After a one-shot flashback issue, we are ready to pick back up where last issue’s tremendous cliffhanger left off. And pick up we do as Agent Finch has the titular Nailbiter at quite the disadvantage and, at long last will extract answers by hook or by crook (or, in this case, by some interrogation that goes well beyond “enhanced”), but Edward isn’t much of a conversationalist and doesn’t even seem phased by the terrible pain inflicted upon him. So Agent Finch has to rely on alternate means of extraction while Agent Barker witnesses the abject terror that the denizens of Buckaroo can inflict upon a person, or an observer. While Joshua Williamson doesn’t supply any answers, there is only one question that continues to burn through the issue: what is it about this town? And it seems that he is fast closing in on an answer, but whether or not it’ll be fast enough remains to be seen. Williamson does a great deal with very, very little in this issue, intercutting back and forth between Finch with Warren and Agent Barker in her own situation while thematically crossing them, making the quick cuts bleed together and creating a sense of narrative coherency. The dialog is also scintillating, moving at a steady, quick pace while seamlessly weaving in exposition for any new readers (as this issue is a great jumping-on point) without resorting to tricks or straight-up narration.
Mike Henderson’s linework is perfectly on-point as well, giving us grim and gritty visuals intercut with outright gore and some incredible violence. It’s amazing in a book like this, with content like this, that the violence never feels gratuitous or like it’s just there to shock the reader. Many times previously it’s actually been used to conjure up dark humor, but this issue is actually straightforward and much more serious than previous ones, and it works well. Adam Guzowski’s colors are a big reason the visuals work as well as they do, as he paints a subdued, bleak picture, infusing the panels with what little life is left in this dismal, broken town. His palette walks the thin line between being too dark or too plain and comes out with something special: something that shows just how plain total, utter darkness can be.
The teases to what’s going on in Buckaroo are almost agonizing to a point. The reader is promised the reveal of the secret not once, but twice and it isn’t delivered either time. Once would’ve been understandable, twice feels a little too wink-and-nod for the tone of the rest of the issue.
It’s rare to find a single issue that not only perfectly encapsulates what came before, but so effectively teases what’s to come. Whether a long-time reader, or someone who’s been looking to see what all the gory, crunchy fuss is about, this is a fantastic issue that shouldn’t be missed. Williamson gives us completely new takes on most of the remaining characters and shows us a completely different side of at least two of them as the roles quickly reverse on exactly who has the power in a given interaction.