Now before I continue, Prattling Panels will not be a video series as I planned, its back to text since I have so many other ventures ongoing right now that are keeping me incredible busy. Prattling Panels will be a once in a while thing when I wanna talk about a certain comic, like today’s piece or say like a profile on a certain writer, artist, character, and run, or thoughts on the industry as a whole.
This is also the first Prattling Panels piece not just on Starman Cinema in a while, but my first post on Rant EM Radio. Host of my show, the What Are You Reading Comic Book Show.
So here we go and we’re gonna start with the best comic book you’re not reading right now.
Nailbiter is a recently published monthly horror comic from Image created by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson who write and draw the book respectively. The text on the Image website describes this book as being Twin Peaks meets SE7EN and I think they honestly got it best. The premise of this book is about a town called Buckaroo, Oregon, a town that has become infamous for being the birthplace for sixteen most vile and deplorable serial killers in the United States. The central mystery at work in the book revolves around NSA Agent Nicholas Finch. He is on suspension for the murder of a witness he was interrogating, but goes to Buckaroo in search of his missing friend, FBI Agent Eliot Carroll who has said to have solved the mystery as to the mystery of Buckaroo.
Right off the bat when I heard of this book I was interested in where it could go with such a premise, to explore what could drive someone to madness as to harm and hurt innocent people. Also for the fact that Finch needs the titular Nailbiter’s help to find his partner. Enter Edward Warren.
He is the 16th Buckaroo Butcher who eats the finger nails of people he kidnaps and then just chews their fingers off and kills them. Edward is for the lack of a better word, weird. Williamson writes such an unsettling character in Warren. He just sounds creepy and looks unsettling with his platinum and his smile that just sends chills down your spine. Edward is all around fascinating as a character from his trademark as a serial killer to his connection to the case being a prime suspect but also the former boyfriend of town sheriff, Sharon Crane. That’s right, former high school sweethearts. That was a nice little twist that added layers to both of them.
About Sheriff Carter herself, she of course deals with all the crazy in town. She puts up with a lot but seems to have a somewhat chipper attitude most of the time, well before Finch comes into town. All eyes suddenly set their sights on Buckaroo again and now not only does she have the investigation, media, and past with Edward to deal with, but also tourists coming to see what the hell all is up with this place and all, including Brian Michael Bendis. Yeah not kidding, comics writer Brian Michael Bendis makes an appearance in Nalbiter #7 to come and do research on Buckaroo and its citizens to start writing a comic book based on the fact Buckaroo has birthed so many serial killers. Have I lost you yet?
He of course spends time with Sheriff Crane but the best part of the issue is his interactions with Edward who turns out to be a fan of Bendis’, particularly Ultimate Spider-Man. Can’t blame him I love it too. What happens with Bendis in discovering Edwards and several things about the town made this admittedly gimmicky issue very entertaining. It didn’t halt the main story or anything, it actually kept it going pretty smoothly.
Finch is a solid enough lead character to be following. He seems to be someone who has left the Buckaroo nonsense behind so many years ago but gets dragged back in to go find his friend and now is completely engaged to find out the mystery of Buckaroo itself. The supporting cast from Alice to Crowe to Morty help fill out the book. Its got memorable people as much as I love how characters drive a story, I think the real start of Nailbiter is the town of Buckaroo itself.
Williamson doesn’t halfass the idea of a town that seemingly breeds serial killers. He has completely thrown himself into creating the small little rustic town and its inhibiters. Williamson states he did all the research possible for the book and it shows with how the mindsets of some of the killers are, more so Edward since he’s the most fleshed out one because we follow him, but each one is perfectly defined and memorable.
The Book Burner, The Terrible Two, The Blonde, Lucha Eliminator, Whistler, and much more have all come from this little slice of Americana. They have each left their own little mark on the town and people, especially their relatives, really want to forget that, but with the town being such a fascinating subject as it is it never really is forgotten. Especially since there is a special plot in the cemetery, too many people already studying the town, and of course the Murder Store. Yes the Murder Store, ran by the grandson of the Book Burner, Raleigh Woods. A store dedicated to the sixteen Buckaroo Butchers is operated and ran right in the town itself and he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about it.
The book has such a rich story and world that is explored in many facets. Issue #6 for instance focuses itself on Alice, who seems to have a keen interest in the Buckaroo Butchers herself, as well Finch’s investigation. She’s the focus of the issue and is our narrator, talking about living life in Buckaroo who runs into a pregnant woman who is determined to give birth to her child in Buckaroo so he can become the next Buckaroo Butcher. Its a great issue that delves into the obsession society has about serial killers. A wonderful study of what people could see in these people and why so many of them seem to gain a following. It adds a new layer of unsettling creepiness to the proceedings with that idea and how it’s explored with this expecting mother. It creates a nicely wonderful one-off story that still has a focus on some of the proceedings from the first five issues.
Another great exploration as to the town’s effects on people is in issues #9 and 10 where a school bus driver Crowe snaps one day having seen the town effect so many people and having driven many of the Buckaroo Butchers himself. He gets a plot to want to purify the current children of Buckaroo and make sure they don’t follow in the same fate as the previous sixteen. These stories are what I love most of the book itself, its reach over everyone, its connection to something more than a simple murder mystery. Williamson again isn’t half-assing this idea and is creating a reat world here.
Of course the writing of a comic is even better when its go art to compliment it. Enter Mike Henderson.
Mike Henderson is great fit for a book like this. He has a nice roughness to some of his pencils, especially when dealing with the Buckaroo Butchers and when they carry out their murderous actions. His layouts are lovely and whenever he’s able to do a double page spread, its beautiful, honestly just great stuff, some of the best in comics right now. His little background details add more to the world of Buckaroo than you’d think as it really helps to flesh out the book and Buckaroo itself. He compliments this book on various levels that make it a treat to look at.
As for the latest issue, #10, the mystery hasn’t been solved but the upcoming eleventh issue is being promoted as a new story arc so you could start there but you’d be missing out on so many good things if you don’t go out to your local comic shop or wherever you happen to get your comics and read the first two trades which are available right now.
Nailbiter is a scary, interesting, fascinating book that simply can’t be missed and will get you hooked right away. Go check it out!