First published in a collected edition format back in March of 2015, ‘Nailbiter: Volume Two’ (sporting the subtitle “Bloody Hands”) formed the second instalment in Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s ‘Nailbiter’ graphic novel series, collecting together issues 6 – 10 of the original comics.

DLS Synopsis:
There’s nowhere on Earth like Buckaroo.  It’s a town where nightmares can, and will, become vividly real.  Where true monsters are born.  It’s the town where serial killers are created.

Local Officer Shannon Crane knows this all too well.  After all, back in high school she’d dated one such serial killer.  The infamous Charles “The Nailbiter” Warren.  Possibly Buckaroo’s most notorious serial killer.  A murderer who escaped imprisonment on a technicality.  And now he’s back in Buckaroo.  Living amongst the rest of them.

Of course the media can’t get enough of it.  The Buckaroo Butchers always deliver the juicy goods for their lowbrow rags.  And with the recent unrest in Buckaroo, Warren is once again thrust into the limelight.  Which is exactly why Brian Michael Bendis is there.  Although he’s not a reporter.  He writes comic books.  He’s in Buckaroo to garner an understanding of their serial killer problem.  To dig up the dirt that never made it out of the town.  To learn what it’s like for someone to kill and kill again.

Buckaroo has many dark mysteries just waiting to be discovered.  Army Intelligence Officer Nicholas Finch is wading through the filth and grime of the town, hoping to find some clue of what happened to his friend, Agent Eliot Caroll.  But whenever Finch or Crane uncover anything about Buckaroo’s dark underbelly, it just leads to more unanswered questions.

What’s with all the tunnels lying underneath the town’s graveyard?  What’s the beekeeper up to, hiding out deep within Buckaroo’s surrounding woodlands?  What do all the strange cave paintings they’ve unearthed symbolise?  And what’s with the figure in the horned deathmask?

So many puzzles.  So many questions.  So many dark pathways leading deeper into Buckaroo’s past.  The more Officer’s Finch and Crane dig, the more twisted madness they seem to uncover.  And as they do, the same question keeps hammering at their door - will the horror ever end?...

DLS Review:
This series is getting stranger by the minute.  Each chapter (i.e. each comic issue) offers up a new character and substory.  Here, in volume two, issue six gives us a heavily pregnant outsider named Mallory who wants her soon-to-be-born child to grow up as a serial killer in Buckaroo.  Issue seven follows comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, as he works his way around the town interviewing the various residents as he goes.  Issue eight introduces the fucked-up beekeeper and his shotgun-wielding grandson.  Issue nine tells the story of school bus driver Mister Crowe and the lengths he’ll go to in otrder to save the souls of Buckaroo.  And finally issue ten attempts to bring it all together.

Linking these different elements together you have the messed-up-town that is Buckaroo itself and the weirdly spiralling mystery that’s constantly lurking behind it.  It seems the further we progress in the series, the more doors are opened, and from that, the expanse of the puzzle just keeps on escalating.

There’s certainly a lot to get you pondering what the holy fuck is going on.  Literally nothing is explained yet.  As each issue commences, more and more questions are raised.  More strange and dark avenues are ventured down.  More weirdness is served up on a cold and blood splattered platter.

However this doesn’t necessarily work entirely to the story’s advantage.  Having nothing resolved, or even hinting at being even slightly resolved, begins to wear on the reader.  The weight of all these mysteries, which are mounted on top of each other, begins to feel a tad tiresome.  Honestly, you’ve got zero chance of piecing anything together at this stage, and because of this, you’re left with a veritable tonne of weird subplots dangling from your increasingly tired hands.

Oddly, both A.I. Officer Nicholas Finch and Charles “The Nailbiter” Warren – respectively the principal protagonist and principal antagonist (at this stage at least), play only minor roles in the majority of this second volume.  Indeed, their appearances are few and far between, only really coming into play within the last issue in the volume (issue ten).  Prior to that it’s pretty much all Officer Crane or the various oddball residents that take the frontseat to the unfolding storyline.

Whether you find this second volume a success or not will largely depend on how much horror-mystery you like to shovel onto your plate.  For me personally, I’ve begun to find it all a little overbearing.  Too much weird mystery without any hint of resolve, is beginning to wear me down.  The segments of the story are intriguing and entertaining, but their respective places in the grand scheme of things, and indeed the overall direction of the ‘Nailbiter’ story, feels just that little too lost in the fog at the moment.

But it’s still relatively early days for the series.  We’ll see what Volume Four has to offer…

The compilation volume runs for a total of 128 pages (including a five page gallery of additional artwork and a bonus four page short story by Joshua Williamson entitled “Midnight Snack”).

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Nailbiter’ instalments:


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