Since the very first issue of The Nice House on The Lake, I questioned whether this would be the type of story we’d get all the answers for come closing time. It had all the makings of a mystery box narrative of the kind that resists clean revelations wrapped up in neat and pristine packages. The character-focused approach to the story, with one character being the focus of a single issue throughout, even made me think that pulling the veil back on everything wasn’t entirely the point. It was about how the end-of-the-world situation the cast was living through impacted their growth and capacity for emotional adaptability (something that made the best parts of Lost succeed so resoundingly).
Now that we’re at the last stop, issue #12, I will say I feel a bit confused. It’s not that the characters didn’t reach a point of no return that changes their entire group dynamic at the core (which, to a point, it did). It’s that it felt like a fairly lax affair that ultimately ended up telling readers that the story’s a while away yet from reaching its true end. In a way, it felt a bit too restrained for it to cause any real sense of culmination, if only to signal a break in anticipation of a potentially more terrifying second part.
If you’ve been keeping up with the story (warning: some spoilers ahead) then you’ll remember certain rules within the Nice House had changed and made everyone mortal again. It takes someone’s death to change the game entirely, though, and so an urgent expectation of consequence took over the story once that happened.
Issue #12 presents the group with a decision that can disrupt Walter’s mission for good this time, one in which the idyllic and potentially utopic living conditions of the Nice House will shift into a much harsher reality that will require thinking about survival rather than just being given everything they might need to survive, as had been the case just a few issues back.
It’s safe to say by now that the story is about the burdens that friendship can instill on a group of people that don’t know how to entirely cut away from those they’d be better off not having in their lives. To an extent, it’s about the toxicity of a certain kind of friendship and how one person’s co-dependent inclinations can invade an entire network of people.
There’s a lot of this in issue #12, with the group having to decide whether to take a drastic step or not to sever ties with Walter. Most of it works, but the way it’s addressed here takes the reader back to past exchanges with Walter and his friends that we already knew about. These sequences are presented in cell phone text threads or emails and they feel more like filler than key details finally made available to the reader.
They cut away from the action too much and lessen the impact of the group’s struggles with deciding what to do with Walter, the only constant since issue #1. James Tynion IV would’ve done well to reign in those pages back to keep the focus on the group’s principal dilemma. Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s art is, as ever, perfectly calibrated to capture the emotional chaos of the moment and his facial expression work is given even more attention to help establish the momentousness of the group’s decision. It’s easy to get lost in every panel thanks to the nuances in Martínez Bueno’s character work and it truly elevates the very delicate exchanges between the group and Walter so late in the series.
Tynion does provide more generous breadcrumbs as to what Walter is and what the Nice House’s geography truly looks like in the context of the planet’s very painful and fiery death. Readers should be able to make some reliable assumptions as to what’s operating behind the scenes, especially on who Walter’s masters could be. And yet, a sliver more of information could’ve gone a long way to heighten the terror behind the personal events that transpire in the comic’s last pages.
Despite all that, I really do hope we get more Nice House in the coming year. If this last issue is meant to the closing of a part of a larger story, then it’s easier to forgive the lax nature of it and its overreliance on text-only pages. As it stands, it doesn’t really feel like an end. There’s not even enough for an open-ended type of conclusion. In fact, it feels more like a recap with a big decision in the middle of it. If this really is how it comes to a close, though, then it’s unfortunate its final moments unravel in a manner befitting of a middle chapter in a book rather than a concluding one.
Story: James Tynion IV Art: Álvaro Martínez Bueno
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 6.0 Art: 10
Recommendation: Read, then cross your fingers this amazing series continues.
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: TFAW – Zeus Comics – comiXology/Kindle