First published in a collected edition format back in October of 2014, ‘Nailbiter: Volume One’ (sporting the subtitle “There Will Be Blood”) formed the first instalment in Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s ‘Nailbiter’ graphic novel series.

DLS Synopsis:
Army Intelligence Officer Nicholas Finch was not in a good place.  He’d just about reached his limit and, quite frankly, wanted it over.  For it all to end.  He was prepared to do it too.  What some would call ‘the easy way out’.  But that was his choice.  His decision to make.

But a call from Special Agent Eliot Carroll stopped him.  Finch knew he was the one man Carroll trusted.  He said as much himself during the call. Carroll was in Buckaroo, Oregon.  Apparently he’d found the link he’d been desperately searching for.  The reason behind Buckaroo’s infamous status.  After years of obsessing over the town, he’d finally discovered the dark secret to Buckaroo’s notoriety.  Why Buckaroo was the town to have given birth to so many serial killers.  Why, over the years, sixteen of its residents has chosen to kill and kill and kill again.

Now Carroll wanted Finch to get to Buckaroo.  To meet with him, so Carroll could show him in person what he’d discovered.  With nothing much left in his life, Finch decides to make the journey.  And so the next morning he’s standing in the rain outside a dingy bar in Buckaroo, waiting to meet his friend.  But Carroll never shows.

With Carroll now missing, Nicholas Finch knows it’s down to him to find out what happened to his friend, and ultimately, what it was that Carroll uncovered in the town that spawned so many serial killers.

But one of Buckaroo’s killers managed to evade permanent capture.  Although he was caught and tried in a court of law, Edward Warren had managed to dodge imprisonment on a technicality.  Now he was back in Buckaroo, a free man able to do as he pleases, even though everyone knew what he’d done.  Everyone knew about all the crimes he’d committed.  The lengthy killing spree he’d been on before his capture and eventual release.

Everyone knows who Edward Warren is.  Everyone remembers the horrific deaths and mutilations.  The crimes that spawned his infamous name.  The horror that dubbed him the Nailbiter.

Finch knows, somehow this vile and sadistic killer who chewed off his victim’s fingernails, is connected to the disappearance of Carroll.  And he’ll stop at nothing to find out what happened to his friend, and in doing so, get to the bottom of Buckaroo’s dark and twisted secret…

DLS Review:
Here we have the first instalment in the ‘Nailbiter’ series.  And my god does it read like a first introductory story.  For the most part, we’re jostled around the tale’s setting of Buckaroo, introduced to the various characters and given a tour of the quirky town’s sinister past.  And that really is the main chunk of what volume one’s about.

That said, this is undoubtedly a horror thriller that lends itself towards the likes of ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ (1988) with its incorporation and near-adoration of all things serial killer.  Indeed, from the very beginning we’re flung into a small backwards town that for some reason has spawned no less than sixteen such serial killers over the years.

Our principal protagonist is a rough and ready, hard-boiled Army Intelligence Officer named Nicholas Finch who we’re told is an information extraction specialist.  Of course, keeping in tone with the grittiness of the storyline, Finch is hardly the most diplomatic and calm of individuals to take to the streets of Buckaroo.  In fact, he’s somewhat of a clichéd brooding antihero type, with his use of excess force and zero tolerance to bullshit approach.  You know the type of character – always irritable and at the end of his tether.  Quick to pull his gun or throw a punch if he’s not hearing what he wants to hear.

Guiding us through the strangeness of Buckaroo we also have Officer Shannon Crane – a straight-down-the-line Clarice Starling style local law enforcement officer who’s more than capable of holding her own.  Together, Finch and Crane make for a one-hundred-percent no bullshit pairing, as they quite unceremoniously join forces to find their missing person.

However, more often than not with this style of gritty serial killer thriller, the real intrigue (and perhaps even focal point) is with the antagonist(s).  Hannibal Lector pretty much took centre stage in ‘The Silence of The Lambs’ (1988), and it becomes increasingly obvious from beginning this series that writer Joshua Williamson is hoping to create a similarly powerful persona in his suave and psychotic serial killer – Edward ‘Nailbiter’ Warren.

That’s all well and good (if perhaps a tad clichéd), but sadly this first instalment lacks the necessary gut punch that it so desperately requires.  The first page or two fill you with high hopes of this.  With Warren caught splattered with blood and chomping on the fingernails of one of his poor victims.  Unfortunately, such powerfully invocative scenes are far too few and far between.  Instead we’re subjected to a much more ‘investigative’ storyline – with flashbacks from previous killings as well as trouble brewing with the pissed off yokels, providing the majority of the gritty action in this first instalment.

Unfortunately, Williamson also chooses to weave in some painfully cheesy mystery elements that feel more ‘Scooby Doo’ than they do anything else.  Coupled with a serious lack of energy or momentum, and the story starts to feel more a meandering mess of tepid ideas and aspirations rather than a finished first volume.  And when I say ‘finished’ I don’t mean anything at all is wrapped up at the end of volume one.  Instead we have one of those instalments that can’t be read as a single story.  There’s no end, or partial end, but rather a pretty darn weakass cliffhanger to encourage us to keep reading.

Here’s hoping volume two picks up the pace and serial killer agenda that much more than this first volume did.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 144 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Nailbiter’ instalments:

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