Unraveling the Mystery of Buckaroo in “Nailbiter” Issue #27 (Review)
Story by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Mike Henderson
Colors by: Adam Guzowski
Letters and Book Design by: John J. Hill
Edited by: Rob Levin
It seems like we’re getting closer to solving the mystery that is Buckaroo, Oregon. In issue 26, we saw Warren get shot in the alley after leaving the police station. Like the Good Samaritan, the Nailbiter was left for dead. But in this issue, we see that our antihero is still alive—mostly—which drives Crane to pick up the pace of the investigation. Joshua Williamson interestingly starts out the issue in the past with Carroll talking to Finch and a few other Buckaroo residents and juxtaposes that later with Crane talking to some of the same people in the present day.
Williamson is an expert at keeping us on the edge of our seats. He reveals just enough to readers to keep our adrenaline pumping! In the beginning of the issue showcasing Carroll, we see him standing in a graveyard waiting to meet Warren, while he talks on the phone to Finch. From behind, we see the Butcher of Buckaroo approaching—unbeknownst to Carroll. This is what I like to call an “Oh sh*t!” moment. The Butcher of Buckaroo (also referred to as the Butcher in Black) then disappears and Carroll is pulled through the ground into the tunnels underneath the graveyard. That’s the last we see of him. However, Williamson reveals that Warren—who was watching this happen—knew about Carroll’s disappearance all along. Did the Nailbiter inform the Master that Carroll was on his trail? If so, what is the Master holding over Warren? Or, perhaps more important, what information about Buckaroo and the Buckaroo Butchers did Carroll know that the Master is trying to keep hidden?
As the Master says to Finch while he looks over a room filled with crates of TNT and barrels of gasoline, “I’m going to burn this whole town and everyone in it. The secrets of Buckaroo will be lost in a blaze of fire . . . and then the world will be safe from the truth.” Does the Master really think he’s some sort of martyr? That he’s doing what he’s doing to keep everyone safe? Williamson’s writing allows readers to ask just the right question to keep us interested. Through this scene with the Master, we see him torturing Finch—who has now been missing forty-eight hours. The truly gory and gritty scenes are where Mike Henderson’s artwork really shines. He somehow knows how to make the gruesome beautiful. Are the panels with Finch’s mouth sewn shut hard to look at? Yes, of course. But Henderson’s fine attention to detail makes you not want to look away. Through Williamson’s writing and Henderson’s artwork, it really is like watching a horror movie each month. Their words and art paint a perfect picture of suspense that keeps us asking for more.
A few issues back, we saw Agent Barker escape from the mental hospital. We get a bit of resolution to that when she shows up to Crane’s house and stabs her in the stomach. Is this another way to keep the mystery of Buckaroo private? Was Crane, like Carroll, getting too close? Why would Barker want to hide the information? Will Crane actually die, or will she be in bed aside Warren? If Barker dies, I could see Warren avenging her and not only going after Barker but the Master as well.
Henderson’s and Guzowski’s art is great in this issue—as it is in every issue. They make the comic feel so real. You’re right there with the characters. As Finch, struggles (and coughs—cringe!) with his mouth sewn shut and as the Master burns him with a hot iron, you wince, feeling his pain. When Crane gets stabbed in the stomach with scissors, which is another great Williamson cliffhanger, you almost feel the blade piercing your own abdomen. They add a lot of variety throughout the pages—close-ups of facial expressions, landscape shots, and so on—to keep the pages interesting.
Henderson’s cover art depicts Crane with her gun drawn—and smoking from just being shot—while some of the Buckaroo Butchers lurk behind her and over the city—the WTF Killer, the Butcher of Buckaroo, the Gravedigger, the Hatewatcher, and the Lucha Eliminador. A wonderful aspect of Henderson’s cover art is its symbolism. Crane has the stress of the case—the mystery of the Buckaroo Butchers—hanging over her head, and the cover, with them standing above her, symbolizes this. With Buckaroo below the Butchers, they’re showing ownership over the city, and perhaps over the information the Master is trying to protect.
Each month Williamson releases more and more details about the Buckaroo Butchers’ origins. Nailbiter never disappoints, and I hope after we learn more about Buckaroo, and the truth the Master is trying to keep hidden, the comic has a lot more story to tell.