NAILBITER’s an odd duck of a book. It began as a simple missing person mystery, segued into a much larger mystery about why a town in Oregon seems to breed serial killers, took a detour into bees, catacombs and terrorizing comic book writers, but now, it seems to have come home. Last issue left off one helluva cliffhanger and this issue picks right up on it while throwing us some bizarre, head tilting imagery right out of the gate. Joshua Williamson has managed to fit a great deal into only ten issues, and he’s managed to never make it feel overstuffed or like there are too many unanswered questions, because the questions all seem to tie back to the same place and the same point: what is wrong with this town? This issue is a fast-paced one, reading much quicker than a lot of previous ones with lots of large panels, but Williamson still manages to fit in plenty of characterization and plot development, which may be the book’s greatest strength: what it may lack in depth of character, it more than makes up for in strength of character.
Of course that strength is massively reinforced and heightened by Mike Henderson’s dark, grim linework that is JUST stylized enough to keep the book from caving in under the pressure of all that dreariness. It’s a difficult tight-rope to walk, but it’s also a necessary one when dealing with a book that could truly go in almost any direction. Maybe there’s something in the water (though by the middle of the issue, we know without a doubt there is SOMETHING in the water) or maybe it’s a supernatural explanation, but because of the book’s visuals and storytelling so far, either one seems like it wouldn’t be outside the realm of believable possibility. The contributions of Adam Guzowski as the book’s colorist also shouldn’t be understated as the colors are all a part of that dour tone. They’re muted and dark and even when the sun is up all that serves to do is cast longer, deeper shadows. It’s truly an amazing thing how much beauty there is in the ugliness of this issue.
There’s a discovery made in the lake that the book opens on that seems impossible to miss. Without giving anything away, unless it sprung up overnight (which would be a strange feat in and of itself), its invisibility to the town makes no sense. There could be an explanation for it, but one isn’t forthcoming in this issue. It also goes beyond the expectation of every mystery or bit of strange imagery immediately being explained or solved into the realm of unbelievable almost to the point of being funny. And not in the darkly humorous way this book is so good at being.
It’s a difficult thing to keep one core mystery so strong and so compelling across such a long-scale read, but this issue continues to show that this book is more than up to the task. Williamson and Henderson seem to know exactly what they’re doing and how they wanna do it, and so far it’s working out pretty great for them. Whether or not we get an immediate explanation for what we saw here, this issue helps establish that there are still plenty of dark corners of Buckaroo left unexplored.