James Tynion IV has been doing career-defining horror work as of late, with books like Something is Killing The Children, his self-published horror anthology Razorblades, and The Department of Truth standing as prime examples of what the idea of “new horror” should truly stand for. Among those books, though, it’s his most recent one, The Nice House on The Lake, that might end up being his most unsettling. It could even result in becoming his greatest work should the entire story capitalize on the dark promises made in its first issue.
Co-created with artist Álvaro Martínez Bueno, The Nice House on The Lake concerns itself with a group of eleven people who have been invited to a luxurious house by a mysterious figure called Walter that’s acquired their friendship and acquaintance over the years. It’s supposed to be a long weekend, but something will keep them in place for a long time.
Walter is obsessed with the end of the world. Not the why, necessarily, but the how. With that macabre interest leading the way, what transpires in the story’s first chapter is the culmination of Walter’s apocalyptic desires and the beginning of a terrifying new status quo that marks a point of no return for humanity. That is, except for the select few currently staying at the house.
There’s a substantial amount of story packed into this first issue. Not only do Tynion and Martínez Bueno set up the conditions through which the end of world becomes a reality, it introduces a large cast of characters all with their own distinct look and personality. There’s a sense of purpose to each character’s presence as well, as if they’re meant to play a special role in the proceedings.
Each character is presented via title card that includes their assigned role—be it The Writer or The Painter—and the specifics of their first encounters with Walter. The style in which this is presented reminded me of Dungeons & Dragons character creation cards, minus the stats. Eleven characters might feel like a lot, but the cards are quite helpful in keeping tabs on everyone and I suggest you keep the first issue handy while reading upcoming issues to stay on track with what everyone’s doing.
While there are more than enough clues as to where the story will go in future instalments, The Nice House on The Lake does seem to be settling in for an extended stay in the titular house. Martínez Bueno wastes not a single panel producing stunning images of the house and its surroundings. There’s an air of House on Haunted Hill (1959) about it and how it stands alone overlooking everything below it. Martínez Bueno imbues the structure with a heavy sense of dread that’s as inviting as it is ominous, excessive as it is threatening.
Fans of the exceptionally sinister horror movie The Invitation (2015) will find a lot to love here as well. Directed by Karyn Kusama, the movie follows a man who’s invited to a friendly get-together only to discover there’s a violent agenda shared among some of the guests. It’s one of the most disturbing movies in recent years and its isolated house of horrors setup shares certain similarities with Tynion and Martínez’s story. I highly recommend The Invitation, especially as a good companion piece to the comic in terms of how it manages to capture an acute sense of dread that’s also present in The Nice House on The Lake.
The Nice House on The Lake has arrived with the intent of reaching deep within our souls in search of that primal fear that entertains the end of the world. Surprises abound and new horror concepts push the comic into uncharted waters. The first issue alone carries enough fear to scare readers into following the entire series all while questioning just how they would react knowing the end of the world has finally left the realm of imagination and violently entered the confines of reality.
Writer: James Tynion IV Art: Álvaro Martínez Bueno Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: AndWorld Design
Script: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy, watch The Invitation, and start prepping your doomsday stash