Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Mike Henderson
Published by: Image Comics
“Nailbiter #9” brought about a kind of epiphany for me: I realized that this series really nails my interests as a reader and manages to apply itself well to the common denominator. When doing that though, Nailbiter, seems to compromise its tone frequently. Writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Henderson skim across the line between serious psychological thriller and campy, tongue-in-cheek slasher comedy. I am of two minds when it comes to this series and for some reason I keep getting caught up in the tonal shift the story throws out every once and awhile.
Both elements at work in “Nailbiter #9” equate to quality comic booking but when they’re smushed together between the covers it becomes almost a distracting aside to the series. The supernatural elements are legitimately spooky and make you question what you’re thinking as a reader. Occasionally Williamson and Henderson put the camera right in our hands though, having the characters talk direct to us through the panel as though we’re in the room with them. This comes in the form of the mysterious killer (or perhaps killers) stalking the town of Buckaroo and murdering and maiming at will.
As a series the pacing is interesting, as we’ve now seen nine issues come and go and it still doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten much closer to exposing any of the original mystery. It’s a testament to the creativity and originality of the creators that there is so much world to explore that we still don’t even have a main suspect for the crimes that have been committed. Whether losing that original bit of plot is a concern to you will likely largely be determined by how receptive you are to the exploration of Nailbiter’s characters and lore we’ve had in lieu of the hardened mystery we thought we were going to get.
Henderson’s visuals are getting stronger by the issue. It’s clear he’s really settling into the horror elements, as this installment seemed particularly rooted in cinema. The angles of the shots and the story-telling that was done both with the panels and the spaces in between them reveals the strong visual foundation that this book rests upon. While the dialogue can be a little unusual at times as people talk to themselves for an odd amount of time or use a radio without actually touching it, the artwork doesn’t falter when the script slips up, which helps carry the reader over minor mistakes in plotting.
Despite my concerns over the pacing of the overall plot and the constantly shifting tone, I still have to admit that I really love this series. The inherent nerdiness of the series speaks to me and that’s something that I can’t say for every comic book I read these days. If there’s a comic that emulates Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Cabin in the Woods with a more comic book take on serial killers then I am missing out it. This series delivers the goods with a consistently entertaining world with so much to do and see. Let’s just hope the creators don’t get lost the in the underground labyrinths underneath it.
“Nailbiter #9” earns 7.9/10