This month, more secrets about the history of Buckaroo and Edward Charles Warren, aka The Nailbiter, are revealed. Is it good?
Nailbiter #14 (Image Comics)
The issue opens with a flashback to Warren and Crane after their senior prom. Unlike previous trips down memory lane, we don’t get many pages dedicated to it, but what we do see is a horribly pivotal moment for both characters.
Back in the present, Warren gets blamed for Fairgold’s snack attack on Carroll (of course), leading to him being arrested and escorted to an out of town holding facility—or so we think. Turns out that Crane believes Warren’s claims that he’s innocent. He and Finch then take him back to the graveyard/mysterious underwater temple for a real tour where he doesn’t ditch them halfway through. Along the way, they meet some friends…
Is It Good?
When you’re doing a story grounded in realism that also flirts with the supernatural (think the early episodes of Twin Peaks, Lost, True Detective, etc), a difficult balancing act must take place to keep the narrative believable.
On one hand, the supernatural stuff can add some great atmosphere and a compelling/underlying mystery. On the other hand, that same element can leap out, grab your story by the neck, and choke it to death (see the later episodes of Twin Peaks and Lost…True Detective kept in check).
There are a lot of things to love about Nailbiter #14, but for me, the best part is how writer Joshua Williamson deals with the otherworldly aspects. As cool as an ancient underwater temple is, it is kind of absurd for one to be found under a lake in Oregon. Williamson fearlessly addresses this issue head on, then pulls back the curtain a little further to reveal a new and more horrifying layer to the mythology. It might be supernatural, it might not. But it’s definitely unsettling and scary as hell.
Something else that’s scary is the way Williamson can make you feel sympathy for Warren…or maybe that’s just me and I’m a terrible person. But seriously, this guy isn’t misunderstood. He isn’t an anti-hero. He’s an unabashed, stone cold serial killer. Yet somehow, I found myself actually worrying for his safety, especially after the doozy of a cliffhanger.
The last two pages are not only shocking, but also give the reader a twist/payoff that was genuinely earned. Williamson doesn’t just throw in some random crap that you’ll think about later and say “How can the smoke monster be the main bad guy and still be controlled by a lever Ben Linus pulls?” It was set up exceptionally well. It was also drawn beautifully by Mike Henderson, as is the entire issue. I don’t want to say WHY the last two pages are so well done and spoil anything, so let’s just say Henderson draws awful things happening to good people by scary somethings that will break your heart and haunt your dreams. Is one of many reasons why Nailbiter isn’t just the best book being put out by Image; it might be the best comic coming out right now, period.