To Be, or Not to Be? “Nailbiter #19″ (Review)

Nailbiter19 cover

Nailbiter #19
Image Comics

Story by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Mike Henderson
Colors by: Adam Guzowski
Letters and Book Design by: John J. Hill
Edited by: Rob Levin

Who says serial killers don’t have a heart? The Nailbiter himself, Edward Charles Warren, has been running his very own witness protection program in Atlanta, Georgia, for former Buckaroo residents. However, although he set them up with aliases and new identities, they’ve been far from safe. All of the Devil Killer’s victims are from Buckaroo. Someone isn’t happy about them leaving.

Nailbiter monologueIssue 18 left off with Warren covered in blood at Devil Killer’s latest crime scene. In this issue, after some forceful interrogation from bad cop Nicholas Finch, Warren launches into a monologue about battling the devil in hell after the Butcher killed him: “My soul is too dark for that place to contain, so I was freed.” Mike Henderson’s linework and Adam Guzowski’s coloring on these two pages are exceptional and spot on. As always, their keen attention to detail breathe life into a comic with so much death. The depiction of the devil as a hefty troll-like antagonist and Warren as a sword-yielding hero combating demon after demon is beautifully drawn and somewhat comical. “Ta-da! And scene,” as Warren states. A master at redirection, Warren clearly doesn’t want to say why he was gone, but he’s completely innocent of the murders (this time). Daniel Castle informs Finch and FBI agent Abigail Barker that he’s been working with Warren, and the latest victim is Sally, and she and the others were also born in Buckaroo. Only he and Frank are the last ones left, and Frank’s missing. At the end of the issue, Warren and co. find Frank, and he has some choice words for Castle, who keeps claiming he’s being framed. If Castle isn’t the Devil Killer, maybe there’s a connection to him.

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After Reverend Louis Fairgold knocked her out in the last issue, former Buckaroo sheriff Sharon Crane wakes up in the records room of the old town hall library. Although the library burnt down and Fairgold’s father built the church over it, he preserved parts of the basement—including the records room. The Reverend is desperate to work with Crane to prevent any serial killers from living in Buckaroo—including Warren. Will Crane double-cross her ex-boyfriend? It’s unlikely, but Crane may go along with it to find out more about the Reverend, who isn’t as righteous as he puts on.

Henderson’s cover art shows Warren in a Hamlet-esque, devil-themed theater ensemble. From the detail on Warren’s Elizabethan Age costume to the shadows cast from the spotlight, this cover is one of the best yet. It sets the stage for the issue itself and provides a look into Warren’s mind. In one sense, the cover is a metaphor for Warren being on stage for all to see. Everyone is waiting for (and expects) the Nailbiter to make a mistake, so he can be locked up for good. On the other hand, the cover suggests that Warren is acting. Although he wears the suit of a serial killer and carries himself with a certain devil-may-care attitude, he truly is a troubled soul who wants to lead a normal life. He tells Finch, “They didn’t need to know the pain of what I was going through!” in reference to helping the former Buckaroo residents find new lives. Is it possible that in his absence Warren was off contemplating death and suicide, as Hamlet did in his famous “To Be, or Not to Be?” soliloquy? As usual, there is more to the story, and its characters, than meets the eye. Williamson is a master at making us think, and I look forward to dissecting the story as it continues to unfold.

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Some might feel that a comic devoted to serial killers is dark and brutal. And it is. But it’s also ridden with fantastic, jaw-dropping storytelling and artwork. Williamson and his team have created a compelling, multidimensional comic that stays fresh, exciting, and dangerously addicting issue to issue. Just do yourself a favor and pick up Nailbiter. With bated breath, you’ll be on the edge of your seat page to page. You won’t be disappointed.

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