“The Nice House On The Lake” – Vol. One
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Álvaro Martínez Bueno
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Reviewed by Steve J. Ray
The Nice House On The Lake Vol. One collects issues #1-#6 of the series, contains all six covers, main variants, plus a gallery of a dozen rare variants and a design sketchbook by artist Álvaro Martínez Bueno.
Everyone who was invited to the house knows Walter. Well, they know him a little, anyway. Some met him in childhood; some only met him a few months ago, but they’ll all tell you that Walter’s always been a little… off.
After the hardest year of their lives, though, nobody was going to turn down Walter’s invitation to an astonishingly beautiful house in the woods, overlooking an enormous sylvan lake. The setting was beautiful, opulent, and private, so having 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?
In The Nice House on the Lake, the overriding anxieties of the 21st century get a terrifying new face, and it might just be the face of the person you trust most.
Easter is coming up fast, so if you want to pick up a book that’s different, scary, deep, and beautiful to look at, then this one should be no. 1 on your list. This book takes the feelings of isolation from two years of a pandemic and lockdown, the sensations of missing loved ones, and the desire for an idyllic escape, then puts them through a blender, feet first, just so it can see them scream.
I reviewed the series monthly as each issue came out, but nothing compares to having these words, and these amazing images in your hands, in a lavish, beautifully made book. This collected edition feels and looks amazing, and having all six chapters together just feels right, even if everything that happens in these pages is, oh, so very wrong.
The Covid years have left people all over the globe missing friends and loved ones and put all vacations and getaways on hold. Who hasn’t wished to gather their best friends in an idyllic spot, away from the grime, steel, and concrete? Who doesn’t love a cool pad with a pool and all the luxuries your heart could ever desire?
Be careful what you wish for.
This story has taken many of my dreams and set them on fire. It’s also taken all of my fears and made me sit down face to face with them… and I’ve loved every second.
The very best horror scares you because it resonates, it makes you take stock of your life and everyone around you. DC Comics News is made up of some amazing individuals, many of whom have become dear friends and joined me in other ventures. I have lifelong friends and family members who have also got together on other websites and podcasts, and some of us have even met socially. The Nice House On The Lake introduces us to Walter, his friends, and acquaintances. They’re as different a bunch as any group of friends can be, yet as familiar as our own.
That’s what makes this story so amazing. I can look at these total strangers and see some of my friends’ foibles and quirks in them. I can see myself in them… and in Walter. The irony of the fact that even the series’ artist and writer, along with numerous friends and colleagues, have said that I look like him sends an added wave of chills down my spine.
One of my go-to phrases is that the best fiction holds a mirror up to society. The Nice House On The Lake does so better than most, in a hauntingly refreshing way.
There are pages in this book that are made up of just text, so letterer Deron Bennett needs to be recognized for his amazing efforts. Other pages contain nothing but beautiful images and text, so well rendered and put together that I had to ask whether the artist, color artist, or letterer was responsible, and who did exactly what. This series reads like no other comic and looks like no other comic. It’s unique and it’s ground-breaking in its originality.
From the opening pages with our narrator setting the scene (wait… is she missing an eye? What’s happened to this woman?) you get a sense of creeping dread that you can’t quite explain.
James Tynion’s dialogue and pacing in this book are faultless and, even though there’s no “action” to speak of, it isn’t missed. What this book does have is an atmosphere so dense that it makes Victorian London, Jack-The-Ripper style fogs feel simply light and fluffy in comparison.
Álvaro Martínez Bueno doesn’t just draw the shocking and horrific beautifully, there are very few artists who can deliver the ordinary and mundane as gorgeously as he does. The college bedroom depicted in this issue is so scarily like my own was, that I had to do a double-take. The bookshelves in the library contain so many of my all-time favorite books and graphic novels, that I feel like the artist may have been squatting in my brain for the last thirty years.
There are comics colorists, and there are color artists. Jordie Bellaire is an artist… plain and simple. The complete clashes in contrast; from hellish reds and oranges in some scenes to the cool blues and greens of the house, make a reader feel like they’re diving into icy waters after having been roasting in the flames of hell. Once again, everything Jordie has done elevates the script and the sumptuous art to even higher levels.
We’re meet a small army of characters, that we immediately recognize and either start to like, laugh at, distrust, or simply detest. The way in which we meet them immediately sets the hairs at the back of your neck standing up, as every person has been vetted and placed on a list, making them feel more like microbes being studied under a microscope, rather than as living, breathing human beings. The beauty part is, their dialogue is so true to life that when they speak, they feel so absolutely real and human that the fear levels rise exponentially.
Since the dawn of science fiction, we’ve been presented with stories about the end of the world; who would survive, how, and why. Yes, this is one of them, but it’s one that turns the notion on its head… or knocks it on its butt. Or both. How do you think the world will end?
I think everyone secretly prays for a comic book or TV show to come along, that grabs them from the first chapter and then keeps delivering. The Nice House On The Lake Vol. One reeled me in from the off. The fact that the first issue of Vol. Two’s coming out on the same day as this collected edition is a great idea because this series is a must-read and this book is a must-buy.
You can pre-order The Nice House On The Lake Vol. One right now, and it will be available to buy online and from all good book-sellers from March 1st: ISBN 9781779514349
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment, preview copy courtesy of Penguin Random House