BY MATT TUCK
From the storytelling to the engrossing artwork, The Nice House on the Lake #1 is anything but what you would expect in what is sure to be another argument for James Tynion IV being the modern master of horror comics.
The Nice House on the Lake is why I love DC Comics. Although they are the publisher that created the costumed superhero genre, DC has always been at the forefront of experimenting with new and different ideas. Whether we’re talking game changers like Alan Moore’s Watchmen or his run on Swamp Thing, or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, DC has a foothold in the horror genre that Marvel Comics can’t touch. Nice House returns DC to horror in such style that it would make the Image Comics crew jealous.
There has been a horror comics renaissance for the past few years now, and Tynion is making an argument that he is the king of that particular mountain. He already has major hits in Something is Killing the Children and The Department of Truth, and now The Nice House on the Lake can be added to that list.
Prior to the comic’s release date, I didn’t know what I was getting into. While there was plenty of buzz surrounding the new title, mainly generated from the high values of SIKTC and Department of Truth’s first issues, DC kept readers in the dark about Nice House. The mystery keeps up all the way through the first issue until the big reveal hits you square in the jaw.
The Nice House on the Lake is not what you would expect, or at least it wasn’t what I was expecting.
It’s a story about the end of the world and humanity’s handpicked final survivors living out their last days in an exquisitely modern home in the most serene of locations. Outside, society is crumbling down in the most gruesome of fashions, which can easily be taken as a social commentary about the current state of America and the disconnect between classes.
Leading to this, the narration reads like a collector’s inventory, documenting facts about each person. They are assigned labels like “The Artist” and “The Writer,” and each person is given their own symbol. What these titles and symbols have to do with the overall story has yet to be revealed.
By the time I reached the final page, I was hooked. I love a good horror mystery, and Tynion has delivered in this first issue with a well-paced plot.
Considering his other recent successes, most comic readers know James Tynion IV’s name. The real breakout star here is Alvaro Martinez Bueno. His artwork for this first issue is spellbinding and cinematic. I specifically appreciated his work in the character forms. Especially for a horror comic, it made sense that the body types were more realistic instead of everyone looking like a bodybuilder or underwear model.
There was a Frank Miller aspect to the faces of the characters, particularly Walter and his reflective glasses that hid his eyes. Certainly we have seen this before (Miller used this countless times for Matt Murdock in his Daredevil run), but it is used appropriately and deftly to add to the budding mystery of Tynion’s script.
Where Bueno’s magic shone the brightest was in the final pages. Without revealing too much, he creates a psychedelic morph in the artwork that immediately transports the reader from reality into dark fantasy, and the effect is perfect.
This was a great read with equally stellar artwork. There is so much potential for the rest of the story. My hope is that the pace doesn’t slow too much, as second and third issues tend to do when they get bogged down in flashbacks and exposition. Much of the excitement surrounding this issue has to do with potential movie or live-action series news, and that definitely helps sell copies, but this one is such a good read that you should make time simply for the story.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.