in this issue are all are quite quirky, but the one thing that feels like there was no effort put into is all these serial killers that Williamson came up with. They’re all so…lame. There’s a killer who kills people just to make real life crossbones and a pair of twins that kill other twins. In terms of imagination, when coming up with these killers, I feel it just falls short and none of them are captivating or scary in any way. They just feel dumb and contrived. Now I know this sounds like I’m ripping into it, but that’s not the case. I would just prefer to have some clarity between humorous and seriousness in terms of the direction of the characters and story. I feel like perhaps this might be Williamson’s intention to blend humor and seriousness, and I wait to see what kind of “voice” this comic finds over the issues to come with those themes in mind.
One of the most marvelous parts in this issue is a POV scene from the killer(s) perspective, slashing and chasing his (or her) victim through a graveyard. It makes you feel acutely embedded in this mysterious figure, even through the panels, with this nefarious killer's brutal slashing of her (or his) helpless victim. Its utterly fantastic, and it works so well that, when these pages come up, it changed the whole feeling of the story. You feel implicit on both sides now. This is where I feel the artist Mike Henderson really does some brilliant work in terms of telling the story visually at this point. There’s an overwhelmingly acute sense of a looming threat just jumping out of these panels at you. This is also due to the grim and dreary color work of Adam Guzowski at play here, coalescing all these elements into one visually remarkable scene that really left an impact with me as a reader. You can tell Williamson has a fondness for 80’s slasher flicks with this scene.
Out of all these elements, the book definitely has a uniquely defining quality. It’s like a blended menagerie of every crime and horror trick in the book made into one disgustingly macabre drink. And while I do think some elements of this story will be extremely predictable, that doesn’t mean the ride wont be fun and entertaining at the very least. I look forward to more from Williamson and Co. with Nailbiter.
The next issue is available July the 2nd. Go pick it up from your LCS!