Nailbiter Returns #1 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Joshua Williamson, artist and co-writer Mike Henderson, colorist Adam Guzowski, and letterer John J. Hill.
The issue opens in Buckaroo, Oregon, 30 years in the past. A brief scene is shown of someone tied up while a mysterious figure pours a caustic liquid directly into their eyes. As perspective shifts to the present we are introduced to Alice, the daughter of Edward Warren, the Nailbiter. Alice’s father, along with the other sixteen serial killers known as the “Buckaroo Butchers”, became a topic of discussion. After a brief altercation with a family member of one of Nailbiter’s victims Alice and her friends leave.
But just when it seemed Alice’s night couldn’t get any worse she finds a shocking scene at home. Her mother is missing and the bathroom is covered in blood. Now Alice must reunite with Agent Finch to try and find her mother. But there is more at play than a simple missing person as horror threatens to return to Buckaroo once more.
Nailbiter Returns #1 is a strong start for Williamson and Henderson. The story hits the ground running with a surprisingly gruesome scene before a clever backstory recap. The issue has all of the feel of a sequel to a horror movie. The scale of the events are expanding, and the cast of familiar characters are making their reappearances. While this issue isn’t packed with panel to panel action, the pacing is great. There is never a dull moment, and it weaves world-building and mystery together expertly. The town of Buckaroo, Oregon and it’s sixteen “Butchers” are a compelling topic. The premise that the reader will learn more about them is a strong one. When you combine that with a thrilling serial killer mystery, it makes for a dynamite first issue.
Henderson’s art is a joy to look at. As with any good artist, he finds beauty even in the violence and horror. Panels of hideous violence, and gruesome scenes are portrayed with a striking beauty. It was also refreshing to see characters designed with realistic body types and proportions. As a result the story felt more grounded and realistic. Even the most contrived of situations can be made to feel possible when the people involved in them look like real people. Guzowski’s colors are brilliant and showcase a variety of palettes that both blend and contrast wonderfully. Hill’s letters are likewise well implemented, and even provide a brief and welcome punchline towards the end of the issue.
Overall, Nailbiter Returns #1 feels like a masterclass in returning to an acclaimed series. Each member of the creative team is at the top of their game and there is never a boring moment to be found. The story has a lot of legs to go on, especially thanks to its protagonist. While the “child of a serial killer” angle isn’t brand new, it is thoroughly compelling. When combined with an artist who is able to make a literal bath of blood into a beautiful two page spread, you’ve got a match made in heaven.
As a lapsed reader of the original series, I never felt confused by the events of this sequel. The pace is brisk, but accessible. I am excited to see what comes next for Alice, and Finch and if you like horror you will be too. If this creative team can keep it up they’ll have a fantastic successor to the original on their hands.
Nailbiter Returns #1 is available where comics are sold June 3, 2020.
Nailbiter Returns #1
Overall, Nailbiter Returns #1 feels like a masterclass in returning to an acclaimed series. Each member of the creative team is at the top of their game and there is never a boring moment to be found. The story has a lot of legs to go on, and the art is gorgeous. As a lapsed reader of the original series, I never felt confused by the events of this sequel. I am excited to see what comes next for Alice, and Finch, and if you like horror you will be too.