Nailbiter Volume One: There Will Be Blood

Nailbiter Volume One: There Will Be Blood
Nailbiter There Will Be Blood Review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Image Comics - 978-1-63215-112-4
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781632151124
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Horror

In terms of our modern day fears, the serial killer ranks high on the list. Time was they were referred to as Bogeymen, and Joshua Williamson’s premise for this bloody series of graphic novels is that the Oregon town of Buckaroo has been home to sixteen of their number. It’s Edward Charles Warren, the most recent among them that provides the series title, his particular predilection being abducting those he observed biting their fingernails, keeping them captive until the nails regrew, then chewing off the fingers before murdering them. Let’s just say that’s the least of the horrors as the series continues.

No, it’s not pleasant, and to avoid it becoming over the top gore, Nailbiter needs a sensitive artist, and has that in Mike Henderson. He’s very good with the day to day tension building sequences, and can shock when required. His cast convince within his stylised approach, although in this opening volume his women look unaccountably masculine, and he provides detail when needed while otherwise letting figures tell the story. It takes until the end of the book before he learns how to choreograph movement properly rather than for artistic convenience. Before that characters change location between panels.

Army investigator Nicholas Finch arrives in Buckaroo just as his friend disappears, having previously phoned joyful at having solved why so many serial killers originated there. There is a suspect, and a reason for the title. Warren was acquitted by a jury and is back in Buckaroo. There are occasions throughout the series when Williamson glosses over a gaping inconsistency in service of his plot, and this is the first. The jury is shown delivering their verdict, but no explanation is forthcoming. Later in the series this is revivisted, but reading There Will Be Blood alone it’s a problem.

These plot holes irritate, as it’s lazy writing in what’s otherwise a very televisual drama with a constant undercurrent of tension, and possibly a graphic novel even those lacking an interest in horror can enjoy, as Williamson rations the blood. He sets his stage efficiently in the opening chapters, introducing conflicts and relationships stretching back years, and implying there’s a darkness to Finch beyond his quick temper and controversial career speciality. He also has fun satirising the obsessions of serial killers and their fans, and the genre clichés from slasher movies such as flickering lights and interruptions at the point of revelations.

Williamson uses the final pages to drop a series of plot bombs designed to propel the reader straight to Bloody Hands. The plot convenience apart, There Will Be Blood is a very professional slab of horror drama that caught on immediately when serialised. As thumbnails are particularly appropriate to the series theme, the back of the book supplies reduced size versions of the covers to those original comics and their assorted reprint editions. Both this and Bloody Hands are combined in hardcover as the first Murder Edition.