By Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson, Adam Guzowski & John J. Hill
Three years living in the town of Buckaroo, Oregon, surrounded by its “butchers”, has led to this suitably harrowing finale of the horror comic Nailbiter. The penultimate issue left off with Buckaroo engulfed in flames, while FBI agent Nicholas Finch, Sheriff Shannon Crane, her daughter, Alice, and the Nailbiter himself, Edward Charles Warren were about to be thrust through their own trial by fire – The Gauntlet. Many of mysteries that have been surrounding the plot of Nailbiter since issue #1 were revealed, as one would expect with the closing chapters of the comic. By tying up most of the narrative loose ends, issue #30 is able to hit the ground running and never turn back like all good horror heroes/heroines.
The key themes or concepts that have been the through lines of this series come to the forefront in this issue and really elevate the writing and art. “What makes someone a killer?” This is a question that Joshua Williamson addresses in fascinating fashion that doesn’t cheapen the weight that this dangerous thought bears on this murderous narrative and even in real life as well. The creative team constantly pushed their protagonists into the darkness for us to see how they would come out on the other side. Literally and figuratively. The Gauntlet was designed for people for this very purpose and now the main crew of Nailbiter must go through it. Family and bonds factor heavily into the shocking machinations Williamson and the team have cooked up. The story of Warren and Crane has been the backbone of the comic and it has a fitting finality to it that fans of the series will shed an eerie grin as they turn to the closing pages of the comic. Williamson showed a clear understanding and passion of the genres he was working in and was able to not only deliver a layered story, but spark deep, complicated conversations about human nature.
Speaking of backbones, Mike Henderson and Adam Guzowski’s work on the art has been essential to conveying the importance of these themes, as well as fully and masterfully presenting their ode to the horror and thriller genres. There are two two-page spreads in the closing moments that are the epitome of the artistic talent these two brought to the title. The contrast of light and dark, the deft use of shadows and colors. The first two pages of this issue make stunning use of the red hue; setting the tone for rest of the book. Also, lettering rarely receives notice or credit, but John J. Hill was able to make prime choices as to what font to use and which words to emphasize for conveying the intended tone and intentions of the characters, which is extremely important when working within the horror and/or thriller genres. Those word balloons are their own work of art absolutely worth noting.
This has been a fresh, innovative series because it had elements that ranged from tackling dark, taboo themes, to having Brian Michael Bendis be a character, to the depiction of violence and death. Everyone involved should be very proud of their work on Nailbiter. Issue #30, in particular, nicely encapsulates all that makes this Image title work like a well-bloodied machine. Obviously, don’t jump delve into this comic on its last issue; pick up the trades and become enthralled with the macabre world that is Nailbiter.