By Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson, Adam Guzowski & John J. Hill
The macabre Image title Nailbiter finally returns! Any horror fan knows a story is never truly over.The comic picks up some time after the closing events of issue 30 in the first series. Nick Finch, Shannon Crane, and her daughter, Alice, seem to have found some peace since the horrors of Buckaroo came to an end, but, of course, that doesn’t last. Several ominous events start pulling everyone back to Buckaroo and our titular character returns…
Jumping into this issue felt like a homecoming of sorts literally and figuratively. The content of this comic is something that’s been missing on racks for some time and immediately the book opens with the familiar ominous atmosphere through stunning art from Mike Henderson and killer color work from Adam Guzowski. The lettering by John J. Hill cements the tone with text bubble font styles being used. Horror strikes in eye-popping fashion. The creators wanted to hit readers right out of the gate and remind everyone Nailbiter’s blade has not dulled and is as sharp as ever.
After the potent prologue, the issue delves into a lot of exposition and setting the stage for what’s to come, but in regular Nailbiter fashion, the presentation produces all this with haunting, thrilling framing and delivery. Page layouts pull influence from key horror films and dynamic character reactions placed in stylized locales make the content flow and give it agency and vibrancy. Williamson seems to seamlessly fall back into the voices of the characters and allow readers to feel comfortable and at ease returning to this fascinating world. It feels as though the first series ended just last month and just continued with the story. To be able to pull off such a clean transition/return is very impressive.
Henderson’s art seems to have gone through interesting changes since the first series. There was a lot of rigidity in his linework and grit to it. In going through this issue, there are subtle differences where characters look cleaner and smoother, really allowing for stronger emotional and physical detail. The grit and rigid, sharp nature is still present, but more focused when it comes to things associated with Buckaroo and horror elements. It’s a visual treat seeing Mike Henderson use his honed style as visual motifs in the comic.
It can’t be stressed enough how the tone and look of this comic is heavily defined by the colors and use of black. That’s just a convention of horror in general. There seems to be a major influence on the Giallo color palette than in the first series. The contrast of the vibrant colors with dark makes for such a sumptuous and engaging visual treat. The use of red in a splash page that harkens back to issue 30 is stunning work for both artists. Nailbiter always had strong and somewhat experimental art and this issue continues that tradition with some fresh techniques to shake up the material even more.
As the characters get pulled back, as if by fate’s dark hand, to Buckaroo, Oregon, fans of Nailbiter will instantly be sucked in without warning and will end the comic with a twisted grin. There are some great twists and callbacks, so it is worth revisiting the great first series, before or after reading Returns. Hopefully, like all great horror icons, these creators will keep coming back for more.