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Nailbiter #20 Review

Comic Books

Nailbiter #20 Review

After last issue’s explosive (and fiery) cliffhanger, Nailbiter jumps right in this month with the immediate aftermath.

Is it good?

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Nailbiter #20 (Image Comics)

Nailbiter #20 Review

The Plot

  • Officer Vaughn may be a hell of a shot, but he’s also a self-aggrandizing prick.
  • Agent Barker and Finch seem to agree with my assessment.
  • Oh snap…
  • You know a fight’s about to get real when one of the participants takes off their shirt.
  • GERONIMO!

Buckaroo Interlude:

  • Poor Crane. She spends her whole adult life fighting demons and still has to sell her soul to the devil.
  • This is going to be one awkward mother-daughter discussion.

Back in the ATL

  • Barker’s got her groove back…but she’s still a little off.
  • Finch is still a crusty badass.
  • Edward Warren is still on the path to anti-heroism (meh).
  • Carroll is still missing his arms and legs.
  • HOLY. CRAP.
  • HOLY. $#%*.

Is It Good?

I loved this issue.

That’s nothing new for me when it comes to Nailbiter. What’s strange is that it feels like I shouldn’t.

The Devil Killer reveal seemed kind of lame—both with regards to their identity and how they’re caught. There were other issues that I don’t want to get into due to spoilers, but let’s just say that we missed some crucial behind the scenes preparation for the big showdown. I also thought Finch/Barker’s reaction to the fight’s outcome was a little dismissive and cavalier. I get that these two have been through hell and are emotionally hardened, but something like that deserves a lot more than a couple word bubbles.

(I also don’t like the whole Redemption of Edward Warren subplot, but we’ve already covered that at length).

And then you get to the good stuff, like the way writer Josh Williamson continues to strike a perfect balance between the realistic and mystical possibilities for the Buckaroo Butcher phenomenon. Much of this arc was spent suggesting it was more surreal than supernatural, but a couple of huge (and great) moments brought us right back into eldritch fold.

Speaking of those moments…the end of the issue. Good lord. It isn’t just some random cliffhanger that makes you wonder what the hell happened. Williams has been carefully setting this up for while, making the last page feel both stunning and like the proper culmination of a long-simmering subplot.

Much like the script for this issue, Mike Henderson’s art was also strangely uneven, although mostly in a good way. One of the few knocks I ever hear about his penciling is that it isn’t tight enough. I don’t agree (at all), but I also must admit that his work on this issue was tightest I’ve ever seen it. Maybe too tight, especially on the knife in the back panel (you’ll know it when you see it), which lacked much of the usual kinetic energy his action/stabby scenes are known for.

On the other hand, the last few pages might be the very best he’s drawn in the entire series. Once again, I can’t really go into much detail without spoiling things, but the entire sequence is both beautifully visceral and extremely unsettling. As usual, Adam Guzowski deserves a good deal of credit, as well, particularly with the background shading. I know that sounds weird, but trust me, you’ll see what I’m talking about…after you’ve caught your breath, of course.

I haven’t been as enamored with this story arc as the first few, but Devil Went Down to Georgia definitely stuck the landing. We may have to wait until May 4 for issue #21 (AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!), but you better believe I’ll be counting down the days on my gnarled and chewed fingertips.

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