Our February book club selection was the first volume of Image Comics’ Nailbiter. I loved those first five issues so much that I immediately bought the remaining available issues. I’ll be reviewing each new issues on Project Fandom going forward, but below you can find a brief review of the first ten issues.
In the first five issues:
Buckaroo, Oregon has the unpleasant distinction of giving birth to 16 serial killers. The most famous of them, Edward Charles Warren, would kidnap people who had a habit of biting their fingernails. He would hold them captive until their nails grew back, then he’d eat their fingers to the bone and kill them. Nailbiter, as the press called him, was eventually caught, but avoided prosecution. The arresting officer, Eliot Carroll has followed Warren home to Buckaroo, determined to solve the mystery of why this town has produced so many serial killers.
He calls his friend, Army Intelligence Officer Nicholas Finch, and tells him he’s figured it out. He instructs Finch to come to Buckaroo to learn more. When Finch arrives, he can’t find Caroll. Almost immediately, people start dying and Finch realizes he won’t be able to find Carroll unless he retraces his steps in the Buckaroo Butchers investigation.
He’s aided by the town’s sheriff, Shannon Crane, who used to date Warren when they were in high school. Speaking of Warren, he maintains his innocence in the latest murders – but he does have an interesting encounter with a masked figure responsible for at least one murder in town.
They eventually find Carroll with his limbs cut off. He’s placed in a medically induced coma and Finch and Crane are no closer to finding the killer(s).
You can listen to our podcast discussion of the first volume (Issues 1-5) here.
Alice, the young girl who has a somewhat morbid fascination with the town’s legend, encounters a pregnant woman named Mallory. Mallory has come to town to give birth. She hopes her child will grow up to be a serial killer, and she will then be famous by association. She imagines herself going on talk shows and writing books. In short: this bitch is crazy. Mallory goes into labor, but when Alice gets her to a hospital, Mallory freaks out and stabs the doctor in the face with a needle. She is under the delusion that people are out to take her baby away. With some help from Crane, Alice tracks Mallory to a farm where they deliver Mallory’s baby girl. And good news: they were outside the town limits when she was born.
This was my least favorite issue. It follows real-life comic book writer, Brian Michael Bendis, as he visits Buckaroo for writing research. It’s through his experiences that we learn more about Finch killing a suspect during an interrogation, how the people in the town react to questions about the serial killers, and how people who are related to the killers are affected. He eventually meets Warren, who suggests they have a lot in common – Bendis kills on the page; Warren kills for real. Later, Bendis stumbles upon the tunnels beneath the cemetery (where Carroll was found). He finds symbols on the wall, written in blood and then he loses light. Someone chases him, but he’s saved by running into Crane and Linch. At a book signing, we learn Bendis gave up on the idea that led him to Buckaroo to begin with. Then he’s passed a note which reads: I let you live in the caves. But I’ll be watching you.
A lot’s going on in this issue: Finch heads out to a local beekeeper’s farm after he finds notes about them in Carroll’s research. It turns out the beekeeper kept bees in order to keep his bee-obesessed father busy and from hurting people. When the old man loses his shit and sics his pets on Finch, Finch is forced to run. Meanwhile, not only is Crane given a hard time about her prior relationship with Warren from the federal agent investigating Carroll’s attack (Agent Barker), but the local preacher is stirring up fear and accusations.
This one was great. Over the years, Mr. Crowe has driven several of the infamous Buckaroo serial killers to school. We see that as time passes, the town’s demons are weighing him down. Meanwhile, Finch escapes from the beekeeper’s house, but the beekeeper isn’t so lucky. His father’s bees kill him. Finch runs into Alice and uses her phone to call the police. When he returns to the house with Agent Barker, they find no trace of the bees, the dead beekeeper, or his crazy father. Crane comes home to find Reverend Fairgold snooping in her apartment. She kicks him out and then crashes on the bed, her arm hanging off the side of it. Someone under the bed (one guess who), sniffs her fingers and dashes out the window when she jumps to look under the bed. She doesn’t have time to do anything about it because she gets a call that Mr. Crowe has disappeared with a bus full of children.
One of the children has escaped and is running through the woods. He sees the masked killer, who delivers a creepy-ass, “Shhh.” The child is snatched up by Mr. Crowe and dragged back to the river. Crowe plans on driving into it to kill himself and the kids. After dealing with pesky-ass Fairgold, Crane and Finch discover where Crowe took the children. They rescue them all as Crowe screams that he was just trying to keep the children from turning into killers… and then one of the kids stabs him in the neck. Finch shares with Crane that when he was underwater saving one of the kids, he saw something that looks a lot like a scary temple. Finch has had enough. He wants answers and heads to Warren’s to use his fists to get some.