I have been itching to read Volume 3 of this serial killer, horror serial. The premise is stellar, and the execution is a lot of fun. It takes place in Buckaroo, Oregon, where 16 of the most renowned serial killers have come from. The big question on everyone’s mind is: Why? The third volume contains the heightened search for these answers, as a new serial killer continues to strike and (finally) the revelations that are contained therein.
The second volume set up some pretty lofty premises: a maze of catacombs under Buckaroo, a pyramid under the lake, the killer wearing some ritualistic hunting garb that made them feel like they were straight out of a 1980s heavy metal fantasy film. A mythology was being created, and while every step of the way has been a wild ride - ranging from incredibly fun choices like bringing in alternate reality characters like Hack/Slash and writer Brian Michael Bendis to the ambitious exploration of what makes madness - the answers presented to some of these more lofty ideas fall short. Joshua Williamson stumbles into a few pitfalls of psychological murder mysteries in which the lore starts to become so complex that he falls back on telling us all the answers as opposed to showing us. It removes the beating heart of the story, the immediacy that anything could happen next while the explanations are being revealed.
While some of those elements don’t quite live up, admittedly, to my own expectations, the crescendo of events within the story is a great deal of fun. While, specifically, one of the main characters becomes secondary to what’s happening near the end, the characters Williamson does focus on spring to life. The psychology of a town and the people within it brought down by this ever-present series of tragedies is handled deftly, especially in one memorable sequence when some of the towns’ kids kidnap the daughter of the Nailbiter for nefarious reasons.
The Nailbiter himself, Warren, remains a charismatic Rubik’s cube. At times, he is definitely someone seeking redemption, and other times he just can’t help himself; he’s an unhinged bouncy ball, and you have no idea where he’s going to bounce next. He’s the creation that I’ll walk away from this comic book remembering for some time to come. At the center of this insanity, a resilience to tragedy is presented, a strength to do the right thing even when presented with the worst side of yourself. It’s a theme presented throughout most of the characters, and that strength is embodied by the two female leads: Sheriff Crane and Alice. Both lives are entangled in Warren’s in ways I won’t reveal, but their journeys are the center of this three-volume anthology, and their stories did not let me down.
Williamson and Mike Henderson have created an ambitious portrait of the serial killer psyche, exploring what may or may not make us all potential killers, and while the ambition sometimes gets away from them (which I’d prefer over someone not stretching things to their limits), this is an immensely enjoyable, incredibly creepy, absolutely involving character-driven mystery that I look forward to reading a second time.
Creative Team: Joshua Williamson (story), Mike Henderson (artist), Adam Guzowski (colorist), John J. Hill (letter & designer), Rob Levin (editor)
Publisher: Image Comics
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