When DC introduced the Black Label line, I could not contain my excitement to have books that pushed the limit of what the Big 2 could do. While there have been some great titles, The Nice House on the Lake changes things. Where Last God showed that the line could do non-IP fantasy, The Nice House on the Lake looks you dead in the eye and says that horror is still alive at DC.
The story follows a group of young adults who are gathered at a picturesque lake home by a man they all know named Walter. Nothing is as it seems and the weekend get away may be something that never ends. Beware, minor spoilers ahead.
James Tynion IV has proven himself time and time again to have range in the stories he can pen. From something fun and whimsical like WYND, to his work on Razorblades, and all of his Batman work; it’s clear the range is there. Everything in the debut issue is as sharp as a razors edge; from character introductions, to the dialogue. There is a conversation that runs through the issue between Walter and the main character, Ryan Cane, that is one of the most fascinating running lines in any first issue I have read.
What makes The Nice House on the Lake truly chilling though isn’t the apocalypse that the book seems to be dealing with, but rather the idea of each character being fit into a box. Each member of the main cast is given a title or label that is given to them by Walter. While in most circumstances this could be fun, but Walter seems more like a character whose actions are calculated into a grand design of their making. There is something insidious about the idea of your entire identity being broken down to a simple word like “The Reporter” or ” The Artist” and being given a symbol that correlates. Your entire self being crushed into a title is something that removes your identity in exchange for something someone sees you as. The symbols are also connected to things around the home that are special for each person. Walter has taken control of their lives outright by the finale and all of this makes for something truly terrifying when you realize that these roles are a form of his control.
The art for this series by Álvaro Martínez Bueno and colors by Jordie Bellaire is so evocative of the mood that each scene is meant to display. There is a panel in the first 2-Page spread where Walter and Ryan are discussing the end of the world where a bright bar scene seamlessly transitions into a horrific dark scene of the end of the world that should sell anyone on the issue outright. Without diving into spoilers, the color pallet and the tone of the art itself change in the last few pages to be a more muted and horrifying expression of what the characters are facing. Bueno and Bellaire’s art and colors marry perfectly to drive each expression of fear or shock to the next level. Andworld Design’s lettering is spot on in each scene which features heavy dialogue and the title boxes of each character.
While I understand the complaints of Black Label being so Bat heavy, it’s all in service of books like The Nice House on the Lake being able to see the light of day at a company like DC Comics. I don’t normally do numbered reviews but this is the first comic since The Plot I read 3 times in a single sitting so here you go Comic Book Roundup.