Review: ‘The Nice House On The Lake’ #1, First Comes The House, Then Comes The Screaming…

by Cesareo Garasa


With the superb The Nice House On The Lake #1 writer James Tynion IV is cementing his reputation as a once-in-a-lifetime talent with his consistent, excellent, prolific work. I recommend going into reading this issue with as little information as possible. It’s one heck of a ride that lingers afterwards in a most delightful and exciting way.

“Everyone who was invited to the house knows Walter-well, they know him a little, anyway. Some met him in childhood; some met him months ago. And Walter’s always been a little…off. But after the hardest year of their lives, nobody was going to turn down Walter’s invitation to an astonishingly beautiful house in the woods, overlooking an enormous sylvan lake. It’s beautiful, it’s opulent, it’s private-so a week of putting up with Walter’s weird little schemes and nicknames in exchange for the vacation of a lifetime? Why not? All of them were at that moment in their lives when they could feel themselves pulling away from their other friends; wouldn’t a chance to reconnect be…nice?”

Here’s my recommendation to anyone interested in reading James Tynion IV’s latest title The Nice House on the Lake #1 (of 12): do it. Do it going in sight unseen, much like the characters in the story. You’ll be watching the story unfold in all of it’s intense and jaw-dropping glory right along with them.

As the title might suggest, The Nice House on the Lake is a horror title with a modern-day relevancy, but — as with most of Tynion IVs titles — it’s much more than that. With its multiple shifts in media and tone (a la: Watchmen), The Nice House on the Lake #1 feels less like a comic book and more like a dossier. It’s a bit jarring when the story shifts like this because the art styles change to fit the particular tone ( like displaying an email or flashbacks and flash-forwards) but it does so in a flowing and satisfactory manner. An example of this is the almost photo-realistic depiction of the titular Nice House displayed in an email sent to one of the characters: I had to do a double-take to make sure it wasn’t some kind of ad. It’s pretty convincing. The art by Álvaro Martinez Bueno is superb and pitch perfect for this challenging and material.

Jordie Ballarie’s coloring work is also well-tailored for the story with one panel in particular of a particularly shocking reveal where his coloring style and palette effectively warps our own sense of what is happening and rewrites any sort of comfort we may have once had going into the story.

I reread this issue multiple times to decode some of the story’s more cryptic details like I would an episode of Fringe and the ending still managed to hit me with a gut punch every time. The story’s tempo is stunning in its delivery and the issue as a whole is remarkably strong, eerie, tense, well-conceived and perfectly executed. It lingers afterwards in the mind in a most profound way.

The plot, which I’m not going to fully reveal, is essentially the start of a mystery that starts off as small talk and turns into a waking nightmare. Multiple characters are introduced (accompanied by that aforementioned dossier-like exposition) and the story takes very little time in getting started.

All of the elements to the storytelling are precise and nuanced in their economy. There isn’t a single line of wasted dialogue. In one particular sequence at a party, there’s barely any real dialogue at all! It accurately and cleverly depicts the the way overtones of multiple conversations blend into each other, with certain words and reactions punching through the static.

Tynion IV is telling this story at the perfect time: right at the peak of his powers with all the confidence, mojo and skill to back it up.

With the consistent – almost effortless – excellence in his works (Wynd being a personal favorite) and now with The Nice House on the Lake #1, Tynion IV is a caliber of talent I have not seen since the rise of Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman in the 1980s or Brian Michael Bendis, J. Michael Straczynski and Grant Morrison in the early aughts. His prolific talent is of the once-in-a-generation kind and The Nice House on the Lake #1 might just be the capstone that cements that reputation.

How do I know? Because The Nice House on the Lake #1 stirs in me the kind of rare emotions that made me want to read and pursue comics since I was a kid in the 1970s. Emotions that often poke through the static of my own but that don’t always fully reveal themselves: excitement. Awe. Passion. Giddy anticipation as to where this particularly sophisticated and bonkers highway to whatever-hell-this-is will take me. Will take us.

This first issue is that good. Tynion IV, Ballarie and Bueno (true to his name) are that good. The Nice House on the Lake is that satisfying, that impressive and that unsettling. More.

The Nice House on the Lake #1, is out now from DC Comics/Black Label (for mature readers 17+), written by James Tyrion IV, art by Álvaro Martinez Bueno, colored by Jordie Ballarie, letters by Andworld Design, cover by Álvaro Martinez Bueno, variant covers by Martin Simmonds, Werther Dell’Edera & Giovanna Niro, assistant editor: Marquis Draper, editor: Chris Conroy

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