It’s been several days since I finished reading the second issue of DC Comic’s The Nice House on the Lake and I still can’t get it out of my mind. Part of the publishing company’s darker, more mature Black Label imprint, the horror series manages to feel strangely relatable. It’s a horror scenario that you can imagine yourself in; the type where you find yourself envisioning what you might do if you found yourself thrust into the same plot.
Written by James Tynion IV, who’s well-known for his other wildly successful horror titles Something is Killing the Children and The Department of Truth, with outstanding art from Alvaro Martinez Bueno (Justice League Dark and Detective Comics), The Nice House on the Lake centers around the mysterious character Walter. Quiet and a little strange, Walter is the sort of guy who everyone knows, but who no one knows too well. He’s a little odd and little eccentric, but not so much so that anyone is going to turn down his emailed invitation to stay at a huge, gorgeous lake house for a week in June.
When the time comes, twelve people arrive at the lake house, all friends of Walter’s that he’s made at different times in his life. Some during high school, some during college, and some after he moved to New York. Most of them know each other, or at least know of each other.
The house itself is incredible, with sweeping views of a dazzling lake and complete with anything the group could need or want. The setting is so idyllic that they can easily overlook the fact that Walter’s assigned each of them little nicknames and planned out an itinerary in exchange for an amazing vacation.
It’s during the group’s first evening together, while gathered around the pool enjoying steaks and alcohol, that the real horror begins. Guest Ryan Cane, who’s been given the moniker The Artist, is the first to notice as she scrolls through Twitter that something is very, very wrong with the rest of the world. That, in fact, a true apocalypse event has befallen the planet and touched everywhere except the little slice of paradise where the lake house group is vacationing.
Panic ensues as the group scours social media and the news for clues as to what’s happening, desperate to discover if their family and friends back home are okay. The only certainly they discover, however, is that their strange host had somehow known this event was going to happen and had prepared the lake house for it, and that none of them had really known Walter at all.
Thus, the nightmare that our cast of characters finds itself in takes shape. Isolated, as many were during the majority of 2020 in real life, uncertain about the future or how to navigate their new reality. The genius behind The Nice House on the Lake is that it induces emotions that we’ve all just experienced/are experiencing in real life due to the pandemic. Of course, the comic’s plot is a more extreme version, but it plays on enough similarities that we can empathize with the characters and imagine ourselves in their scenario, allowing us to guess at what we would do.
Furthermore, the comic itself is just expertly created. With info pages, such as a view of Walter’s emails to Ryan as he invites her to the lake house, which breaks up the third-person view of the comic and helps to draw the reader further into The Nice House on the Lake’s world. Also, each of the guests is introduced to the reader with an identifying bubble that lists their name, age, gender, and a little blurb about how Walter met them. It also lists each character’s nickname and the accompanying symbol that Walter has assigned them. This is a quicker and more convenient way to catch the reader up and give a little background on the characters without having to wade through twelve different background stories.
The use of color by colorist Jordie Bellaire is also important to note. Lots of red tones when Walter is first introduced, as if hinting at the horror that’s to come. Brighter yellow tones when the group arrives at the lake house, excited to experience a vacation of a lifetime. Then stark, nearly black and white shades when they begin to discover the truth about their situation. Once again, a subtle and brilliant way to draw the reader into the story.
The Nice House on the Lake is off to a promising, unforgettable start which has only become more intriguing after reading the second installation. I’m excited to see where it’s going and, ultimately, how it’s going to conclude.
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.