Nailbiter, Vol. 1: There Will Be Blood
Story By Joshua Williamson; Art By Mike Henderson
Image Comics

"Nailbiter" is the nickname given to the latest serial killer from the small town of Buckaroo, Oregon--the sixteenth in a long line. Naturally this gives rise to the question: what is it about this town? Does something about it give birth to serial killers, or just attract them? NSA Agent Nicholas Finch comes to town at the request of a friend who claims to have unlocked the secret. When he arrives his friend is nowhere to be found, so much of this first arc revolves around the mystery of his disappearance. It's a bit of a switch in focus: what first looked like a horror story becomes a mystery instead. Either way, it's an intriguing, unique premise for a series.

Finch is a daring choice for protagonist. While in some ways he is very heroic--he's a tenacious investigator, faithful to his friend, and physically brave--he also has negative traits. The most obvious is his short temper. He often seems on the edge of exploding into anger, and is brusque and impatient at the best of times. Plus, he seems to have a dark past, which is confirmed by a bombshell dropped near the end of the fifth (and final) issue.

The colorful cast of locals includes the Nailbiter himself (who has somehow been acquitted, despite seemingly incontrovertible evidence), the sheriff (who was romantically involved with the Nailbiter in the past), the owner of the local Murder Store (who is attempting to turn the town's problems into a commercial success), and a Goth teenager who reveals herself as an amateur serial killer investigator at the end.

This first arc features lots of violence, fire, and several deaths. It's still unclear whether or not the Nailbiter is responsible for any of it. The central mystery does get some resolution. So it's a satisfying series launch, which manages to give a bit of closure while also opening up many questions. Henderson's art is fairly simple, but long on atmosphere. This keeps even the bloodiest scenes from getting too gruesome. The digital edition includes several pages of covers, including many alternates. The resolution was good enough that I was able to zoom them out to screen size, something you can't do with thumbnail images in a print collection.

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